If you’re in charge of running an agency, then you know growth isn’t optional, it’s essential. And while all agencies understand that recruiting and retaining talent is a key driver for agency growth, I think the current trend in our industry may be focused more on providing distractions (Yogibo furniture, catered lunches, ping pong tables), rather than opportunities for development that will ultimately benefit their team, their agency, and—the most important part of this equation—the client.

I believe that having a culture that celebrates a “mentorship mentality” is one of the quickest and most cost-effective solutions to help agencies overcome the challenge of how to grow leadership in their organization. And the beauty is that it doesn’t always have to come from the top, so all you busy bosses can relax because anyone can be a mentor. There are only two requirements:

  1. You have a great deal of knowledge and experience.
  2. You’re willing to share them with someone else.

As an agency leader, I’ve benefited immensely from the mentors I’ve had over the course of my career, and mentorship is a foundational principle at our agency today. Here are some of the ways we’ve made mentorship a part of our culture:

  • We have formal internship programs with several colleges in our area. In addition to rotating through each department, every intern is paired with a senior team member specific to their educational focus.
  • We encourage everyone on our team to spend time each week learning something new or developing a skill they have a passion for (even non-agency stuff like extreme couponing). The only caveat—they must participate in our monthly Lunch and Learns and share a presentation of what they’ve learned with the rest of the team.
  • Part of our onboarding process requires new hires to identify 2-3 short-term and 1 long-term professional development goals that they want to achieve within 12-18 months. Once identified, they have the option to meet with me on a scheduled basis where I help them develop a plan and provide ongoing guidance and support as needed.

I’ve seen the benefits of mentorship, both in my career and in the growth of our agency. Just seven years ago I started as a brand consultant. Today, Paris Marketing has a team of ten highly invested and deeply committed creative brand warriors, and our portfolio of work includes clients from start-ups to global legacy brands. And in 2017, we became an affiliate of The BlueHive Group; that allowed us to add custom exhibit design and build, and custom branded interiors to our list of services. The combined creative staff and resources of the BlueHive Group amounts to nearly 100 employees and lets us offer end-to-end brand management solutions that other agencies of our size just can’t.

So if an agency’s offering is only as good as its people, then mentoring makes a strong case. Otherwise, how can you trust your team to keep your clients happy, if you haven’t created a culture that empowers your employees with the knowledge and confidence to do so.

Does this matter? Well, I think it says something about an agency that can maintain a client and employee churn under 10%, especially when the industry average hovers around the 30% mark.

Maybe you can distract a frustrated client with an agency-branded Yogibo lounger? Just kidding, I love bean bags chairs as much as the next gal, but I hope you understand the salient point here. If you’re an agency struggling to grow, feel free to try some of these tips. And if you’re a client that’s looking for an agency to help you grow your own brand, ask how they’re handling that challenge within their own house before you make the decision to trust them to help you grow yours.