Doing More with Less Isn’t a Strategy

Bob Wiesner | August 7, 2018

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We haven’t seen the end of continual RIFs (reduction-in-force). Automation, commoditization, erosion in margins will continue to put pressure on profits, especially for professional services firms, and even more so for ad agencies.

It’s been argued effectively for years that you can’t just cut your way to prosperity. Fewer people won’t guarantee growth.

But fewer people – in the right roles and with the right support – can actually energize your company. And that can lead to the upside you’re looking for.

Why don’t more agencies achieve this?

This article in HBR offers some insights. Though written for a different purpose, it has two powerful ideas that must be considered essential in today’s (and tomorrow’s) leaner organization:

1. Do less with more focus.

2. Realign sales training, coaching, compensation, performance management, and sales tools to support the remaining salespeople in their expanded or redefined sales roles. (Take out “sales” and you get the point.)

Nearly all agencies and firms I come across who have downsized have charged their remaining teams with “doing more with less.” They feel their better people can handle larger workloads with greater efficiency. That’s probably true for a while, and perhaps it’s sustainable if the work is heavily process-oriented and repetitive. In fact, smaller, sharper organizations can make significant process improvements that do, indeed improve efficiency. (And there’s always the option of automation, to help even more.)

Efficiency isn’t always the solution

Three types of firms will struggle to prosper with a “do more with less” strategy.

  1. Agencies and other creative organizations
  2. Firms that offer their clients innovation and thought leadership
  3. Firms that require high-touch pitching and sales activities
  4. Firms that distinguish themselves through client service

I don’t see it frequently enough. But any company with any of the above requirements must dump the “do more with less” strategy in favor of the “do less with more focus” strategy. Have fewer sales prospects, emphasizing quality growth opportunities. Have fewer clients, each of which provide greater revenue and value. Have fewer levels of management so your more experienced people have better line of sight on issues and solutions, more access to clients, and more perspective on growth opportunities.

And then there’s training, coaching, and other critical measures of success.

The Biggest Budgeting Mistake

I’ve seen it thousands of time. The organization has just reduced its headcount. The next thing to go – or the thing that went right before the reduction – is the training budget. Oh man, how dumb is that!

With fewer people now required to engage with more focus and generate great results, the one thing you MUST do is equip them to succeed. Don’t eliminate the training budget — Pump it up!

The leaner work force and sales force needs better skills. They need to be energized, encouraged. You need to know their strengths and get more leverage from them. You need them to be happier, more excited, more jazzed to come to work and contribute. Stripping them or learning and growth opportunities through budget cuts will do exactly the opposite.

In the leaner organization, individual development and fulfillment are critical to driving the organization to prosperity and energizing your people to perform at their best.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash



Multiple solutions are available to help your organization work more effectively with more focus. Here are three that can be particularly important to you, depending on your unique situation.

Managing Perceptions will help your people get comfortable and excited about the contributions they can make in your newly structured organization. They will uncover their own value proposition and those elements that comprise their personal brand.

The Insight Sale provides your sales people and business developers with better content and a more contemporary approach to gain traction faster with prime prospects. They can accelerate their way up the sales curve, closing deals in less time with more revenue potential.

Inspirational Leadership is more important than ever in the organization that’s gone through a major change like a downsizing. Leaders will be able to craft and deliver messages that focus and inspire the new organization. They can better connect their people – and those things that motivate their people — with the reasons for and opportunities provided by the organizational change.

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