“That’s my absolute nightmare” my client said, “To have so many full time people that our only choice it to take on, and do, lots of average work – just to keep the lights on.”
He was right, it’s a scary thought. Growing your head count so much that you need to lower the quality of your work just to keep paying people’s salaries. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t seen this happen – it’s not pretty.
But is this inevitable?
If you grow as a business, does it mean you need to do more, and less exciting work, just to keep the lights on?
No, it’s not.
Here’s three ways to grow without growing your head count.


Growth in sales tends to mean 1 of 2 things.
Either, you’re selling new things, or you’re selling more of the same thing.
In either of these cases, you will probably need more people to execute the projects. However, this doesn’t have to mean you get straight on the line to your over-priced recruitment agency.
Instead, look around you. Which agencies are out there that can support you in delivering that extra work?
In the case of delivering new services, this is especially important. Today specialism rules, and clients want the best in any service. It’s hard to recruit in a new mixed media department – but it’s very easy to find a specialist mixed media agency to partner with. The benefits of that approach are that you deliver the best service to your client, without taking a sticking your neck out with a risky recruitment push.
When you’re selling more of the same services, there’s more of an argument for hiring resource, but it’s not essential. Again, look around for suitable partners and assess your options. It’s very plausible there’s a potential partner around the corner, just waiting to be found.


A lot of people will tell you that pride will hold you back in life – I tend to disagree, especially when it comes to creative output.
Growing as a business means increasing the amount of output your agency sends out to the world. This also tends to increase the speed at which work is created. This is when pride is crucial. Promise yourself that you will never let your agency put out work that you’re not proud to let represent you.
With this promise comes a guarantee of quality. When you see something about to head out the door that you’re not proud of – literally stop it. Don’t let it leave – even if it means missing a deadline.
This may sound very disruptive, but it works when guaranteeing quality.
If you’re concerned about scaling quality, wear your pride on your sleeve.


Something I’ve seen in the past is people confusing new for a drop in quality.
The creative world is changing fast, and there are new styles, mediums and trends being born and dying before you even new they existed. This means that your output will change too.
It’s crucial to be able to distinguish between New and Bad.
That may sound like the most condescending sentence I’ve ever written, but it’s worth remembering. The next time you find yourself questioning a piece of work, really audit your reaction. Is that really a bad piece of work, or are you just not up to speed?

Growth is a crucial part of any agency strategy – without it, you starve your business of the ability to invest in the things that matter.
However, growth doesn’t always mean bloating in numbers, and it definitely doesn’t mean losing quality. Your output is your reputation – guard this over anything else.