Attracting quality candidates to a small agency can seem like a mammoth task at times. Without the natural lure of blue chip brands, international awards or large salaries – many smaller shops often feel like they’re facing an uphill battle. So how can a small agency sell itself to potential employees?

To answer this an agency really needs to ask itself the most important question of all – who are we? As Rick Webb Co-Founder of The Barbarian Group says, “Culture is the number one reason somebody goes to work somewhere… if your company doesn’t stand for something, nobody’s going to want to work there.” This is where building a strong brand, a unique tone of voice and a progressive company culture with opportunities for growth pays dividends.

A good example of a UK agency doing this well is, Karmarama. From small things like referring to staff as “Karma Krew” to “Karma Life” – a section of their website dedicated to “regular updates on the comings and goings of [their] talented and lovely people” – Karmarama sells themselves first and their work second. This approach is not only a great way to attract and retain talent, but clients too. After all, everyone knows the best work comes from happy, fulfilled staff, not the overworked, under appreciated kind.

Speaking of which, something to consider when developing this culture, is the appeal of work-life balance when recruiting. In fact, according to a recent Vodafone survey of senior employees quoted in The Guardian article “How SMEs can recruit the talent they need”, work life balance and flexible working hours are now thought to be more important to UK workers than financial compensation.

Yet, flexible working hours of course bring their own challenges – such as how to cope when staff are out of the office? The solution here lies in managing client expectations and developing a relationship where clients trust their agency to do a great job, and respect them enough to allow adequate time to complete it.

Another important point, and one that we at Entegrate live by, is the vital need to keep brave and unusual clients on the books. These clients may not be your biggest earners, in fact, some may even be pro-bono. However, if you want to appeal to the creative elite, you need to offer them the opportunity to do some interesting and potentially award-winning work. Something we all know is a lot more achievable with a smaller client and a less scary budget.

So there you have it – brand, culture, work-life balance and a few interesting clients – arm yourself with all these things and poaching the big guns should be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

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