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Agency Leaders Call For Flexibility and Compassion in Driving Business Today

The team at Pantheon sat down with a handful of industry leaders to talk about the ways web agencies can help clients and find opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Strive for compassion and embrace flexibility are two themes that emerged during yesterday's webinar with a panelist of agency executives. The webinar, hosted by Drew Gorton, Director of Developer Relations at Pantheon, called upon panelists from Kanopi Studios, Mindgrub, COLAB, and 3 Media Web to share advice for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"A lot of the challenge is helping my employees—giving them space, hosting coffee times and happy hours, and helping them find the right information when there's so much information out there," Anne Stefanyk, founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, told the panel. "They're brilliant and sometimes overthink things (...) so my job is to maintain the calm and focus."

This tricky balance of keeping morale high, while handling unusual requests from clients and overall financial uncertainty, is something that all panelists are working toward. Alongside Anne, the panel included Brian Thompson, Director of Web Engineering at Mindgrub, Eddie O'Leary, founder and President at COLAB, and Marc Avila, co-founder and CEO at 3 Media Web.

See the webinar recording here, and listen to the different ways agencies can thrive and survive during change. 

Compared to agencies in other marketing areas or industry-specific fields, web agencies have a slight advantage within this climate, the panelists agree. Though it's not without its challenges. Hiring has slowed to a trickle. Clients are on pause or pulling out of contracts. And those clients who are still paying, their requests (can you help me transition my team to remote-only? Can you turn around this response site in three days?) are more demanding than ever. Plus, there's no knowing how long the financial insecurity will continue. 

"The question is: how do we come out of this sticking to long-term goals, while still having cash flow in the short term," Eddie says, referring to the necessity of agreeing to projects that are typically too small to scope, without losing sight of the future and vision at COLAB. 

In the end, it comes down to compassion. "I want to make sure when this is all over, our customers know that we really do care," Eddie says. 

Focus Areas for Agencies During COVID-19

Tapping into this flexibility and compassion will be key for all agencies hoping to emerge from this pandemic in a stronger position than they were before, or than they are in now. Some key themes to consider include: 

Advising Clients Thoughtfully

It's a good idea to be flexible in the way you advise clients during this period. This might even involve steering them away from larger projects to avoid risk—even when they have more time than usual or extra budget from canceled events. 

"What can we project over the next 12 months? We know we'll still be in crisis mode," Anne says. "We're actually encouraging clients to shy away from the larger 100K builds, and instead spend 25-30K to re-skin what they have already. The aim is to make it last for the next three to four years."

Addressing Finances Clearly

Compassion is essential in having conversations with clients about payments and financial security. "There's been a whole new focus pushed onto Sales to keep business coming in," Brian says. "[But] we're focusing way less on promotion, and much more on education." 

Taking on Different Projects 

While you might be initially hesitant to take on projects that are smaller in size or different in scope, it's important to find enjoyment in the challenge. Remembering, your clients are also pivoting their approach and managing projects in novel ways. 

"It's actually been really fun to do some of these quick turnaround projects, taking calls in the middle of the night as we work to tight deadlines," Eddie says, explaining how COLAB supported an envelope company that was suddenly making face masks, and an international pharmaceutical company trying to set up a US website.

Communicating With Staff Constantly

And finally, there must be compassion in communicating with staff when their reality right now is so very far from normal. 

"From a business perspective, it has been a bit of a challenge," Brian says. "We've fared pretty well, taken some small hits (..) but in general it's been about communication and ensuring our team is comfortable. There's been a lot of questions answered and communication going out to the team. It's important everyone is across what's happening—the good and the bad."

There's much, much more helpful content within the webinar itself. See the webinar recording here, and listen to the different ways agencies can thrive and survive during change. 


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