The aim of this case study is to show how ideas can be transformed into creative enterprise through effective partnership.
Focus Advertising was founded in 1994 by two Saudi nationals, Mr Hassan Al Fadl and Mr. Louay Gazzaz. Their ambitions were to grow into the leading creative agency in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The business rapidly grew and within only four years employed nearly 50 specialists and managers, winning their industry’s top Media awards for excellence.
Success brought challenges in managing the growth from a family sized unit to one which employed many nationalities across several departments. The owner managers were increasingly being asked by department heads to create a more formal management structure with clearer lines of reporting. A key issue was to keep people informed of the new goals and targets that had to be achieved in order to sustain growth.
The owner managers were reluctant to install a corporatist structure for a number of reasons. They felt they would lose touch with the many loyal staff with whom they had forged strong bonds, while new and more complex reporting lines could filter out important information between owners and staff – this could lead to a more directive type of management which contradicted their own open style. They therefore looked for outside advice in order to resolve this dilemma.
The owner managers were well connected in the business community. Not only did they manage a portfolio of other successful businesses, but their advertising agency had won contracts with many blue chip companies.
The choice for Hassan and Louay was wide. They decided finally to select a specialist consultant, Clive Bonny, giving variety of reasons for their choice.
Hassan said, “Our clients choose us as an advertising agency because we are not only linked internationally to serve multinational organisations like Panasonic, but we also have an especially strong understanding of local cultural needs. Clive is similar to us in this and other respects: he had local contacts and also additional international business partners through other independent specialist consultants. These consortia have grown without having a complex hierarchy of communication lines, and this makes access easier to their specialists; they take a practical view to problem-solving, avoiding cumbersome systems. And their qualifications and quality of work, like ours, is simply the best.”
The first job of Bonny was to agree with Hassan specific terms of reference and clearly stated outcomes so that all work could be accurately evaluated. These deliverables were then communicated to all employees so that they understood the role of the consultant in order to work effectively with him. This was to avoid people being suspicious of hidden agendas.
Department heads were encouraged to voice any concerns to allow them to be addressed. The consultant arranged a series of meetings top down to further scope issues before recommending next steps to the owners. This ensured that everyone’s views were fully considered before decisions for change were taken.
The consultant reports were also shared with department heads to promote open communications.
The main challenge of communicating fast-evolving company goals to all staff was overcome by Hassan presenting these personally face to face to all personnel, allowing questions to be answered directly.
Afterwards every team spent a day offsite, facilitated by the consultant, producing their own team objectives to support the company’s goals. At the end of the day each team then presented their goals to every other team to promote a common understanding between departments. This made it easier for the internal supply chain to help each internal customer.
Bonny called the project “signposting success” because it focussed people on recognising their journey-points for achievement.
Having agreed and communicated company and team objectives the next step was setting individual performance standards. The consultant supplied advice on job specifications and appraisals. Jobholders themselves then prepared themselves before one to one reviews with their managers, who were able to agree new personal objectives.
The whole process took place without delay as the performance review system was kept simple. A unique aspect of its design was staff appraising the effectiveness of their manager as a boss and teamleader. This information gave the owners insights into managers training needs to be included in their training plans. They identified a particular management development need was more effective team-working with “creatives”.
Rather than deliver a standard training course the consultant organised their jointworking on a practical exercise, which benefited the whole company – the production of their own operations manual. They were supplied with a template prompting the inclusion of policies and procedures on most operational matters such as time sheets, security, invoicing, collections, recruitment, training, client management and communications.
The consultant joined their initial meetings to ensure they introduced appropriate project management controls. Two key advantages arose from this approach: consultancy expenses were significantly reduced, and the involvement of managers ensured their ownership and commitment to the project.
The entire consulting assignment was completed within 90 days with no disruption to workflow and only a small amount of management time. The owners have shown that the managers did not need a hierarchy to stay successful. Owner of Focus Advertising, Mr. Hassan Al Fadl said: “Too many businesses create unnecessary complications for themselves. Our own key objectives and performance standards are clearly expressed and advertised to all employees. As professional communicators we have to practice what we preach. As we grow Focus, we will stay _in Focus_.”.