How to Ease Agency Growing Pains

Harness growth without sacrificing company culture or client service.

Photograph featuring Sander Bosch and Bart Wegink of Invest Online.

There's a reason people talk about "growing pains"—getting bigger isn't always easy. Often, growth comes along with structural issues, communication challenges, and process problems.

But in an industry that revolves around client service, it's vital that teams remain functional and fast-moving.

So when digital marketing agency Invest Online was acquired by Happy Horizon Group in 2018, they were strategic about navigating rapid growth gracefully.

Doodle of person supporting 5 other people on their shoulders, representing lifting others up.

Grow to meet client needs

Invest Online, which is based in the Netherlands, launched in 2011 with a staff of 4. They grew to 40 by 2018. When Happy Horizon, a group of European digital marketing agencies, acquired them last year, this brought the staff up to 140 people, though they collaborate with other agencies in the organization.

The addition of each new person has been purposeful—all of them bringing something new and dynamic to offer their clients. This held true even after the acquisition.

"The current market requires larger, integrated teams with more specialties and more specialists. We need as much knowledge, experience, capacity, and creativity as possible to continue to perform at the top of the market," says Email Marketing Team Lead Sander Bosch, who has been at the company since 2012.

The addition of so many new people gave them the increased bandwidth they needed to stay competitive in their market.

Doodle of a person holding up their hand to their ear to listen to a dog barking.

Communicate your business goals

But additional staff doesn't necessarily make work easier. Getting a bigger operation to run smoothly requires new efforts.

At Invest Online, they anticipated that this growth would prompt their staff to ask big questions.

"With rapid growth there is more pressure on the staff," says Sander. "But communication is key—communicate to everyone what the goals are, what the reasons are, why they should support it, and what everyone's roles are."

Online Marketer Bart Wegink also began at Invest Online before the acquisition. He found that changes were well-received because the company took staff perspectives into consideration.

"By actively involving our employees and taking their input seriously, you notice a lot more support than when everything is determined top-down," he says.

Doodle of a flower offering it's pollen to a nearby bee. Representing serving your clients.

Stay nimble and serve your clients

Having a larger staff with added expertise is only impactful if the staff is able to contribute and collaborate effectively.

"We are a service organization and the quality of our service is what we will be judged upon. That is not that easy in a fast-growing company," says Sander.

To prevent disjointed client service, they've paid close attention to process and involved many minds to come up with the best solutions for a bigger operation.

"We have several working groups to optimize and integrate processes and methods. That way we can divide the ballast over many different people while minimizing the amount of communication and travel time between our locations to stay efficient," Bart says.

Doodle of different faces next to each other. There is a mix of male presenting people, female presenting people, and animals.

Don't forget about company culture

Since the acquisition, the staff of Invest Online have found that they have a lot in common with other members of the broader Happy Horizon Group.

"We’re a group of relatively young, talented, and very ambitious people," says Sander. "So we can still be ourselves without changing the culture too much."

They spend time celebrating holidays and attending festivals together. "This way you start to learn about and appreciate each other much better," he says.

But they also maintain traditions with their core team, including the new folks, to facilitate closeness between people who work together every day.

With a strong culture across the board, Invest Online benefits from effective collaboration and communication.

"We are a very results-driven group and it is great to have all relevant expertise in-house," says Sander. "Thanks to many more people, knowledge, and possibilities, we can continue to serve all of our clients for optimal results."

Want to see your agency grow? Apply to the Mailchimp Partner Program.