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Ten lessons I have learned in 10 years of running an agency

Written by Staff Writer

May 11, 2020

By: Sylvia Schutte, Managing Director at Stratitude

Ten years since I started Stratitude and I am proud that the company today is an award-winning, full-service agency with a brilliant team and a great list of clients. I have learned many lessons along the way, here are ten of them.

1. Be optimistic

A positive outlook makes all the difference. Even when facing problems and obstacles, optimism enables you to see the opportunity in every situation. When we reached a crossroads with a client or we did not win a pitch, I always ask why and then take a good, hard look at what we did, to see how we could improve the next time.

“Failure is a signpost to turn you in a different direction.” – Oprah Winfrey


2. Surround yourself with people you like

This does not mean surround yourself with people like you! You want people, who complement you, not compliment you, so whether it is those who work for you, suppliers or clients, the people who share your values are the ones who will hang around and help you make great things happen. Even though we have a broad mix of personalities, skills and capabilities in our agency, we work really well together and have an amazing company culture.


3. Create an environment where the magic can happen

Let everyone be creative and allow everyone to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things. Some of our greatest work is the result of an individual taking ownership and running with an idea. I am also the voice in the office that always asks, “Why are we doing this?” If I make my team think about and understand the bigger purpose behind a social media post, a press release, a new website or an SMS campaign, then the how comes naturally.


4. Keep on learning

Three years ago, we became the exclusive South African partner of a global network of independent agencies called AMIN Worldwide, and the insights and ideas we get from them are priceless. The same goes for continuous training and exposure, where my team will learn about new trends and best practice from industry talks and courses. We also invest in learnerships, which always come back to benefit the business. You might not know all the answers but if you ask the questions, you will be amazed at what you find out.


5. Sleep on it

I am very guilty of reacting without first thinking things through. By taking some time and literally sleeping on it, the solution usually ends up being in a completely different direction to my initial reaction. While I still often get this wrong, trust me, it does work. I even tell clients to sleep on a creative concept or strategy before giving us their feedback.



6. Care

I always say that anyone can prepare a plate of food, but you can really taste the difference when someone prepares a dish with care. We drive care in the agency; care about the work we do, care about the team we work with and care about our clients and their businesses. Every time someone has stopped caring, we notice it immediately, and shortly thereafter, there will be a resignation letter or a performance talk.



7. Stay focused on what you believe in

Stratitude is a full-service agency but I have often questioned whether we should drop some of our services and rather specialise in one or two disciplines. Then I remind myself that I started the agency because I could see a client’s frustration at working with multiple agencies and often being charged a premium to have the same work done. Our clients see this value, which is why our doors are still open ten years later.


8. Build relationships based on value

We cherish our clients as if they are extended members of our team, and they see us as extended members of their team. We never take them for granted and always focus on helping them succeed, be it in our strategies aligning with theirs or how we work with them to develop campaigns and how we measure them. If we are not making an impact on their business, we are not adding any value.



9. Hire smart and then learn to let go

As an entrepreneur you are hardwired to do everything yourself but, because you want to be involved in every single operation, the risk is that you start losing sight of the bigger picture. Surround yourself with a team you can rely on and then trust them to make the right decisions. This frees up your time to grow the business beyond what you could have achieved on your own.



10. You’ve got to love what you do – and love yourself

While I keep office hours for meetings, it is usual to work early in the morning or late at night. Running a business takes time and dedication, so you really have to love what you do. However, it is also about finding that balance and making time for your other passions and your family.

I swim and run, which clears my head, and I go to the beach or mountain with my family (when permitted during COVID-19), which helps me put things into perspective. By now, my team is used to me coming back from a holiday with a head full of new ideas, a soul that is well -rested and a heart filled with passion for what I do. Stratitude is ten years old and while I have had my share of challenges and lessons, I would not have it any other way. Here is to the next ten years.

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