Optimize it or die — Anton Sadykov sharing secrets of time management

Anton Sadykov

Anton Sadykov

CEO Lioncom
Антон Садиков

10 years have already passed since I (ed. — Anton Sadykov) became the owner of the business. I lived in Dnieper, so I opened an advertising agency there.

We had a small team that was growing with the number of projects. I then realized that we need to learn how to “save” time for employees on technical working moments and give them an opportunity to work on more important things!

Project “Newspapers of Ukraine”

We were engaged in BTL marketing and, among other things, we had a service for placing ads in newspapers. For clarity: the customer was a large network of grocery retail stores. Every month they ordered advertising with us in 300 different printed periodicals with advertisements for finding personnel. This order was carried out by 8 people, including me. The designer drew mock-ups, managers negotiated with publications and controlled the process, the accountant prepared documents and paid the bills, and I signed a whole bunch of papers and coordinated the entire project.

None of us had a right to make a mistake. 300 different layouts, 300 miscalculations, and documents, 300 actions at the same time. We were working on this order for a month. It was so tiring that the joy of earning was divided by two. There were many mistakes — one problem during every eighth publication. “Is there any other way?” I thought and began to search for a solution. The main goal was to optimize the process and eliminate the human factor.

I studied all the processes and asked everyone who worked on the project what prevented them from doing their work faster and better:

  • Designer: when preparing layouts in a huge spreadsheet, he lost the necessary line and made mistakes.
  • Managers attached the wrong images for printing, indicated the wrong size and color of layouts. Moreover, for each newspaper it was necessary to send a separate email and a block of information. All this had to be filled in manually which took a lot of time to accomplish, and then even more to fix errors.
  • The accountant did not pay on time as there was too much work, and when she did, it took her forever to finish.

Not to mention how much time we spent on processing each application and how many bundles of paper were thrown into the bin: letters of guarantee, bills, and more.

For example, the task was sent to the designer manually in the form of a spreadsheet that needed to be printed. Moreover, it did not even fit on one sheet of paper, they had to be glued together, and then the employees needed to mark the process of their work. It was time-consuming and lacked efficiency. All this is now sent automatically to mail along with the emails to clients with signature and seal.

These studies have helped to describe tasks and eliminate routine. Just two weeks of work in regular Microsoft Access helped to reduce the number of errors from 12% to 1%, and the amount of paper from 6 packages per month to 1. There is no need to talk about the happiness of the accountant — now she freely traded Oriflame among employees.

It is not necessary to purchase a large CRM system to help your business. Sometimes Microsoft Office Access, which comes in the standard software package, will be enough. It will take about two weeks to understand it at a fairly high-quality level.

Project “Grand Opening Agency”

In 2012, it happened that we began to deal with grand openings — and it turned out so well that we became the first agency in Ukraine that specialized exclusively in them. The client provided 10–20 openings every month, so the events were conducted regularly. Work began to take on a round-the-clock character. At the same time, a gift fund was acquired, teams in the cities prepared, optimal logistics were calculated, and events were organized.

The team was getting bigger. At some point, 19 people worked simultaneously on the project in the office, plus hosts, animators, and promoters. Again, optimization, employee control, and the importance of the right motivation for them loomed on the horizon.

This time it was not a question of errors. We made some mistakes but they had very little influence on the overall process. Moreover, now the guideline was on profit. Sometimes only for one client it was necessary to freeze 50 thousand dollars with a deferred payment per month. And this also needed to be controlled and processed.

I decided that I want to spend my time not on the control of the event or in a conversation with the employees, but to track the overall progress in a correctly formatted file and have an opportunity to unload the team, making them all more effective.

Soon the main office moved to Kyiv, where the team anyway had to travel 2-3 times a week. Sometimes, due to the lack of projects in our sector. Other times, due to the insurmountable objection of the capital’s customers that they only need a Kyiv agency. Natural selection or reluctance to take risks “eliminated” part of the team and the number of employees who work on the project decreased to 7. But the quality of the work became higher. They managed to organize 314 events per year.

Also a good example of everything that I have changed in the structure of the work is the project estimate. This document was created for each project since 2007. At first, it was a small Excel spreadsheet with 4 columns and about the same number of rows; over time, it grew into a huge document. And if until 2015 its main task was to provide the client with a really high-quality and detailed calculation, now I have put a lot of emphasis on the agent side of the document.

What has been optimized for each position in the estimate?

  • accounting of payments (now we know how much more must be paid to the contractor);
  • detailed information about the contractor (even after 5 years it will be easy to reconnect with the contractor);
  • the profitability of the position (each manager visually assesses the effectiveness of their work);
  • responsible manager (attached manager for a specific type of work);
  • each manager’s payroll (motivating cell).

The result of the optimization is a 4-fold reduction in the number of key personnel on each project. Without any loss of quality. Training, simplification, and coordination helped to increase profits by 3.23 times. And here is what we have achieved:

  • the project department employees became 6 times more effective on average. Now everyone is interested in controlling a greater number of positions and taking more responsibility, because for each line in the estimate the profitability indicator is now calculated, and there is a direct correlation in salary from it;
  • the speed of creating estimates for the client has doubled — now it takes about 20 minutes to calculate a standard project (Given that the average on the market varies in the range of 3–48 hours — we have checked);
  • the time to launch a standard project has been reduced by 2.3 times and now takes approximately 6–8 hours;
  • We have significantly increased efficiency;
  • Callback to the client is carried out in less than 30 seconds, which allowed to process leads faster and better.

All these works have been done on standard Microsoft Office Excel without using macros.

I have realized that it is better to save the time of several professionals who are in love with their job, rather than engage myself in constant encouragement of a whole bunch of those, who came to sit out and hide behind small tasks, getting paid for it.

There is no limit to perfection, so right now we are setting up a powerful boxed CRM system on our servers. Transferring our estimates and new chips have taken almost 6 months. To be continued…