Finance Cornerstone

Business Operating System for Digital Agencies

Your digital agency may be successful and profitable in its early stages, but what happens when you hit a wall?

At some point on your business journey, you may find that the business is no longer moving forwards and your day-to-day becomes a constant battle.

Sound familiar? Then it’s likely that your internal operations can’t sustain your rate of growth.

In order to achieve scalability, you must take a detailed look at your internal operations and ask if your business operates as efficiently as it might. Finance Cornerstone helps digital agencies such as yours to define or overhaul their internal operating system, so that they can continue to thrive.

What is a business operating system?

An orchestra. A well-oiled machine. A bible. A playbook. A laptop operating system – there are many analogies for what a business operating system looks like!

But in plain English, a business operating system is your company’s unique method of getting the job done to achieve your goals. It’s your manual for why, who, when and how. 

It defines your processes and procedures with a clear line of sight to your vision and goals. Crucially, it also defines what skills you need to get there and who is accountable for what.


It has to start here with a clear definition of your company's unique vision.


What talent do you need to fulfil your ambitions and in which roles?


ll your employees need to be on the same page and work to a set of common goals, clearly communicated by the leadership team.


The nitty gritty. Every successful agency has a robust set of procedures, processes and systems to ensure the smooth running of the business.

A solid business operating system creates a state where there is clear accountability, everyone is in sync and working together. Your executive team can afford to take their foot off and look at the bigger picture.

Your company culture is healthy and attracts the right talent and the right clients. And your business can continue comfortably on its upwards trajectory.

Why does my digital agency need a business operating system?

When you first thought about how to be the best digital agency you could be, it’s likely that finding the right talent and securing top-paying clients were high up on your list. As they should be, of course.

The fact is, however, you can have the most skilled people that all rub along nicely enough, and some great clients that like what you do – but if everyone is running around doing their own thing, chaos soon takes over and you’ll find you spend most of your time fire-fighting.

It shouldn’t be this much hard work!

When owner managers come to us for advice, they’re looking for a solution to a set of common problems:

  • Why aren’t we growing?
  • Why is most of my time spent on micromanaging and not on strategic thinking?
  • Why aren’t we making enough money?
  • Why can’t I find – and keep – the right people/clients?

Almost all of the time it’s because their business operating system doesn’t work – or they simply don’t have one. And without it, their business can’t function, communication is poor, problems don’t get solved, clients are lost, cash flow goes awry, morale nosedives…

If this is your current reality, you are by no means alone. It’s understandable that a growing digital agency will get to a pinch point somewhere along their journey.

If you recognise this and commit to work on your business operating system, then you’re already winning the battle.

Finance Cornerstone has a proven track record in helping agencies to establish successful business operating systems. 

We can help you to design and implement an operating system that complements your unique vision, allowing your business to function and grow with more ease.

The benefits of a good business operating system

So how do you know when you’ve hit the sweet spot? Your working day may become shorter and less stressful for a start! It will take patience and dedication, but you will start to see the benefits of your new or refreshed business operating system, as the months go by.

A healthy company culture

By implementing a business operating system, your goals and company values will align and begin to nurture the employee behaviours needed to fulfil your vision. Your company culture will thrive as a result, creating a business that employees enjoy working in. In turn, your employer brand will become stronger, attracting more of the right people you need.

Increased client satisfaction and retention

With a clear set of processes and procedures, your clients will inevitably enjoy a better customer journey. Like your employees, they will have a better idea of how you do things, and a realistic set of expectations. You will start to make a more professional, reliable impression that boosts your reputation and helps to secure more of the clients you really want.

A self-sustaining business

You should be able to step out of the business occasionally to work ON it rather than IN it. With the right business operating system in place, you can have the confidence to do so, safe in the knowledge that your employees know what is expected of them and the company can run perfectly well without you. This will also do wonders for your work/life balance.

Increased productivity

When chaos reigns, your output invariably suffers. When your employees are working towards the same vision, with a clear understanding of their role in it, they will be more engaged and productive. As a result your output will be of a higher quality and more consistent.


An effective business operating system will allow you to gain control of your numbers and make more confident decisions about the future of your company. And with all your people pulling in the same direction, the business can cope with faster growth.

Are there pre-defined business operating systems for digital agencies?

There’s no one size fits all approach to operating systems and the philosophy and frameworks out there differ. The most useful models out there are:

That’s not to say you have to follow just one theory or approach. It’s fine to borrow tools and elements from different operating systems and shape them to create your own unique system.

Take a look at them and pull out the things that you think would work for your agency and company values.

You know your business best and what is the right fit. It’s our job at Finance Cornerstone to facilitate, provide guidance and maintain focus until you get there.

How soon will I see results?

If you’re looking for a quick fix then you’re in the wrong place. A business operating system is a complex beast that requires reflection, planning, energy and commitment. 

But the alternative is struggling along until something gives – and that may be you!

Putting a business operating system in place is probably the most valuable thing you can do for your business and you should see it as you would any other investment. Make your operating system a priority NOW and you will reap the benefits down the line.

Generally, systems take at least 24 months to implement. But your patience will be rewarded when you become a fitter, more competitive and more profitable agency to be reckoned with.

What are the key features of a business operating system?

Business operating systems are like thumbprints and yours won’t – and shouldn’t – look the same as the next agency. There are a number of key areas to define and put in place.


If you don't have a clear vision of what you're ultimately trying to achieve, then how can you be successful? You need to clearly state your company's outlook and communicate it effectively throughout your business.


Setting goals and KPIs is essential to making sure everyone is on the same page, from the leadership team down.

Data Analysis

Your numbers must tell a story to enable successful decision making. Your finances need to be watertight for business growth so you should adopt good reporting measures on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis to ensure laser focus on your cash flow, budgeting and forecasts.

Processes and systems

Without effective processes and systems in place, everyone is free to do their own thing and that's when it can get messy. In order to be more efficient and consistent, all your processes should be clearly documented and training provided if necessary.

Role Definition

Every team member within your company should have a job description that aligns to your company values and objectives. It's also wise to define the future roles that you will need in order to scale up.


It is important to set out with complete clarity who is responsible for what. It sounds simple, but all too often accountability causes confusion in agencies, wasting valuable time and effort. An accountability chart is a valuable tool to map out the company's roles and responsibilities. This is not an organisational structure, but a map of the key functions within a business with a clear owner allocated to each one.

Finance Cornerstone can help you implement your perfect business operating system

Not only do we have the financial knowledge to help you transform your business, we have over 10 years of experience in working exclusively with digital agencies. We know your world. We know your challenges. We know your opportunities.

It all starts with your ambition – if you set the bar high enough, we will help you reach it.

Everything we do is governed by our PROTECT framework, the seven pillars that ensure the protection of your company’s assets, allowing you to grow. How does your business measure up?

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