Whilst I was studying at university, I worked at McDonald’s. It was a pretty sweet gig. It was flexible enough that I could work as much or as little as I needed to keep the booze fund topped up when the student loan was spread thin. 

And whilst what I do now is a million miles away from serving burgers and fries, I had an epitome last night whilst tucking into a Big Mac meal. 

Believe it or not, there are in fact some similarities between working at the fast food chain and a fast growing marketing and PR agency…

It all started with a disappointing portion of fries…

Systems and processes work, until they don’t

You see, at McDonald’s, they have a process for everything. Take their famous fries. There’s a process to ensure they’re hot, crispy, beautifully golden and salted just the right amount, every time. But last night, mine were cold, soggy and unsalted. 

So, I started thinking back to my days at McDonald’s and the process that should have been followed to ensure this didn’t happen… 

From a machine that keeps the fries at optimum temperature until they’re ready to be cooked to a timer that’s set to ensure they cook for the correct amount of time and a salt shaker that dispenses the perfect measure. 

Doesn’t sound like much can go wrong does it? 

The thing is, when you’ve got a queue out of the door and a traffic jam in the drive-thru lane, the pressure is on to get customers served as quickly as possible. So the process for the perfect fries goes out the window. 

You find yourself overloading the fry baskets to cook as many as possible, as quickly as possible. You pull the fries from the oil 10 seconds sooner than they should be, because let’s face it what difference does 10 seconds make? You might even forget to salt them. 

Now, although we’re not serving fries here at ramarketing, we do have similar challenges. 

Agency life is fast-paced. You’ve got multiple clients to service and you’re often up against tight deadlines. And although there are systems and processes in place to ensure quality, sometimes the processes just can’t keep up. As the business grows, the processes have to evolve. And if the growth gets ahead of the process? Well that’s when things can go wrong. 

But unlike McDonald’s in which a couple of customers might be disappointed with their fries  (but will likely still come back), the consequences for an agency could be devastating. A mistake could cost you a client. 

The gaffa once referenced a Japanese business author that stated that a company breaks every time it trebles in size. Now, as I can’t find the author to credit that statement to, there’s a chance he made that up, but it does resonate with our experience at ramarketing. 

Systems and process work. Until they don’t. But rather than resting on our laurels, we evaluate what went wrong, how we can fix it and improve our systems and processes to ensure they can cope with the next wave of growth. You see, although clients love it when we’re getting it right, they’ll also remember how well we respond when things go wrong. 

Jack of all trades

At McDonald’s, you’re trained in pretty much everything. From working the front tills to manning the drive-thru and even working the grills. 

You know those famous stars on an employee’s badge? That’s how we get them. By completing training in different areas of the restaurant. 

The idea is that each employee can be rotated into different positions, depending on the needs of the restaurant. Shifts at McDonald’s are unpredictable. One minute you’re quiet and you’re being told “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” by your shift manager. The next you’ve got a queue 50 people deep and one cheeseburger ready. 

Agency life isn’t all that different. Sure, you’ll have your ‘specialism’ whether it be social media, PR or SEO, but the lines between marketing, PR and advertising are more blurred than ever before. These days, PR folks are lobbying for back-links just as much as SEOs. Pay-per-click pros have become media buyers. 

Ultimately, clients want leads. One day, that might mean implementing a thought-leadership campaign. The next, optimising a website. So when you’re agency side, you’re a jack of all trades. You do what you need to do to get results for the client. 

Hi, who are you?

A common occurrence at McDonald’s was walking into the restaurant at the start of the shift, and hardly recognising anyone you were about to work with. You see, they have new starters all of the time. And just as you start to get to know everyone, they recruit again.

Whilst it’s not quite to the same extreme, when you’re working at a fast growing agency it’s not uncommon to feel like you’re walking into an office full of new faces. Just as you seem to be on a first name basis with everyone, the next recruitment drive starts. 

I lifted this from the McDonald’s careers page… 

“Everyone is different. Some want to improve their prospects. Others want a job that fits around their family life. And some just want to earn a bit of extra cash working with good, friendly people at a place where they can grow. Everyone who works here wants and needs different things.” 

…but I think it’s very apt from an agency perspective too. You’ve got your recent grads looking to improve their prospects. Parents wanting to work flexibly (or perhaps go freelance) around their family life. And as for good friendly people? We’ve got loads of ‘em! 

Ultimately, it’s the people that make a difference in any business. So whilst its a little daunting to welcome new people into the fold, it’s all part and parcel of growing a business. That’s why at ramarketing we put our best foot (and people) forward, and it’s those who put their heart and soul into their work who excel in our environment, produce the best work, and progress with us. No soggy fries here, only golden nuggets.