HELP, we have won a new client but we are on a retainer!

retainer, profit, advertising, marketing, workflow

Recently we have had that call for help from two existing clients, one from Malaysia, and the other from Hong Kong. The help they needed was to speedily implement time sheets because they had won some new business based on the retainer remuneration model.

It was a bit surprising that neither agency already had clients on that remuneration model as most of our other clients, like marcoms organisations in general, have clients on that model. In fact it is now the norm not the exception.

One of these agencies is of Japanese origin in which the culture traditionally has been to eschew time sheets up to now and the other positions themselves as a creative boutique, so again that sort of explains why they have avoided the dreaded timesheet ogre as long as they have.

So they both now face some cultural issues internally but the new business win is a great opportunity and excuse to “release” the dreaded ogre so I’m confident, with management buy-in and honest explanations to the staff of the need for time sheets, that they can overcome those issues.

What we were able to bring to the party was a suit of alternative methods of time sheet capture in the form of

a) traditional weekly timesheet dialogue,

b) a right mouse click “quick entry” dialogue,

c) an app on the user’s hand held device and

d) a unique pop-up app that tracks the user’s work activity on their PC or Mac and prompts them at regular intervals to allocate time to the tasks.

retainer, time sheets, advertising, marketing, budgeting

Ntuity Retainer Tracker

This range of alternative and optional capture mechanisms accommodates the differing personal preferences and operating environments across all disciplines within the organisation. When supported by automatic alerts and escalation procedures 100% compliance is assured.

Obtaining the timesheet data in a timely and accurate fashion is only part of the problem. What is also needed is the ability to constantly and easily measure the time recorded against the retainer so action can be taken if the two are out of sync.

What is needed here then is the budget for the retainer to be broken down into it’s component parts and those that are head hour based, and generally they are the majority of components, be broken down by discipline or job role. That done, we can then map the time recorded by discipline or job role so we can measure how the actuals are tracking against the budget.

It is essential that any work done that is out of scope should be identifiable. One important metric in this challenge is the classification of the project. They must be identified at the outset as “In scope” or “Out of scope”. There are of course other wrinkles, activities within individual projects may also be “In Scope” or “Out of Scope” and possibly individual Disciplines or Job Roles may also be out of scope.

Accurate capture of these metrics and the ability to report on them is crucial to managing the profitability of the client and of course is very handy in the case of dispute or fee re-negotiation.

Another issue to be taken into account with retainer based clients is that generally they impose the right to conduct audits so having reliable, accurate and accessible data is essential to passing those audits and retaining good relations with the client.

Trying to do this manually, using spreadsheets or with non integrated systems is demonstrably problematic and I guess that is why our clients called upon us to help.

To find out more give us a call, Marshall Duncan +61 2 8425 8888 or Karen Moon +44 7740 637540

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