Marching Your Firm to the Right Cadence


Defining, maintaining, and refining a cadence is key to keeping a company "accountable and authentic to everyone it touches," according to the book "Think Big, Act Bigger" by Jeffrey Hayzlett. He also discusses how cadence is "your company's river--its culture and systems." The better it flows within the company, "the more it flows through anyone it touches, from employees to vendors to customers."

Establishing a successful operating pace not only makes your employees feel more comfortable and productive but also gives clients an additional level of assurance. Secure in the knowledge that a creative firm will turn around work within a certain amount of time, they are more likely to rely on that firm as a creative partner.

Internal cadence must come before external; once your team is in a good place in regard to workflow and expectations, you can proceed to educate clients on how timely decision-making will affect the delivery.

Set clear expectations

At the outset, sit down with your team and the client, and explain the plan ahead so it is clear to everyone involved. You may experience some pushback from employees concerned that a rigid schedule may hamper their creative efforts, or force them to rush their process. Discuss those concerns, as well as benchmarks and goals that are dependent on following this process. Pacing in a reasonable manner will take potential delays into account.

Everybody's buy-in is necessary. The next step is the creation of an internal timeline for projects, with checks and balances in place before the client sees anything. How much time can the team comfortably devote to ideation? How long does it usually take to receive feedback from a client, and incorporate those notes into the planning? Working collaboratively to answer these questions will help frame a suitable rhythm for the team.

Don't reinvent the wheel with each job.

Set up a disciplined system so you can control the workflow and focus on what is important. Keep everyone accountable for their time with a time-management system. This will allow you to see clearly where you stand in your budget. Factor in a careful recording of change orders as part of your process, and check in periodically along the timeline to communicate where you stand, notifying the client if necessary. Your team will get accustomed to the idea that your firm works to a set process.

Cadence is all about making life manageable for everyone, and being able to manage and juggle all we do. It's the difference between comfort and discomfort, clarity and chaos. And in this balanced environment, you can nurture creativity.

Janet Odgis is the President and Creative Director of Odgis + Co, an award-winning certified woman-owned design firm based in New York City. For 30 years she has worked with some of the world's most prestigious corporations reinventing ways to define and express their brand. We Make Business Beautiful.