From Passion to Profit: Optimizing Operations with Sirvan Jackson

Programming - Apr 19, 2024

In my latest Spotlight interview, I had the opportunity to chat with Sirvan “Van” Jackson, founder of Arithmetic and a fractional COO.

We covered a lot of ground in this discussion about operations, including the five levers Van identified to help drive operational success, what he calls the Four P’s and One T. I did try to get him to make that last “T” into a “P”, but he didn’t seem to want to change “technology” to pTechnology. Go figure!

According to Van’s research, barely half of agencies actually track their own profitability. Tracking profitability is essential to understand their financial health and make informed decisions. Because many do not, they don’t always have the information they need to right the ship if it’s going off course.

I was also surprised to hear that, in his experience, the lever companies struggle the most with is Process. It turns out we’re really good at developing processes as it pertains to our deliverables but less so with other critical operational processes, like onboarding.

I loved that we had the time to talk about one of my favorite subjects: estimation. Van’s perspective was like a breath of fresh air. When it comes to estimating, he said, “You can only make it less wrong,” which implies that they are never exactly right. Oh, sweet relief! We also talk about how story points aren’t just for software designers and developers. Come to the agile dark side, marketers!

If you are an agency owner or anyone in leadership, watch this video to learn more about how to optimize your operations and processes.

Megan Notarte
Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. I am thrilled to have Sirvan Jackson with me today. He is a fractional CEO the founder of Arithmetic which is an agency that provides COO services to help creative agencies and I did I know that Is that a good introduction for you?

Sirvan Jackson
You nailed it. You got it.

Megan Notarte
I had the opportunity to chat with you, Van, a couple weeks ago about some research you were doing. And I thought it was so interesting that I wanted to talk about it more and dive into a little bit more detail and be able to share it with our closest friends and colleagues on the social media. So I thought we could start with your focus on agencies. And as an agency owner, I’m always very interested in why someone chooses to focus on agencies. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about why you’re passionate about companies like mine.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, most definitely. And that’s a great question, Megan. You know, agencies for me, you mentioned the term passionate. I see passion within agencies and I feel like that is attractive to me. Outside of working with corporate entities or conglomerates within an agency, what I understand, especially in leadership, is they actually drink the Kool-Aid. They eat their own dog food.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, right.

Sirvan Jackson
And so you have true believers within agencies who believe what they’re doing. They wanna do good work. And that type of momentum is so contagious to me. I feel like when I see agencies just kind of moving forward in this direction, it’s appealing, it’s attractive. And this is why I, instead of moving into the corporate space, which is where I worked in NGOs, I took that dip in and came over in the agency space.

Megan Notarte
So is it because, I was talking to my other business partners about that perspective the other day, and is it because agencies, we have to be so specific about what we’re selling because our expertise and our time is what clients are buying. Is that, do you think what makes people more true believers or more passionate about the work that they do?

Sirvan Jackson
Mm. I think that’s a part of it too. Kind of thinking about the agency, how someone becomes an agency owner. Typically, most agency owners in the past, they’ve started as some sort of freelancer. They either as a designer, a developer, a marketer, and they moved into being successful, and then they up their capacity by bringing on more individuals. But that agency owner is still in its heart a producer. So they love the work that they do and they wanna bring that forward. They just happen to also be agency owner. So there’s that, I’m an owner piece, but I’m also super attached to this work. I wanna make sure it’s done really well. And so I think that ties back to the passion that they have. And that’s why they drink the Kool-Aid because they also make the Kool-Aid. Yeah, exactly.

Megan Notarte
They made the Kool-Aid. That makes total sense and it also makes sense why you’re focused on improving operations for those agencies because if they started out as individual contributors that did a great job and then they sort of organically grew and brought more people, all of a sudden now they’re running a 15 person agency and they look around and they’re like, wait, I run an agency? What does that even mean?

Sirvan Jackson
Mm-hmm. Yeah, like, wait, this is my job? Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Yeah. That’s exactly what, uh, the, the bridge that our firm is trying to gap with founders and agencies.

Megan Notarte
This is my job. I just wanted to design websites. Interesting. So tell me about, you and I spoke and you mentioned that you’ve got some research coming out that you’ve been working on about some levers that agency owners can pull to optimize their operations. And I know it’s not like published yet, but can you share some of like what you were looking at and maybe some of your findings?

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, most definitely. So talking to a lot of operational executives or operations leaders and even founders, CEOs of smaller firms about 20 and below, you see that operations can be a really big bottleneck. And sometimes we don’t really know where to start. So it’s this big term, operations. What does that even mean? And so the guide is not really to say, here is how you do operations. The guide is really more, here are five levers you can pull to focus on. So those levers, as I define them, are the four P’s and the T, which is basically profitability, people, project management, processes, and technology. So these are really overarching pieces. And if you dive, when you dig deeper, they touch other aspects, the tentacles of operations.

Megan Notarte
That makes sense. I’m like, as you’re talking, I’m like, is there really no way to make that T another P? Like, have you tried this? Like, it’s technology, but like you spell like pterodactyl, so it has like a silent P in front of it. I’m just saying, have you considered?

Sirvan Jackson
I was thinking the same thing. That’s something I have to think about. I do have to think about that.

Megan Notarte
Right? pTechnology. We’re on something. You know, so you so basically you figured out these areas that if you if you get them right, everything starts to like work better.

Sirvan Jackson
Yes, pTechnology. That’s right. Yeah, let’s look at these areas as kind of low-hanging fruit. So for example, there was this one statistic, and I wrote it down for you because I wanted to make sure I got it, was out of this data that I’ve been doing, only 53% of agencies actually track profitability. Now, what does that mean? Now, it means that the other 47% don’t track profitability, but it also means that there’s less visibility into what’s happening. So…

Megan Notarte
Oh, that’s, I believe that. Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
We can talk about operational processes. We can talk about technology. But honestly, does any of that even matter if you’re not profitable or if you don’t know you’re profitable? It doesn’t make any sense, right? So first of all, when you’re diving into profitability, what does sustainable profitability mean, right? What is your cost of delivery? So you can understand that it’s not just simple arithmetic, right, revenue minus expenses equal your profitability. It’s a little bit more than that. And if you wanna go public or if you’re leading a lifestyle agency or if you have to calculate EBIDTA for selling down the line, these are considerations that unfortunately…

Megan Notarte
You have to know.

Sirvan Jackson
…ones aren’t really thinking about. So profitability is really the first step. And these five pillars, they start to build on top of one another. So you can’t do one, you can’t start technology, you can’t start in the middle, but you have to start profitability because if again, if you’re not profitable, then everything else doesn’t matter.

Megan Notarte
How can you sustain yourself if you’re not making money, essentially?

Sirvan Jackson
That’s it. That’s it. If you’re not making money. Yeah

Megan Notarte
What do you find with those agencies that are not tracking profitability? Is it just that they, it has not been a thing that they needed to care about. They’re just like in the weeds, getting the work done, paying the bills. Like, cool. Is that, is that the problem? Is that why they haven’t thought at that level?

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, I have a few assumptions here. The first one is what you mentioned, right? Agency owners are in the weeds and there’s that natural progression like we mentioned before, from freelancer to agency owner and then eventually to enterprise. But most are stuck in the middle here. And…

Megan Notarte
Mm-hmm.

Sirvan Jackson
If you’re only in the weeds, it’s very difficult to see the larger picture and how that reports back to what your future might be for the agency or for yourself personally. It’s more like, let’s just get the work done, let’s get home, and let’s move on. So that can be a big distraction.

Megan Notarte
Yeah. Of the five, the four P’s and the one Pt, the T, what do you think is one that people struggle with the most?

Sirvan Jackson
Oh man, that’s a great one. Oh, you know what? I think it’s number four. I think it’s process. We love saying process. Yeah.

Megan Notarte
Oh, but we love Process, Van. I swear creative agencies talk about Process all the time. We try to like brand our agencies on Process. Like Process is everything, but it’s still a challenge.

Sirvan Jackson
Right. It’s a huge challenge and um…

I’ll say this, process is a challenge because agencies, they focus on their deliverable process. Your delivery process for maybe if you’re a branding agency, I know your firm has technology, and I’ve heard about your process and it’s very robust, for delivering what you do for your customer applications for your clients. A lot is focused on your deliverable process, but what happens is, what about your onboarding process for your clients?

What about your retention strategy? What about even how you write a task or how your team estimates? What about these pieces that are all intertwined? These all report back to whether you’re profitable or not. There’s a funny little, although these are intangible pieces and sometimes even qualitative, they also report back to something quantifiable, which is your profit margin

Megan Notarte
Right. Like it all goes, well, it all goes back to that. I mean, we are running a business. We are running a business that needs to have some sort of, some sort of profit or revenue, I guess, at the very least. So people struggle the most with like non-obvious processes, like, you know, well, operational processes is what it sounds like. Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
It all goes back to that. Yeah.

Operational processes. So, and this is the funny piece. So you have, and I’ve talked to a few agencies here, a lot of agencies too, or some agencies, which are there in the minority, are very process mature, almost too process mature. And so there’s a lot of process overhead in the sense that we need to go through these five steps in order to complete this one action, which to me is the opportunity to cause this isn’t there. Another take toward processes is, oh no, we have these five processes that don’t work and we need to overhaul the entire system and create a new operational engine. Which is something that a lot of people get distracted in and it doesn’t really work most of the time. I mean, we’re familiar with Gauss law, right? Like, Gauss law states, processes and systems are very complex the more you change really the more you can really mess up So incremental changes and marginal differences are really the key when it comes to affecting processes because my personal opinion is if you’re an agency whether you I mean However many FTEs you have and you come your bottleneck and when I work with clients and there’s a certain bottleneck. But my thought is, you’ve gotten this far. So something has worked so far. So let’s not rip it all apart. There’s something to be said about what you’ve done and congratulations. Now, let’s take what you have done and let’s just, let’s reboot it, let’s refactor it, little by little to make sure it can be interlately done and we can reach the goal that you want to reach.

Megan Notarte
like evolution over revolution, which tends to be my approach. It’s lower risk in general, right? And I have seen companies, not just agencies, like it try to bring in a whole new thing, which sometimes you need to, but it can’t, that in and of itself is its own project. A whole new operational system is its own project that distracts you from delivering to your clients or delivering your product to your clients.

Sirvan Jackson
Yep. It’s very, very risky. It’s very risky.

Megan Notarte
is pretty risky, right? Because it takes your focus off of the, what you’re trying to actually do. What do you think people tend to get right? Of the five, the four P’s and the Ptuh.

Sirvan Jackson
I would say people. I am impressed a lot of times, granted these last few years for retention haven’t been the best and I don’t think that’s mainly the agency’s fault, but I have been impressed in how the tenure of most employees and long-standing agencies. I think that’s…

Sirvan Jackson
That is what also drives me into agencies because of this environment where you want to do good work, the people that you bring on, they embody this spirit. And if you are able to transfer this ambition, this passion to those who you employ, they become a part of this engine, right? They drink the Kool-Aid too and then they stay on even through rough seas as we’ve seen in these past few years. So I think a lot of it even like without even without any strategy sometimes the people the human capital part is done well.

Megan Notarte
Yeah. I mean, that makes sense to me. I think smaller agencies in order to attract talent have to provide a very people-focused way of working because we can’t always match the salaries of much bigger. Right? So you look for like the really, really talented people and you try to give them the like nicest place to work.

Sirvan Jackson
There’s no Donut Mondays or Beer Fridays or whatever it may be.

Megan Notarte
No. I mean, I will say that it was Donut Monday here at my house yesterday because my kids brought donuts in the morning. It was very, it worked out. It worked for me. It definitely increased the morale at the house of Notarte here. Exactly. Me and the dog loved it.

Sirvan Jackson
Culture.

Megan Notarte
You are also working on some research with Databox, which hasn’t, has also not come out yet, right? You’re like on the heels of all these big announcements. All these things. What can you tell me about that?

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, a few things. So there are a few metrics that I’ve been trying to understand lately outside of multiple conversations that I’ve had. For example, time tracking, which is a fundamental piece, especially if you’re a team and firm, even if you’re a project-based firm, and you wanna understand what’s happening, that’s where it’s team capacity, how you’re gonna resource, and all those other great pieces. But I’ve understood that 13% of agencies that we surveyed are still not time tracking. At all, at all. Yes, yes, I can agree with you. Time tracking can be a pain, can be a pain.

Megan Notarte
Because it’s awful, Van. Time tracking is…It is not a technological problem for what it’s worth. I don’t think. There are many technologies to make this easier. It’s just, ugh.

Sirvan Jackson
No, no. It’s psychological. It’s psychological in a few different ways. I actually wrote an article on this not too long ago. But when you think about it, if you’re an iPhone user or whatever, and it asks, can we track your usage? How many people actually click that button? I think there was a study in 2020 that only 21% of people actually clicked the button. A feeling that it was a, it’s a psychological fear of, of feeling tracked, of, of being looked after. We want our freedom, right? Not that it means anything, but even when time tracking, it does. Yeah. Exactly. But I think there’s a, the key to helping time tracking adoption in agencies is there’s a few keys, but a big one is…

Megan Notarte
Yeah. Right. No, it’s functionally the same. Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
…financial literacy among the agency. So there are a lot of agencies that are very transparent with their financials. This is our community revenue. This is our goal for the end of the fiscal year and our profit margin for the end of the fiscal year is what we want. But even within that transparency, there’s a lack of financial literacy among the teams.

So even doing like a practice P&L with certain departments or silos to help them understand like, how does your time tracking actually feed into your bonuses, into your salary? Like, what does that mean for you? And then once it actually means something for them, then we have an initiative and all the reminders kind of start to dissipate.

Megan Notarte
Yep. Do you know that I think the worst time trackers are agency owners?

Sirvan Jackson
I have to agree with you.

Megan Notarte
It’s true facts. Like I am not the worst. The worst person knows who they are. I’m just gonna leave it. I am not the worst, but I’m among the worst. Because, you know, I think it’s different. Like when I think about time tracking for a contributor, like a developer or a designer, they are often at my company, you might be working on two projects at a time max, right?

Sirvan Jackson
It’s confessions.

Megan Notarte
So, you can sort of start a timer and like do your business and maybe you stop it for lunch and you start it again. You may be just working on the same thing all day. But if you’re a project manager, for example, it becomes quite tricky because you literally might be having three conversations about three different projects at the same time. And then I think it becomes very, very muddy on like how you’re tracking your time and how does it add up to the target you’re trying to hit when you’re constantly doing so many things at once. And I think that probably also applies to two owners as well. But as a project manager, I have seen that a lot and it becomes very tricky to make sure that you’re kind of accurately tracking all the things you’re doing because you’re basically just doing everything always at the same time. Right.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, I cannot disagree with you. Yeah.

Megan Notarte
Okay, okay, okay. Like I will recommit. Yes, you know, just an open book here. You also, and I think you pushed this on your LinkedIn already. You were looking at the state of profitability for agencies as well. And I think it was a surprising number. Was it surprising to you actually? And what was the number?

Sirvan Jackson
Thank you for your confession, Megan

A part of this was actually surprising to me. I wrote this down too. So, this is why it was surprising, because it was in the last 12 months, not just this year. In the last 12 months, out of the agencies that we surveyed, 38% of those agencies had a profit margin of less than 15%. Out of that 38%, 19% of those agencies had profit margin less than 10%.

Megan Notarte
So, yeah. So what does that tell you?

Sirvan Jackson
This tells me that first of all, tracking is not being done. Because if you’re tracking your profitability, if you’re dragging your profitability consistently, you understand what you need to sell, what you need to move or take off as far as overhead track to increase that profitability.

Megan Notarte
So you would increase that. So if you were tracking it, you would see it trending that way and you’d be like, oh my gosh, we need to do something. Okay. 100%. Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
Yep. Yeah. Just that little piece, that little window of visibility. Yeah, it just gives you a lot of possibilities to move the needle forward, especially when it comes to actually earning something. Yeah.

Megan Notarte
But that doesn’t, being an agency owner on the ground, that number doesn’t surprise me at all. It just feels like this year, like we all keep waiting for the big year to come after the pandemic. We just, it’s like you hear other agency owners talking about it all the time. Like, I think, y’all I’m on the cliff, but I think we’re backing away. And then like,

Sirvan Jackson
And why is that?

Megan Notarte
…four months later, everyone’s like, I’m still on the cliff, you know, like, it’s been really, really tough this year. And it hasn’t seemed like the tech economy or whatever has really improved. So seeing that number, I’m like, yeah, it’s been very dissonant out there because the broad economic numbers are very good, right. So like the jobs reports that are going out and all the like broad macro US economy stuff is like, oh, no recession. But then when I look at like the slice that my agency owner peers are living in, and it feels like, this is not what’s being reported. Um, and like, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure out what the what is happening, because I feel a little gaslit. So when I see that, like, yeah, most, a solid portion of the agencies that you surveyed are not super profitable this year. I’m like, yeah, that makes sense to me.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, I completely agree with you. But I do notice that that’s only 40%. There’s another 60%. There’s another 60% that actually are profitable. They’re at the baseline and hitting above 25% of what they hit 12 months ago. So there’s a huge gap there. And I haven’t yet understood why that’s the case. It could be, let’s say, I don’t know, right?

Megan Notarte
So most, yeah. I want you to understand that for me because I want to know.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, yeah, I want to know too. I want to know too. And I think a lot of this also has to do with the way agencies sell and market themselves. But again, I don’t have any specific numbers on this. This is an assumption. As you know, smaller agencies and their sales engine is not very robust, for lack of better words. So once projects are finished, they rely on recurring revenue, and who’s selling new things, or who’s out there doing new things. So I think that also feeds into why projects aren’t, even after 12 months, why products aren’t continuing, or new businesses aren’t continuing to come as well. But that’s just one piece.

Megan Notarte
Yeah. I wonder if, yeah. And I wonder if it’s a function of the size of the agency too. Like the larger agency is more likely to have a business development person or a sales person who is not necessarily also the founder and the individual contributor on a project, which probably makes a difference. And yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
Exactly. I think it makes a huge difference. Founder’s sales can be difficult.

Megan Notarte
It feels like the general consensus is that it is very difficult for creative agencies to have someone who is not an owner or a founder doing sales. Like if you read around the bureau, it’s littered with stories of failed business development hires, right?

Sirvan Jackson
It’s true. Yeah. Yeah. I’m curious, coming from a founder or an agency owner, why do you think that is?

Megan Notarte
I think it’s the Kool-Aid thing, right? Like you made the Kool-Aid. So only you can sell that special brand of Kool-Aid. And it’s very hard to sort of take that all those things that you care so passionately about because you made a whole company about them and transfer it to somebody who’s very good at selling really anything, but needs that passion to think of not just like the thing you’re selling, but what it could be.

Because that’s so much of what owners do with clients is like, here’s the thing we do. And here’s how it can make what you’re trying to do like so amazing. And we’re the only people who can help you do it this way. And it’s hard to like give that to someone who hasn’t been there to like, you know, put the one cup of sugar in the special Kool-Aid, you know.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, selling that value over just things. Yeah.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, yeah, exactly. The story, right? I mean, I know that agencies are successful doing it, but I know that it is really hard. We have not been successful doing that. Talk to me, you mentioned estimation and I, this is my team will laugh that we’re gonna talk about estimation because over by many years, estimation is just a thing that is like, I’ve gotten to the point where I am trying to just be chill about the fact that estimation is just hard and never right. I mean, it’s an estimate. And I’ve almost backed away from the rigor around it because it doesn’t seem to matter. So tell me like you posted a LinkedIn post that maybe like I shared it with my team. I was like, hey, here’s some other thing to try. Like, tell me what your perspective is on it.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, we share this perspective. Estimating is, as I said, estimating is estimating. You can only make it less wrong from that perspective. It will not be perfect.

Megan Notarte
I love it!

Sirvan Jackson
But from my perspective, I think there are a few pieces, I’ll just talk about one here, especially when it comes to estimating previous projects. And this is what most agency owners do, right? To typical project come in the door and you could say, I think you mentioned this before too, this feels like 400K, this feels like 25K. And you could be right on the money. You could be right on the money. That could work really well. But how does that report back to the amount of time your team needs to spend on it? That’s the hard piece to decipher. So for me, it’s not so much worrying about on how to make an average off of, this is what we did in the past, this is what we need to do, so let’s divide that by two. Let’s just make an average, right? So basically, by making an average, you just give yourself a 50% chance of winning, a 50% chance of losing, which is…

Megan Notarte
I mean, those are not bad odds, man. 50-50?

Sirvan Jackson
They’re not bad odds, but we can improve them. We can improve them. Yeah, we can improve them. Yeah, like, by looking at the numbers just a little bit more keenly and not getting too deep in that. Like, you can improve the chances between like 74, between 86%. I’m not going to go into the numbers here too much, but you can improve those chances.

Megan Notarte
I like this. Okay.

Sirvan Jackson
And how you look at your averages and how you pull those averages out based off of other numerical equations. It’s not super difficult to math there. But another piece of that is how individuals estimate too. I mean, you guys mainly do technology. So I’m sure you’ve dabbled into StoryPoints and other things there or t-shirt sizes, whatever it may be, and that may be helpful.

Megan Notarte
Yep. We’ve done it all, man. We’ve tried it all. We do it all actually. Sometimes we’re back to t-shirt sizes. Like it depends. It depends on what we’re doing.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, and there’s no perfect way to do it. I don’t have the solution for any particular agency. I can make a solution for the particular agency, but I don’t have that solution handy. It’s just what best suits your firm, and then what can your team buy into. Because I think that’s an important piece, too.

Megan Notarte
Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
I can estimate and I can put numbers on a page, but if the team isn’t down with those estimates, then it really doesn’t matter. Yeah, it’s a hard thing to enforce.

Megan Notarte
Oh yeah, it’s bad from the beginning. Yeah, yeah.

So we were talking about story points and like at Cloud Four, we’ve, like I said, we’ve been, we’ve been around for a long time. So we’ve dabbled in lots of different ways of estimating. Um, and even came up with sort of our own story point system, um, because it had to meet both our needs as like, uh, developers and designers to have fuzzy estimates because we don’t really know how long things are going to take, but also meet our needs to like math numbers and put estimates together for clients with like money associated, how much it is actually going to cost you. But I know that like that whole idea of story points for estimation is very software focused. And it sounds like from what I’m talking to you and reading some of the things like you you’re talking about broadening that to other agents, other types of work. So marketing and things like that. Is that is that sort of where you’re going with story points and like estimation for other kinds of tasks.

Sirvan Jackson
Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that’s a valid way about doing things, getting away from the hours. Because one thing, we are very afraid of hours. We’re just, we’re afraid of hours. This will cost five hours. And if you hit seven hours, that’s a problem, right? It’s just, it’s a fear.

Megan Notarte
Yes, right. Yes. Yeah.

Sirvan Jackson
For marketing teams, and I’ve tried this, even running a marketing team on ScrumBot, right? It wasn’t so much a Scrum prescriptively, but ScrumBot. And using StoryPoint estimations within a Scrum team, or I’m sorry, within a marketing team, it gave not only, it gave visibility into what the team was doing. Because typically what happens is you have different parts of a marketing team.

You have programmatic, integrated, you have SEO, you have your content writers, all these great things, and they all do their one thing, right? And so the project manager comes to the content person and says, okay, we need five hours here. Programmatic, we need four hours there. But they don’t know how their work is intertwined. But once you’re able to intertwine work with a marketing team and implement story points, whether it’s t-shirt sizes, not only are you able to make these estimates a bit more tighter, because everyone sees what piece they’re working on and then what happens after that. So estimates become a little bit tighter. But the unity within the team also becomes a little bit tighter because they have to work together. So for me, introducing that to a marketing team has seen good results.
I would love to try it in other sectors like in branding, which I think it’s a little bit more nuanced, but I’m up for the challenge. I think this, it is not only, it cannot only be relegated to software, but it can also be used across different streams of departments.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, yeah.

I guess I never, I never really, because I’ve been in the web design development space for ever, it never really occurred to me. Like I don’t really know how other disciplines do it. You know what I mean? Like, is it just hours? Like, is it literally like, this takes me three hours. Like that, that kind of, and very siloed.

Sirvan Jackson
It is as simple as that. I mean, agencies, there’s different variations of it, but mainly it’s just hours. And some may do, oh, we’ll do a sprint, but it’s just a week of time with hours. So you’re just, you’re riding waterfall. And you call it a sprint.

Megan Notarte
Sure.

Yeah. Yeah

Sirvan Jackson
Agile!

Megan Notarte
I think that’s how you and I started out this recording was like, I’ve got some opinions. I always have opinions, always have opinions. That’s fun. I love, like I said, I talk about estimation way too much in my life because I think you’re always trying to improve, always trying to figure out the way that’s going to get you to the place with the least amount of friction.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, most definitely.

Megan Notarte
And those estimations when you’re selling time or expertise matter quite a bit, right?

That is all I had. Did you have anything else you wanted to talk about and sort of all the things you’re working on and all your LinkedIn posts I always find to be so very interesting? Is there anything that’s super hot on your mind right now?

Sirvan Jackson
Now outside of the operational piece, that’s the only one that’s hot on my mind right now. I mean, as I mentioned to you before, is when someone is elevated to an operations leader, I just find that there’s no real training for this. There’s just, hey, just dive in and hey, plan capacity. And hey, forecast or run these P&Ls. Obviously you’ve had some sort of exposure previously, but you know, one of the bigger projects that I’ll eventually be working on is trying to develop some training around how to help operations, newer operations leaders to get there, to really get to stand on their feet. So again, amongst the millions of projects that I’m working on, there’s also some client work and then eventually that one as well.

Megan Notarte
Yes, that’s, I think there is always a need for this like management support, like someone gets thrown into an executive position or a leadership position and they just sort of figure it out. So that sounds very interesting. I also think like operations is fuzzy in its definition. How does that, how do you feel about that? Should it be fuzzy?

Sirvan Jackson
It’s very fuzzy.

I think that’s a trick question.

Megan Notarte
Haha! Gotcha!

That question is hard to answer. It… That’s a good one. I’ll try to answer it well. I don’t think operations should be fuzzy. No, I don’t think it should be fuzzy. But I find it difficult to not make it fuzzy when talking about so many segmented pieces of work. They all feed into one particular engine, the operations engine of the agency. So I don’t think it should be fuzzy, but when talking about it, or when trying to help or train someone, it can be a little fuzzy for them as they jump into it. Like for you, I don’t think operations is fuzzy for you because you’re an expert at this, you’ve done this for a long time. But when transmitting what you know to someone else, yes, it gets a little fuzzy.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, I mean, I would say that even with us, sometimes it’s fuzzy, right? Like, is that an operations thing? Where does that fall under? And does it really matter? Like, it may not really matter, like where those divisions are, but if you’re a new person stepping into a role, understanding what is the scope of your, I don’t know, influence or responsibility, like that seems like that should not be fuzzy.

Sirvan Jackson
That, yeah, yeah. What’s just a whole other story there? Yeah, what is your influence? What is actually your responsibility? That is a whole other story.

Megan Notarte
Yeah, those are often two different things.

Sirvan Jackson
That’s a hot topic.

Megan Notarte
Well, thank you so much for chatting with me. I know it’s later in Rome where you live, which is very cool. So thank you for taking the time later in your day to chat with me. And I, yeah, cool. Forever.

Sirvan Jackson
Well, thanks for having me. This was great, Megan. This was really great. I can keep this going with you. This is awesome. Yeah.

Megan Notarte
We’ve got hot topics forever. All right, thanks so much.

Sirvan Jackson
Yeah, that was definitely it. Thank you, Megan.

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