When hiring an agency
Make sure your values are aligned.
Every agency out there has a different motive, a different goal than any other agency. Most of them will tell you what they think their goal is: they want to “inspire change”, they want to “build brands”, they want to “give you success”. Unfortunately often times people say one thing and mean something completely different. Or worse yet, they say something that sounds good, but their true goal is completely different.
For example, in the client services industry, there's tremendous pressure to go fast. Anyone who has clients can tell you this—it feels like the faster you go, the more clients you can maintain at once. And the more clients you can maintain, the more money you can make.
Do you notice the implicit goal in the above statement? If you get caught in this trap then you essentially end up with one goal: to make more money. It's not about greed, it's about surviving. Money is survival.
If the goal is to make money, then the agency is no good to anyone. If the goal is to make money, then corners will be cut. The work will be shoddy. No one cares about making a good product at that point, they want to finish, get paid, and move on to the next product.
Unfortunately, in almost a decade of working with agencies, I can count on one hand the number of agencies I've worked with that haven't fallen into this trap. I think they all start with high hopes and grand ambitions, but inevitably the real world bears down on them. People get burned out, and the goalposts shift. No longer is it truly about “building brands” and “changing the world”, even if that's still what it says on the door. Now it's about cold hard cash. It's about survival. Cranking through clients as fast as possible seems like the only way to survive, so that's what they do.
Don't hire an agency like this. Their work will speak for you, and what it will say is “cheap” and “fast”. These agencies may look polished, but they leave a path of chaos wherever they go.
Invest in your agencies like you do your employees. Get to know them. Give them time to do their thing. If you take care of them, then some day they will take care of you.
We don't make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies. -Walt Disney