Almost a year since scratching the agency itch, I have come to love many things about #agencylife:
- The jeans
- That every day is different
- There’s some glass and glory (awards and recognition for good work)
- The variety of projects, teams and types of clients
- Easy access to a good game of Scrabble to help break your writer’s block
- We all genuinely like to work with each other
But make no mistake, agency life is not without its challenges:
- Every day is different, and that can get hectic
- Sometimes you have to hurry up … and wait
- Learning to do everything right — time slips, quotes, billing — has a learning curve
- Contradictory client requests can get hard to decipher (“Give us big ideas!” “Why’d you pitch that knowing our budget limitations?”)
- Sometimes you lose the office Scrabble game. Embarrassingly so.
But by far, the most important thing I’ve learned about #agencylife is a fact that is not exclusive to working in an agency: We are in the business of people. We answer to our clients, we work together (sometimes fight together) to produce the best work. And, we build relationships.
This fall, Vehr Communications had the distinct pleasure of hosting fellow IPREX members in our office for an Account Leaders Bootcamp. With nearly 25 attendees traveling to Cincinnati from Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, and even as far as Washington state, we had a mixed bag of experience, backgrounds, and client experiences to share with lessons to glean. Here are some of those lessons:
1. Lead, follow, or just get out of the way.
It’s important to read people, and equally important to read situations. Sometimes it’s the unpleasant experience of realizing you may have stepped in too aggressively or not enough and correcting the course.
There is no right way to step into a new client-agency relationship to ensure that it’s healthy and for the long-term. However, there are ways you can sharpen your emotional intelligence and gain experience in working with people. Additionally, nothing beats clear communication with your team. Rely on senior management to be your mentors (and help them help you).
2. No surprises
Whether it’s concepts, scopes of work, bills or budgets — there should be no surprises between you and your client. At least, no surprises coming from your end.
3. No understudies on game day
Everyone can remember a time in their career where they just wanted to shine. It’s a natural feeling. Maybe it was a time when your idea, tagline, concept, was going to be pitched. And you wanted to lead the discussion or close the sale. Sometimes, though, you have to reality-check your situation, and understand that veteran presenters will be the ones presenting. It’s glitzy, but it really is a lot of hard work. When it’s “game day” or time to present or pitch to a new client, be supportive, but know you might not be the star.
Inversely, for the more senior folks in the industry, groom your understudies. You wanted to be nurtured and given opportunities to shine, so spread the love when you can. Develop your colleagues so that when the time comes, you can be the supportive one and watch your protégé shine.
4. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand.
This was my favorite learning from our bootcamp. Even in non-professional relationships, when someone shares news with me (happy or sad), my impulse is to do something. Drive somewhere, call someone, cook something, write and send something … the list goes on. Looking at my colleagues, marketing and public relations seems to attract people who are natural doers. A client tells us something, and then we do.
But sometimes, a client just needs to talk. Vent, go free-form in sharing all of the potential projects coming up, and just know they are being listened to more than spurring a direct and immediate action. On my part, knowing that not every conversation is a cause-and-effect “if this, then do that” situation. And that’s okay.
5. Either you run the day or the day runs you.
Where would I be in life if I had this mantra and practice down-pat at around age 22? I’ll never know. Things come up unexpectedly, and when every day is different, that can be joyful. However, the buck stops with you when it comes to your workflow. Being responsible with your work, knowing when to move on, and knowing when to stay out of something will lead to you leaving the office at the end of the day like you’ve accomplished something and ready to return the next day knowing what you want to do.