I thought a lot about our clients over the break. They weigh on my mind heavily. What does ‘better’ look like for them? I don’t want us to only look or sound or seem better. We must do better. I assume most agency leadership worry about whether they are serving their clients well. But, to worry is wasteful and it only zaps our energy. Instead, it’s time we go on the offensive.
When asked when to hire an agency for help, the unapologetic and unrelenting entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk responded, “I wouldn’t hire an agency, because all agencies do is work really hard to not get fired.” (The hilarious irony is that he owns an agency.) Regardless, it gave me chills. I heard that two years ago and it has remained with me since. It’s like a pebble stuck in the sole of my shoe that has ever so slightly distracted me from an otherwise pleasant walk.
I have enjoyed this walk of building a small company, a formidable team, and deep client relationships, more than words can communicate (although I’ve tried). No matter what, I can’t shake the uneasiness that we are somehow underserving our clients. There is a better way and it’s not a trick, a tactic or a secret: it’s so much better than that.
This is better:
I define better as smarter, more purposeful work we can proudly stand behind, alongside our clients. That means we’re not going to simply do the task and send it for approval. We’re going to question the task. Challenge you and challenge us to use our limited time and limited energy to engage in the kind of exceptional work that will make your customers say, “Wow, this feels like it was made for exactly me.“
Better is also action. Better is not talking about being better. So, what are you going to do about it, Adam? It’s actually already started, Adam. We have committed to having fewer clients this year so we can focus more attention on the core. We have and will continue to turn down work that would deplete our resources. I have already reached out to many of our clients in one way or another to communicate a clear plan of better. If you haven’t heard from me yet, you will.
Agencies like ours say all kinds of things like we “serve” or “partner“ with clients. No judgment. We use words like that. But we’re not your partner and we don’t serve you. A better and more honest role is to guide our clients. Saying “guide” can be perceived as condescending, but that’s only true if you’re a condescending guide. And a guide does a lot more than just, well, guide. In any story, a guide helps, supports, loves and walks alongside the main character, and we must never forget exactly that. The client is the main character, and we are just one guide on their long passage. Our clients will continue on their journey with or without us; for those we have chosen and the ones who have chosen us, we plan to walk alongside them as far as they want to go.
Fewer clients. More attention — Jerry Maguire
Better is not:
More emails. More work for the sake of work. More sending you an email at 9pm or 5am to show you we are working. Doing whatever you say. Expecting you to do whatever we say. Doing what your competition is doing. Spending more money. Making more ads. Making more stuff to show you we made a bunch of stuff. And, most importantly, better is not talking about being better.
The best and scariest part about writing this is that now I am on the hook. I can no longer hide and hope you’re happy. We can no longer do enough to not get fired. I have just committed us to better. So, to my team, I hope you read this, because it’s you that needs to be on the front line of better. My philosophy is pretty simple: I promise to take better care of you and help you get better. All you have to do is be better for our clients. And, if we accomplish better, in the ultimate-awesome-self-serving-circle-of-life-final-act, our clients will take the best care of us.
Better started on January 2.
This take was inspired by the books of Seth Godin and Donald Miller