Show the love in your agency this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day this weekend…you may be planning to show appreciation for the personal love in your life. But how can showing the love at work affect the success of your creative agency or production company?

Show the love for your team

If you show appreciation for your team and their work they are far more likely to develop positive behaviours with everyone around them. Clarity, consistency, appreciation and role-modelling are the cornerstones of developing a positive culture in your agency.

Showing the love starts with recruiting based on a clear job description and understanding the knowledge, skills and aptitude required. People want to be stretched and to learn – they don’t want to be hopelessly exposed and hung out to dry.

Showing the love means being the role model for the behaviours you value. Want people to work hard and go the extra mile? You do too.  Want people to really listen to clients and ask questions before leaping to judgement? They have to learn that somewhere. Want people to feel they can take risks, creative or otherwise (as you undoubtedly did) without being shot? Then they need to feel the boundaries are clear and that they will be supported.

Showing the love means supporting the aspirations of your people. Those aspirations are often more complex and interesting than status and earnings. A personal development plan for each team member linked to your strategic objectives is the Valentine gift that will keep on giving.

Toxic cultures are those where people are micro-managed, un-supported, criticised and unappreciated. The occasional wad of cash or boozy night out won’t make up for the times that your team felt stressed, confused and unappreciated.  The link between positive employment practices and performance is well-known among larger enterprises; far less appreciated in smaller creative service agencies. If you don’t show the love then sooner or later your talented people will be wooed elsewhere; potentially taking clients with them. As your agency grows then showing the love by tying-in key people through a share of ownership will pay dividends in more ways than one.

Show the love for freelancers and suppliers

High quality freelancers and suppliers are essential for the smooth running and scale-ability of many production companies or agencies. Negotiate fairly on rates. Don’t beat down their rate with a promise of future work that never materialises. Don’t make a commitment to delivering to a client without consulting their diary first. Be clear what the extent of the job is, what the lines of communication are and who is responsible for what.  Pay on time.  If you find that the most talented freelancers become mysteriously unavailable when you need them its a sure sign they are not feeling it with you. If you are paranoid about freelancers developing a better relationship with the client than you it means you are not sure where you are adding value to that client and what your value proposition is.

You know those recommendations and referrals you love? Freelancers, suppliers and partners can be a great source of recommendations; so treat them well and that love will be repaid.

Show the love for clients

Some people might say that surely showing the love for clients should be an agency’s first priority? This may be the case in a start-up where you are still on the front line of delivering and satisfying clients. However if your production company or agency is to grow and have any scale then your team has to deliver  –  which is why I have put showing the love for your team first.

But of course showing the love for clients is essential. Good relationships are based on mutual need and respect. A master / slave relationship where the client pulls all the strings is a source of resentment and cynicism in creative agencies which can then have a corrosive effect on the way the agency treats its own people. If this sounds like you, then you need to dig deeper to develop a more useful value proposition that clients – potentially a different set of clients – will appreciate and respect.

Alternatively, the equivalent of a ‘Dear John’ situation where you explain why the relationship with a client no longer works for you can have a magical effect. The client may realise what they really do appreciate about your agency (often the insight into their organisation or brand and the time-saving or mitigation of risk this provides) and be prepared to discuss and change the specifics of how you work together.

Great account development means consistently being interested in your clients’ needs, challenges, business objectives and personal ambitions rather than seeing the client as the source of the next cash injection. Put simply, few clients want to be treated like a sugar daddy or a one night stand. Be in it for the long term – and watch your insight grow, your agency flourish and those recommendations and referrals keep coming.

Show the love for procurement

I know. Procurement people may seem like the relative in the room from that odd bit of the family that no-one wants to talk to, or the profile destined never to be swiped. But get involved, show interest, ask questions, be open-minded, understand the needs and perspectives of procurement people and you will find the conversation a lot more interesting and useful than you anticipated.

Anthropologists reckon that love developed as a form of enlightened self-interest.  At heart, that comes down to treating everyone as you would like to be treated. In the daily hurly-burly of running a creative agency that principle can be forgotten. I am sure you have lots of your own ideas about how showing the love can lead to positive developments for your creative agency.  This Valentine’s Day get enlightened, show the love and sooner or later there will be hugs all round.