I started my marketing company as my only employee. As I added staff and clients, I knew I needed to make sure that my “essence,” the way that I treated my clients, was communicated to all of my current and future colleagues. So I started thinking about what I believed, my core values, and why they were important.
I’ve been lucky enough to keep clients for many years, and I’d like to think it’s because of how I make them feel: I’ve got their backs. My business niche is to provide the flexibility of an outside contractor with the commitment of a full-time employee. I may not be on the premises, or on the payroll in the traditional sense, but I act like I am, and I expect the same from my colleagues.
- Do what’s right for the client regardless of how it benefits or does not benefit us. For example, telling a client to take the majority of the marketing budget and hire a new business development person, because that was the way to expand that part of the business. When I said this to a client, he looked at me in disbelief. Several years later, he finally created a new business development position and thanked me for the advice.
- Be transparent – no bullshit. There’s a time to be diplomatic and a time to be honest. Sometimes you just have to push back, even if you’re talking to the CEO. Maybe this is the New York in me, or maybe it’s 30 years in the business, but being direct saves a lot of time.
- You are part of your client’s team, so act like it. This means being proactive, not just reactive. It’s so easy to be reactive, responding to emails day in and day out. I set aside time to sit and think about each client’s business outside of any ongoing routine. Usually if I spend even half an hour thinking about a business in this way, I can come up with a few really good ideas to present. This shows the client you’re passionate about their business. Anyone can meet expectations. You want to strive to always exceed them.
- Admit errors and do your best to make it right. We all hate screwing up, but trying to pretend we don’t makes problems worse. Most people understand that an occasional mistake is inevitable, but if you acknowledge it and do what you have to do to make it right, you gain more trust from those around you. I’ve had to reprint a few pieces and “eat” time on some work, but I’m sure I made up for it later in additional work from those clients.
- Strive to set your bar higher. Working with multiple clients, I get to experience different company cultures, observing and collaborating with some really smart CEOs, which has influenced my thinking about my own performance. One CEO in particular always makes me challenge myself, and I appreciate it.
- Create a culture of sharing and learning. I encourage my team to share ideas. If we’ve tried a tactic, a platform, or an approach on one account and succeeded, we work together to see if it can be applied to others.
- Become irreplaceable. All of these actions help make me and my colleagues almost irreplaceable. We all know that everyone can be replaced, but I believe that following these core values makes my clients think of my colleagues and me as partners that they want to keep around for a good long time.