Why displaying our credit on the work we do is as important to us as our clients by Perry Haydn Taylor.
Have you ever asked your supplier “what would make us your best client?” Well Charlie Bigham asked us precisely that question over 26 years ago and we still work with him to this day.
A successful client supplier relationship is built on mutual trust, collaboration and respect. Forming strong partnerships with suppliers is how great businesses grow exponentially. Evaluating those potential partnerships is one of the most important investments one can make in business these days.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “if you give me six hours to chop down a tree I’ll spend the first four hours sharpening my axe.”
Back in 1993 my business partner and I left our previous company because we didn’t really enjoy working with their clients. Many of them were great but a lot were not. Some were a nightmare to work with, unreasonable and sold things we didn’t really believe in. Some clients were even rude and obnoxious.
In those days, having unreasonable clients was tolerated by creative companies. It just seemed to be the norm which I still find staggering. The worst aspect of those relationships wasn’t the unreasonableness for me, it was the fact that we never felt like our work and contribution was being recognised or acknowledged.
In a working environment, most people want to be kept in the know, given responsibility and acknowledged for their contribution. As well as that, there’s a sense of security and loads of other important things that we are always trying to improve to make working relationships better for everyone.
However, when Lisa and I started big fish, personal and corporate acknowledgement was definitely a big issue for me personally. I felt demotivated when people failed to mention the important role we played in their success stories.
Thankfully, those crappy clients led to us setting up a great business that we’ve enjoyed being a part of ever since. I shall always be weirdly grateful to them for that because today, we get to choose who we work with and on what terms. If we get it wrong it’s our fault and no one else’s.
In 1994 my business partner and I agreed that we would only ever be as good as the clients we worked with. The question we asked ourselves was “how would we know which clients we should work with?”
So, we set 5 qualifier questions which we have never veered from since in over a quarter of a century.
- Would we buy their products or service?
- Can we add significant value?
- Do we like them and share the same values?
- Will it be creatively, intellectually, emotionally and financially rewarding working with them?
- Are they happy to acknowledge our involvement?
We “baked this in” to our company culture by incorporating it into our standard terms and conditions which specifically state that we require our credit to be discreetly displayed on all the work we do. This small act is the biggest lead qualifier for us because it tells us pretty much all we need to know about a prospective client’s attitude towards collaboration. It’s a small deed that means more to us than they will probably ever realise.
Since 1994 nearly all of our work has come via referrals or by people seeing the work we do in the public domain and tracking us down. On many occasions we’ve had people remark what amazing clients we have and how generous it is of them to acknowledge us. They’re right, because it is an act of generosity and respect.
I think this next story illustrates why I’m so glad we have stuck so vehemently to our stance since we started.
Adrian Carne, was the MD of Yeo Valley when we first discussed being their brand, design and marketing partner. He asked me why Yeo Valley should put our credit on all their packaging. I explained that it was a deal breaker for big fish®. He asked if I was seriously going to walk away from a one million pound contract just because a client refused to display our credit. I said yes. He said “ok, you’ve got 60 seconds to explain why”.
He stopped me at 30 seconds and said “I get it. Of course we’re happy to display your credit. I always was going to say yes, I was just fascinated to understand why it was so important to you”
We spent 12 years working closely with Adrian and the Yeo Valley team and have always been made to feel like part of the family.
I hope this story helps explain why we ask our clients to display our credit discreetly on the work we do.
It actually says more about them than it does about us.