Agency life is an interesting blend of both leading and serving our clients. To be successful and to build long term relationships with our clients — we have to be adept at both sides of our dual role.

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Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week I’m coming to you from Las Vegas, Nevada where my daughter and I are about to see Lady Gaga. One of the songs that I’m hoping she sings tonight is the song Shallow from A Star Is Born. I was thinking about the song and the lyrics, and sort of this whole idea of shallow versus depth, and of course my brain went right to agency life because that’s how it works. I was thinking about what a privilege it is for us to develop a relationship of depth with our clients. We get to do amazing work, we get to work with smart, funny, creative people; we get to solve gnarly problems that our clients are really wrestling with; and we get to inspire them and ourselves and our team; and we get to lead them to new ideas and new solutions. But the truth of it is, that’s only half of our relationship. They’re our customer, they’re our client, and sometimes we have to be the servant. We can’t always be the master, we can’t always be the leader. Sometimes we have to serve their needs even when those needs or those wants or those requests don’t make sense to us or feel very unreasonable. Maybe it’s turning an ad around too quickly, or making a change that we think actually diminishes the strength or effectiveness of something we’ve done, but for some reason they need us to do that. I think any agency relationship that has any longevity, that builds up any sort of trust between the client and us, has to include both sides of that balance. We have to be able to come to the table ready to be both servant and master. We have to lead and we have to follow, and the quicker we can understand that, and I think especially among young people in our business, I think for some reason that sticks in their craw a little bit. So I think we have to lead by example. I think we have to not only say do it because the client said so, but we, the leaders of our agency, also have to explain to them that this is part of our role, this dual role that we play every day; that if we want to have a relationship of depth, if we want to have a relationship that is forgiving when we make a mistake, where clients call us because they need a thinking partner, sometimes it also means that we have to do their bidding, we have to do what they need us to do whether we agree with it, whether we’re happy about it; because at the end of the day it’s a relationship and any relationship includes both give and take. So I want you to think about it a little bit. I’m wondering how you can raise this issue inside your agency, this idea of being both servant and master and how to find the balance between those two. Because I’ll tell you, it’s the employees that understand that and demonstrate that to the clients and also to the internal team; we also are that way with each other, right? Sometimes we’re leading a team and sometimes we’re a part of a team and we’re serving another leader. So that duality of being able to be both the servant and the master is critical to be successful in our business. How do you raise that issue in your agency and how do you have an interesting discussion about that? Think about it. I’ll be back with you next week.

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