Do We Serve Ourselves or Our Clients?
I fired one of our first clients last week. It was messy and no fun for everyone involved. I also managed to get a lecture from the president of that company on how to run my business and better serve the needs of my clients.
While the initial reaction for any of us would probably be thoughts of a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the face (in slow motion, of course), the whole incident made me think hard about what 47m is at it’s core, and what it truly means to serve a client. I think there are two ways to serve a client:
Scenario 1: Blind Serving
In blind serving, you’re always making the logo bigger or adding starbursts because the client says so. Not because it’s better for them, but simply because they demand it. A lot of companies won’t fight this because they’re just trying to make a living. And that’s ok. I think everyone starts out serving blindly. Get the job done ? client happy ? get paycheck.
But at some point, you come to a crossroads. At some point, your experience will tickle the back of your brain and say “That’s a bad idea!” So what happens then?
Scenario 2: Passionate Serving
I think the next stage of serving your clients involves talking through those “make the logo bigger” conversations and explaining your work. Why you believe your decision is the best not only for the design, but also for the company. These conversations are still no fun, but if you’re really passionate about what you do, you can’t let it go. You’ll win some and lose some. And occasionally, the client will come up with a better idea. Seriously, it will happen. If you’ve checked your ego at the door like any good designer should, you’ll be open-minded enough to see it.
Is your company serving blindly or passionately?
I wish the story ended here, but it doesn’t. There are those certain clients that just can’t be helped. They don’t listen to anything you say and destroy your designs in Photoshop and send them back to you claiming they’re better. What then?
Scenario 3: The Ultimate Sacrifice
When you see a client being self-destructive in their design decisions and they won’t listen to you, it’s time to let them go. With that kind of drama and conflict, I can guarantee you you’re not passionate about the work anymore. This will lead to a decrease in quality, and you start wasting each other’s time. They’re looking for a Blind Servant and you’re a Passionate Servant. You may be losing money, but if you’re truly thinking of the client, it’s a sacrifice you have to be willing to make.
Getting back to the firing of our client; it was becoming painfully obvious that we were trying to passionately serve them and they didn’t want the advice. After almost 5 years we had grown apart in a radical way. Our cultures were polar opposite. So it was time to move on. And I’m ok with that.
So is there a place for both kinds of servants? Absolutely! For your sanity, decide which one you are. And more importantly, make sure your clients know and appreciate it.