Call Them Clients? No, They Are Business Partners!

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by: Design Translator

I recently visited the website of the book “The Art of Client Service” written by veteran advertising Account Manager Robert Solomon. Though I have yet to read the book (I plan to eventually!), the content really resonates with me, as it is a snap shot of the Strategic Design Management role I play daily.

One thing that I find a little odd though about the Book’s title was the Book’s reference of the “client”. This is because I was part of a discussion where we agreed to reclassify “clients” as “business partners”. Please let me explain.

While the general gist of the relationship you would have with a “Client” or “Business Partner” is still essentially the same, the mindset of how we deal with them is fundamentally different. I would encourage, both designers working for in-house design teams or external consultancies, to seriously consider adopting a business partner mindset.

Business partners trust
As Robert shares on his website, trust is an integral factor in the ability to successfully create and deliver good work. Business partners trust each other implicitly and are privy to high-level strategic decision making discussions. Not only that, Business Partners are given a voice in such discussions and are able to influence each other and the outcome of the decisions made.

Mutual respect for each other
Business partners understand each other’s Strengths and Limitations. They also have full respect for each other’s counsel while challenging the other to do their very best. Business partners also respect each other enough to give each other the space to do their very best work.

Equal stake and thus equal responsibility
Business partners view their involvement in projects as equal shareholders. This means both have an equal stake should it become a success, and both have an equal responsibility should it be a failure.

A “Win Win” view to conflict resolution
All great relationships will have conflicts from time to time. That is just a fact of life! Business partners always resolve such conflicts as a Win-Win situation for both sides.

Talk solutions not problems
Business partners will never ignore a problem that might impact the other’s success or wellbeing. Such problems are then only tabled with solutions closely following behind.

Business partners have each other’s best interests at heart
Finally, when push comes to shove, business partners have their best interests at heart. This means when it comes to the very difficult decisions (budget, resource, schedule etc.) putting the business partner first is always the first yardstick.


I like to end this short post with a quick comment. These few points I have suggested above I would consider as the “utopia” we should strive towards. From my experience working in our very tough and competitive market driven economy, I will concede that such suggestions are easier said than done.

Best of luck friends!

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