Before you start reading this, humor me and close your eyes for a minute.

Think about the best team you’ve ever worked on. What made it great? What do you remember most about the experience and the outcomes?

Most people will recall the combination of an interesting project and a talented team that liked and trusted each other, with everyone pulling their weight to create an outcome to be proud of.

Experiential marketing, communications and agency work are by nature team sports. So wouldn’t it be great if every team experience went that way? We think it’s worth trying for.

ADVOC8 has always maintained a deeply held belief that the type of relationships we have are our most valuable differentiator.

At first it wasn’t explicit. We were nice people who liked each other and cared about our clients and vendors, and believed in treating them well. It was simply the right thing to do.

We went above and beyond because we were having fun and were invested in our clients mission and outcomes. Our enthusiasm for the work was contagious; people wanted to be part of it and we welcomed that.

As we grew, we had some challenging experiences that tested our beliefs and made us worry that the magic might not be scalable. We needed to make the implicit explicit, articulating how it all worked if we wanted to hold onto it. .

So we put our values on paper. We talked about being Better Together and Sharing Everything, Owning the Outcome and Protecting Respect. And once we articulated our values, we made ourselves accountable to living them out. If our values were critical to making our work indelible, what could be more important?

Taking the time—even and especially when time was short—to crystalize our values paved the way for us to get to work with clarity and confidence. This was huge, because focus and creativity don’t thrive under stress.

Being clear about how values drive the relationships you build doesn’t just apply to agency/client relationships. It works best when you acknowledge that there is a complete ecosystem that brings any project team together. This includes the obvious people that come to mind, but for us it also includes vendor partners all over the world. An awesome warehouse crew. An accounting team that figures out how to keep up with our crazy timelines. Families who put up with long hours and freelancers and fellow creatives who support us every day. Building trustworthy, energizing and supportive partnerships is a two-way street, so we offer the same exceptional support we receive. We think and hope that our partners enjoy being part of our extended team as much as we value having them.

Last year we took our focus on relationships to the next level by creating a client services team. This is not a 2021 term for sales, I swear. It’s a centralized team responsible for being the relationship leads across our engagements, creating a nerve center for championing the relationship-driven values that make ADVOC8 unique. Every team member embodies our values, but the job of client services is to infuse them into our work.

If you’re curious about how to put great relationships at the center of your creative work, here are the top 11 Bret-isms I personally come back to again and again.

      1. See the good. Assume good intent, have fun.
      2. Communicate early and often, Surface concerns, admit when you don’t know and express gratitude.
      3. Cut the sh*t. Be honest. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. In fact, tell people what they don’t want to hear so they have the information they need. Be transparent, be realistic.
      4. The outcome doesn’t matter if the process was a mess.
      5. You’re not a mind reader. Ask questions and solicit, accept and offer feedback.
      6. Read the room. Listen to the verbals and observe the non-verbals.
      7. No one is perfect. Admit when you can do better; then do better. Allow others the same courtesy.
      8. Every project is a laboratory to learn from. You don’t know everything.
      9. Do the work. All the relationship building in the world is irrelevant if the product isn’t good.
      10. I don’t know but I’ll find out is a perfectly acceptable answer.
      11. Help others succeed. Amplify other voices and give credit where it’s due.

Do you have some tenets or “-isms” you work by? I’d love to hear yours—DM me on LinkedIn.