It’s “trust or bust” for us.

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We talk A LOT about trust at SRH. “Trust is everything; we hire on it, and we fire on it” is the opening salvo of my welcome spiel to all new team members.

Our three core values touch on trust from different angles:

  1. “Win for clients” i.e. build trust with clients by always putting their needs before our agency’s.
  2. “Respect your craft” i.e. trust yourself by continually honing your skills.
  3. “Remember we’re all on the same team” i.e. forge trust with each other by always acting with empathy and kindness.

We coach on these trust-oriented values, and we reward on them too.

Still I haven’t talked enough about one crucial trust factor: “Can we trust our clients?”

This matters just as much as their ability to trust us!

In fact, if I don’t see the potential for a two-way trusted relationship during the courtship phase, I usually just bow out. We’ve also fired clients for breaches of trust too.

Why?

Because to me, trusting our clients isn’t a nice-to-have but rather an economic necessity because of what I call “The Service Business Covenant”:

  • Clients trust us. They pay us for our time and have to trust that we’re using that time to solve their problems—not short-changing the work and using that time or profit elsewhere, such as chasing down other clients, getting tan on The French Riviera or building a fancy office.
  • We trust clients. We dedicate our best people, time and energy to solving their problems and have to trust that they’ll reward us with loyalty (even when we screw up), honesty (especially when it’s bad news), and consideration (fair timelines, budgets, judgment and payment terms)—not string us along with false promises, demand cheap pricing, shirk on their invoices or throw us under the bus (and off the work) as soon as something goes unexpectedly with our work or theirs.

The survival of our agency depends on The Service Business Covenant.

Of course, there are so many other benefits to trusting each other. To name a few…

  • Trust leads to candor which means we can get and give feedback that improves our work—and do so efficiently.
  • In the ‘circle of trust,’ we can pitch bold creative ideas or “crazy” strategies without fear of getting fired. Often, it’s these ideas and strategies that lead to breakthroughs.
  • We can get frank about budgets and expectations.
  • We can admit when we’re wrong and change course in time to minimize damage and often still hit our goals.
  • Genuine, human interactions are possible—complete with humor, empathy and kindness—rather than superficial business platitudes.

I’m proud and thankful to say that I don’t have to wonder about this question—“Can we trust our clients.” When the pandemic hit last March, every one of our clients reached out to us proactively and told us where their heads were at regarding their marketing plans and budgets—good, bad or ugly. For several, that meant pulling the emergency brake on live or soon-to-go-live campaigns and playing a game of wait-and-see.

We didn’t have to sit around guessing or wringing our hands. Instead, we were free to focus on solving their business problems… and ours. In every case, we’re really proud of the work we did and the results we achieved. We grew our team, won awards and even had some fun too.

None of that would’ve been possible without trust flowing both ways, without both parties honoring The Service Business Covenant.

I’ll wrap this up with a quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s lifelong business partner: “A seamless web of deserved trust—that’s what you should aim for in all aspects of your life.”

If it’s good enough for Warren Buffet…

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