Part of owning your business is protecting your knowledge and information. But protect it too hard and no one will know you have it. That’s not a successful step in being successful.
One of the biggest leaps in understanding how to run a good business happened when I was employed in an ad agency as the creative director in an ad agency. A client called, asking for a process we did not do. At all. I was pretty sure that if I asked one of the designers, she could have created something pretty good.
Trouble was, the big client was used to excellent work, and our work was not going to be excellent. Having worked in the advertising community for a while, I suggested another company that did that process very well. Yes, they were a competitor. Our client was grateful.
At the next staff meeting, I reported what I had done. The company president was livid. I was sending business to our competitors, he yelled. I was costing us business we could have used. We could have done something, he screamed, banging his fist on the table. And then he fired me. In front of my colleagues.
What hurt the worst in that story was the complete missing of the point exhibited by the company owner. The point of a good client relationship is to help people, even if it means sending them somewhere else. It builds trust and credibility and that beats any marketing plan you may have.
How do I know this is true? Because, those many years ago, the client heard what had happened. They moved the business to the company that became my new work home. They did it because I had helped them honestly when they needed it, focusing not on my own company, but on the client’s needs.
I still follow that rule today: offer the best help you can, but when someone else does it better, tell your client the truth. Make the introduction. If the client leaves your company entirely, the relationship was not as strong as you thought. Almost all the time, the relationship will grow stronger, and you will become trusted and a credible resource. And when you own your own business, that is a crown you can wear with pride.
—Quinn McDonald teaches writing to individuals and to corporations. And she’d still send clients to the best provider of services.