As I sat down at the start of this year to reflect on the principles that have made us a successful agency, I started to think of the people in my life that have been there through the extreme highs and lows in life (and I don’t mean witnessing me take the Lady Gaga part in Shallow on karaoke night). One word came to mind when describing these people: Allies.
WHAT IS AN ALLY?
In the deepest sense, an ally will take a bullet for you. I know this might seem extreme, but an ally is more than just simple trust or surface-level support. It’s more than a cheerleader or someone who has your back. Being a true ally is sacrificial…it can hurt. It’s someone who feels the pain alongside you. So why do I feel like allies are critical to creating a successful business? I think there are three factors:
FACTOR #1: The Work We Do is Impossible on Our Own
At Vers, our job is to solve the most complex branding and marketing problems for our clients. Oftentimes solving these problems takes multiple different perspectives in order to see the problem from a variety of angles. In Japanese culture, a collectivistic approach to problem-solving is considered the norm, whereas here in western culture, we like to romanticize the lone creative genius like an Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs. But in reality, those are outliers, and some of the best problem-solving is done within a group of minds working at the same velocity and intensity on one problem. In your organization, think of your creative teams as your special ops (Also, If you’ve defined a ‘creative team’ as the people who just create the pixels or do video work, you need to rethink this).
The work we do encapsulates a wide variety of technical know-how that is almost impossible for one person to own. This team typically comes from multidisciplinary backgrounds with experience in creative theory, strategy, cloud-based development, sales systems, storytelling, writing, design, film, marketing, advertising best practices, customer experience/engagement, product design/ development, behavioral psychology, etc.
To create consistently remarkable outcomes, each team member must be both brave in their lane of expertise and humble enough to lean on one another.
FACTOR #2: The Work is More Enjoyable Together
This may just be me, but I just enjoy the work more when it’s done with allies I love and trust instead of doing it alone. At Vers, we celebrate the wins together. We take each others’ advice (we even have a Costco Recommendations channel in Slack, don’t hate on that Kirkland goodness). We have each other to lean on when the work gets really tough (as it often does), which makes celebrating the breakthroughs and successes much more enjoyable with others. I’d rather be the sports team jumping up and down together in the locker room after a big win than the solo Olympic athlete on the field.
There’s an amazing feeling that comes from seeing words a copywriter on your team wrote come alive through the voice of a narrator on a short film, or the excitement on a client’s face when the results exceed their expectations.
If the road to solving any complex problem is tough, YOU MIGHT AS WELL choose other travelers you enjoy.
FACTOR #3: Allies Push
Working with allies brings out the best in everyone. Why? Because allies are the best people to push us. Think about who you turn to in your life when you have a problem. If you are wise, it’s the people you trust in your life that will shoot you straight and be honest with you. It’s the allies in your life that you know want what’s best for you, and sometimes what is best for you is to push you to do better, to make tough decisions, and to get out of your comfort zone. You also know that an ally isn’t going to leave you on your own with a problem. An ally has your back and is willing to stand up for you or with you when times get tough.
When we talk about the culture at Vers, I see us as a group of allies. I witness our team take bullets for each other all the time in a number of different ways. We resist the urge to work in our own siloed worlds and truly share the highs and lows of the creative process alongside one another. And when you know that someone is willing to take a bullet for you, it allows you to dig deeper to reach your full potential. It drives each of us to face the new year without fear because we know we’re part of a team that has each other's backs.
Building a successful business is rarely fast, and it isn’t cheap. It takes a clear vision and a commitment to your overarching values and mission. But the struggle is worth it. Because the things that come fast go fast. And the things that take a long time to build ultimately take a long time to tear down. In the end, the hard work and determination put into building a successful creative agency will pay off in the form of long-lasting, meaningful results and a reputation for excellence.
EXERCISE: What is something you can do every single day to evaluate and appreciate your allies? How do you make sure not to take them for granted? Jot it down. Create space every day to appreciate the allies that have your back, and remember to let them know they are valued and appreciated.
In case you missed them, here is part one and two of this series:
- Justin Price, CEO/Principal of Vers Creative