Great clients lead from a vision, a sense of purpose, and a passion to engage both their staff and teams. That’s easy to say, but if you are a client, and you are swamped with the pressures and challenges of today’s problems – how on earth can you get to this elevated position? And as an Agency that relies on our Clients to be great to enable us to deliver great work – how can we help them along the way?
Stephen Brittain, Director of Seymourpowell’s Strategic Innovation Business Unit, discusses…
At Seymourpowell, we are very privileged that so many GOOD clients have walked through our doors. A few GREAT ones too. More about them in a moment.
We are in a privileged position to meet GOOD Clients for two key reasons:
- In the product design space GOOD Clients tend to hang around in their jobs a little longer. It takes a long time to make a physical product happen and even longer to gain a reputation.
- Product development involves engaging a lot of specialist people. From market research, to engineers to marketers. So GOOD clients tend to have an easy manner about them; their ambition and drive is evenly balanced with humility and curiosity. They’re nice people to work with.
So what sets apart GREAT clients?
In short, I’m suggesting that GREAT clients understand how to both ‘PULL’ and ‘PUSH’ their teams. Yes, the difference between GOOD and GREAT is the additional ‘PULL’ ….the ‘ho’ to the ‘heave’ , the ‘Tug’ to the ‘Shove’.
So what is this ‘PULL’ and how can you get some?
It sounds so simple. It’s a vision. But before you react to that most overused and under-delivered word, let me explain…
In the innovation space around products and manufacturing, a vision is a clear sense of the kind of company that you could become in the future. It is tangibly grounded by both an understanding of your changing marketplace, mixed with a sense of the kind of products and services that will be valued by your future customers. How far you want to look ahead is up to you, and it really depends on the rate of change of your business landscape.
But once you have that vision in place an amazing thing happens…. your level of intuition amplifies.
There’s something quite noticeable when a broadly disciplined team is galvanised behind a leader with strong intuition. Each participant in a project team steps up, removes the boundaries around themselves and engages. And in moments of doubt or loss of direction, of which there are many in complex innovation projects, it is the ‘PULL’ of a leader with intuition, guided by a vision that pulls out the kinks in the track and asks of all the project participants – ‘how are we going to get this back on track?’.
You seldom see this when teams are managed from timelines and gant charts; there’s either less belief, less personal ownership, or just a lack of real engagement. Good clients do their best to manage time and process through being very nice, very organised and occasionally a bit cross.
So what if you are a really GOOD client but you don’t have a clear vision, you struggle to make intuitive decisions, and you don’t have time to get one? Well firstly you shouldn’t worry. You’re not alone. Over the past 25 years we’ve grown our expertise to help clients be GREAT. Through experience with hundreds of projects we’ve realised it’s the most valuable thing that we can do to help a company innovate.
Stephen Brittain is Director of Seymourpowell’s Strategic Innovation Business Unit.
Stephen’s focus is on the development of long-term innovation programmes to inspire and drive change in large organisations. Recently, he was a founding participant at THNK, Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership where he explored the factors that enable innovation to thrive in client organisations.
Stephen joined Seymoupowell in 2007. He has a degree in Engineering and Business Studies from King’s College, and a Masters Degree in Industrial Design Engineering from The Royal College of Art and PG Diploma from Imperial College London.
After cutting his teeth as a brand design strategist in leading Digital Media (Deepend), NPD/Advertising (Lowe Lintas), and Communications (Imagination) Agencies, Stephen set up and ran a series of innovative brand and product innovation businesses where he learned the real commercial and organisational challenges at the coal-face. In 2006 one of his start-up businesses, MountMaps based upon a 3D origami ski map concept, became European Market leader and was short-listed for the prestigious D&AD award.
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