Collaboration Isn’t Common

It’s no secret that when I started to grow the agency, I first went to partners I’d known for years who I knew was about getting the work done. However after that was done, I went to look at smaller firms that I knew had great capabilities who I just needed the chance to get in the room, so I built a culture around being a collective, knowing the only way this could work is collaboration. These relationships often worked out great as folks were hungry and loved the environment for us to have our own swim lanes but also come together for strategic conversations. However, once a brand came to us and asked for us to collaborate with another agency partner, the tides shifted.

Setting egos aside, we came ready to work and show our genius, but also were super excited to collaborate. There we learned that folks were intimidated by us and didn’t recognize how we were meant to be in the room with them, almost like we were a nuisance to have to deal with even though the client seemed happy. Halfway into the project, it became obvious that we had a long road ahead and that fear had entered the mind of the firm since we had a relationship with the brand manager. Nonetheless, we were able to execute the plan and all was well in the end, but I knew that we hadn’t made another friend on an agency level so some repairing was needed, so I attempted to reach out multiple times to clear the air, but often was left without a response.

About a year later, a mentor asked me to reflect on the experience and said that he believed my ego wasn’t as in check as it should’ve been for that engagement, this was very hard to hear and receive. However, I was down for the count in wanting to ensure I learned the lesson so I didn’t repeat it and I took the feedback, shared it with my team and we set a precedent on how we work with other partners. Much like any gathering and any of the other vendors, we will manage expectations on the front end and share capabilities as well, so we all understand how we best can collaborate.