Rethinking Agency Relationships – Part II

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As the title suggests, this is the second part of Julie Jenson Bennett’s post on developing a happy client/agency relationship (go here if you’ve not read it). This is directed at product development partnerships. But, as before, I do think a lot of this rings true for most agency relationships.


Ok – so we covered the hygiene factors. Now, we get a bit more primal: fear, discontent, and hope.


Fear can be a force for good or evil – driving you to action or freezing you in place. Assuming the work that you are delegating is relatively complicated and important, passing it out of your direct control will likely create some level of anxiety, either personal or organisational.

Before you embark on a relationship, stop and ask yourself what you fear most. Then, do the following:

  • Share your fears with your selected partner. If possible, do this before the scope of work is finalised. They can’t mitigate what they don’t know about.
  • Likely, one of your largest fears is that the work won’t actually generate any new knowledge or action within the business – a waste of time and money. If you don’t want to replicate a prior outcome, don’t repeat the same process using the same assumptions.
  • If you can’t identify any fear or anxiety, stretch the project further. This doesn’t mean spend more money, but the scope should definitely reach outside your comfort zone. If you let fear keep you from the meaty and important issues, the results will likely only be mediocre in the big picture.


What do you love about the company you work for and the products you make? When are you at your best? What past projects in your career are you most proud of?

Most of us enjoy product development because we like making something tangible, and we like making people’s lives better. But most of us also would like to make something really, really significant. Something category changing. Disruptive. Beautiful.

And we mostly specify projects and initiatives that are destined to deliver incremental improvements. That’s fine. Incremental innovation drives a lot of profits. But the same process that delivers extremely effective incremental change is almost certainly NOT going deliver radical change.

Decide before you start which business need is in play. If you’re not sure which one you need, talk to some potential partners about that first. Compare the processes they would recommend for each outcome. Get your stakeholders bought in about desired objectives.

Because Iguaranteeyou WILL be disappointed if you optimise a process for one outcome, and secretly really want the other (or both). And that’s not at all fair on the agency you partner with. Sure, they want you to pay the bill when it’s all done, but they also are driven o make impact and have influence on the client organisation.


So you’ve faced and embraced your fears and identified the nub of discontent. Now, you need to relentlessly, tirelessly, andenthusiasticallybelieve.

Your energy and faith in your partners will inspire them to go further and push harder. Your rallying of support across the organisation will help the findings travel further and do more. Your dedication to the tough and important problems your business faces will keep the focus where it needs to be.

Agencies can do amazing things. But the one thing they can’t ever fully do is live inside your business and make the outcome real. By commissioning work, you are also commissioning yourself as an advocate for that work. Don’t leave people hanging. Your hope for the future will be vital and infectious.

The holy grail – getting more for less

Agencies are the way they are because they have invented themselves around the ways clients procure and manage their outsourced work. You get what you have created in your own image.

If you only buy in the boxes that your organisation has always bought in, you’re probably missing a more efficient or cost-effective way of doing things.

If you only let your agency be what they were to you in the past, you will never discover bright new possibilities in the relationships you already have.

Click here for Julie’s blog


For those conscious souls ready to step up and serve. Suitable for established or new coaches.

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