A golden rule in the content industry, in my view, is that all questions are valid and worth asking. This applies to both clients and content partners, where the former engages the latter to offer advice, guidance and expertise on how best to develop a concept or project. Meanwhile the latter obtains information from the former in order to produce work that is to the best of their creative ability.

Like all facets of the client-partner relationship, this is a two way process. Both parties must not only be respectful of each other’s requirements, they must also be sensitive to the effort made by the opposite party. Frequently, however, a lack of appreciation for the other party’s sincerity and eagerness results in ill-feeling, which can be detrimental to the synergy needed to produce an X-factor project ― something all projects should indeed be.


Questions and Quality

Before joining Novus Asia, I headed a business information firm that provided in-depth market intelligence to the energy and natural resources sectors. A core client of the firm was a global utilities provider that requested, on a monthly basis, insight on a whole host of market trends, which ― despite our contract stipulating otherwise ― frequently changed month-in, month-out.

Nonetheless, during the first year of our relationship, there was a mutual understanding among all personnel that as long as the new work did not take up more man hours than was stated in our agreement, we would be as flexible as possible to cater to our client’s needs. Indeed, from our side, we accepted the client’s tendency to amend their requirements. Conversely, from the client’s perspective, they appreciated that not all of our team were as familiar with their business as they indeed were, and were open to discussing matters frequently in an elementary manner.

It was a dream relationship that resulted in high-quality work. Alas, this dream was not to be long-lasting.


New Managers, New Misunderstanding

During the second year of our relationship, the client appointed a new project manager to the account. While initially they continued the practices exerted by their predecessor, quickly their unsuitability for the role began to show. This is because servicing an account ― whether from the client’s or the partner’s side ― demands patience, and lots of it. Unfortunately, this was something the new executive did not possess.

When I approached the new recruit and urged them to be more patient, they promptly huffed that it was not their job to repeat information about their plans, and that it was our job to relay information, which had previously been passed to us. Furthermore, the executive went on to criticise every individual of our team, pointing out their weaknesses, supposed intellectual shortcomings and facets of their personalities they found “very annoying”.

To add insult to injury, they also criticised the value-add work we had been doing for their firm.

The account manager was simply ignorant to the fact that relationships are two-way. Indeed, I reminded them of the extra work we were producing for their firm and vowed that we would never ask the same question twice ― both of which led to the demise of our relationship.

Over time, this resulted in a ‘lose-lose’ scenario for both parties. But in the long run, they lost more than us.


Less Questions = More Confusion

By not producing the extra work, the client was not getting access to the information they required to be competitive. And, by us not repeating questions to confirm specific facts during our meetings, this was leading to confusion on the client’s side, as our dialogue helped their personnel understand where their business was heading, and what challenges lay ahead.

Fortunately for us, the previous account manager ― who we later discovered had moved to a competitor ― hired us on a long-term contract that was worth much more money.

The point of the story is this: clients and partners should not assume that by the opposite party repeatedly asking questions that they are stupid, ignorant and uninterested in what the other entity has to say ― indeed, it shows care, consideration and a commitment to quality.


The Fine Line between Perceived Stupidity and Wisdom

BY Howard James

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