I would rather work with nice people. There, I said it.

Last year, when Julie Bosack and I decided to start our own creative agency, we did what most people do when they embark on a risky and exciting venture—we aligned on shared values and decided what we wanted our company to stand for.

We met about it, talked it over, sketched and planned and dreamed and forecasted. We researched and white boarded. At the end of the day, it came down to this:

We want to make good things and do good work with good people and for good people.

We thought, there’s got to be more to it than this, right? So we met, talked, sketched, planned, and dreamed a bit more. And we ended up boiling this core belief down even more.

We do good work with and for good people.

Fast forward one year, and I’m seeing trends. The genuinely good people we work with are better clients. By good I mean nice, kind, respectful, relatable, honest, straightforward, and warm. Our good clients display these traits readily and consistently.

Furthermore, the nicer the clients are, the better the work turns out and the more successful the entire engagement is all around. Clients are happy, the creative team feels fulfilled and inspired, and the end product exceeds expectations.

And, the nicer the creative team, the bigger their connection is with our nice clients. Everyone feels good about the work they are doing together. There’s a sense of collaboration. We're all in it together, and even when things get stressful (and they do), we treat each other with respect, and display honest and clear communication.

I see creative teams work harder for nice clients. They root for them. They fall in love a little. When we assemble a creative/client team made up of genuinely nice people with a shared goal, the team gels quickly, works hard shoulder-to-shoulder on the challenge ahead, and everyone is invested in the success of the project, and the relationship.

Don’t mistake nice for soft. Or think that there is never tension, or conflict even. Tension and conflict are necessary parts of the creative process. Giving tough feedback, pushing for outstanding creative solutions, advocating for the audience even when it means pushing back to clients—it’s all part of the job of doing good work. We just make sure to do all this in an honest, straightforward and kind way.
I've tested this good and nice theory on both client and agency sides of the aisle.

We pitched website work with a client we’ll call Acme, and we won the work. We assembled a talented (and super nice) team to do the work. The client wasn’t respectful or responsive, and we saw markers of bad behavior in the pitch but accepted the work anyway. The Acme project was a disaster, our creative team did not feel fulfilled or satisfied by the work, and we ultimately parted ways (our decision.)

When we interview prospective Collective members, we obviously hire for expertise, talent and experience. But we also look for our definition of nice: kind, respectful, relatable, honest, straightforward and warm. (And for the record, even four or five out of these six traits is just fine! I don't expect everyone to radiate warmth.)

At Jute Creative, we celebrate kindness every day. It seems overly simple, but so far it’s working.

Kari Olivier worked in various corporate marketing roles before migrating to the agency side. Kari is a writer, workshop facilitator, marketing strategist, and advisor to leaders at Fortune 500 companies and SMBs. She is co-founder of Jute Creative, a branding, marketing and communications agency in Portland, Oregon.

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Agency-Client Relationship, Client Services, Creative agency, Jute Creative, Management, Portland, Sales Process, Thought leadership

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