We eat, breathe and sleep our Manifesto.
This set of six defining characteristics has been with us from the get-go, helped to shape who we are as a brand—and kept us honest for nearly six years. We love the way our Manifesto has been with us from the beginning and grown with us as an agency.
This is part 5 of 6 of our rules to live by: Treat every vendor as you want your clients to treat you.
Kindergarten stuff here, isn’t it? Yet how many of us can say we always remember to do this?
When I was a fledgling designer at my first agency, I was the “middle man.” Among my other duties, I was responsible for getting the estimates from the printers, ensuring that the specs were correct, vetting each vendor to ensure quality and presenting the estimate for review. I had FANTASTIC vendors (still do). These people would veer far out of their way to help me find the perfect solution for each job.
On the other hand, I had bosses. Because these bosses never had to actually look these printers in the eye, the discounts and favors they deigned to demand were insane. Apparently, there’s a sense of anonymity that comes with lack of direct contact, which made these bosses feel comfortable with forcing someone who wanted their business into loss after pathetic loss on a job.
I hated it. I couldn’t understand how my bosses could be so frustrated when our clients haggled with them and expected something for nothing—but couldn’t see the parallel in what they were doing. I would often leave work feeling very dirty for forcing some earnest printer to offer a crazy discount, compensation for our mistakes—or worst of all, a printed piece for a charity event “generously donated” by our agency. Yes, seriously. With no mention of said printer.
Then one day, we had just completed a print job of 155,000 brochures to be very publicly distributed at a popular home improvement store. These babies would be everywhere. My phone rang, and my printer informed me that his wife noticed a typo on the cover of the piece. Apparently, someone thought “countertops” should’ve been spelled “cootertops.” Wow. Yep. Somebody’s gettin’ fired.
Worse yet, it was one of those unforgiveable typos. The kind that spell-check would’ve caught.
Mind you, these pieces had already been delivered to the distribution facility. My good friend and printer Jeff from Classic Color, hearing the panic in my voice, laughed good-heartedly and ensured me this would be a good story someday. I couldn’t see how that could be possible. No, there was a storm coming, friend.
Jeff said, “I’ll take care of it. Don’t worry.” That’s it. Just that he’d take care of it.
I hung up the phone and sat at my desk with my heart pounding in my ears for 45 minutes until the phone rang. It was Jeff. He asked me to let the client know that the pieces had been picked back up from the facility because we weren’t happy with the quality, and they’d be replaced by end of business the next day.
He reprinted the pieces on heavier stock for a higher quality feel, and charged us nothing. NOTHING. The client was so impressed that we went out of our way to ensure the “highest quality” that my boss didn’t fire anyone, and I resumed normal breathing.
Jeff taught me a lot that day. First off, DON’T PANIC. In the face of one of the worst typos of all time, there was a solution. Second, he taught me about being there for your peers in business. Typos happen. Even to the best of us. People shouldn’t lose their jobs for them (and trust me, they have). Finally, being there for someone and treating them how you’d like to be treated pays off forever.
Jeff is still one of my best, favorite vendors—and a great friendship developed out of our adventures together at that first agency.
I always treated Jeff with respect, and that’s why he helped me out that day. But from that moment on, I refused to abuse the relationship—no matter how hard my bosses pushed. Sure, I will ask Jeff, “How can we save money on this project—still get a good quality piece, but save my clients some cash?” because that’s not something I would mind being asked. But I’ll never treat him like anything less than an equal.
Call me naive—and they often do—but I truly believe most people are good-natured. I believe most businesses want a win-win for all parties involved. BatesMeron believes you get back what you put out there. We’re not soft. We don’t accept anything but excellence in service and quality. But we don’t leave the starting gate trying to figure out how to beat our vendors into submission.
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