Honesty has always been a core value at Primate right from the very first day we started. We have it plastered on our office wall, emblazoned on our website, and we hammer it into newbies when they start. It’s even one of the reasons we founded the agency, after being surrounded by attempts to exaggerate capabilities, cover up mistakes, white label other’s services, or otherwise “smooth over” the truth at previous employers. Being honest, though, very honest, it not always easy.
To us, honesty isn’t just about telling the truth when asked, it’s about being transparent with all aspects of our work and business. Every time we’ve ever failed to be up front and direct, immediately notifying clients of screw ups or problems, it’s never worked out well. I’m a great believer in picking up the phone as soon as something isn’t going to plan, owning up to it, and dealing with it.
We’ve also lost opportunities because of our honesty. We’ve told potential clients that projects can’t be delivered in the timescales they want, or in the fashion they want, and that’s cost us the job. We keep an eye on these projects and, 99% of the time, the agency that won the job couldn’t deliver on those premises either. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as losing purely based on timescales then checking back in a month after the “immovable” launch date and discovering that it’s still not been finished. But that’s honesty for you.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to our honesty that we faced recently was when Rebecca’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and we received advice to not tell our clients. I’m glad we didn’t listen. Instead, as soon as we thought it would have any impact on a client relationship or project, we told them straight up. In fact, I’m getting pretty blasé at breaking the news of someone’s possible death.
The fear was that our clients would be unnerved, lose confidence in our ability to deliver, or worry that their level of service would change. Instead, their reactions were incredible. Not only did they completely understand our situation, they were abundant with their best wishes and support. Rebecca has been inundated with stories of our client’s own personal experiences, offers of support, links to recipes and wellbeing guides, and cards and gifts.
It was in this experience that I realised we often forget that business is just another aspect of everyday life. We’re often so bombarded by messages of “professionalism”, sales, and humblebrags, that we forget that we’re all just people trying to work and live together. I believe the most important aspect of any business is relationships and honesty is a key foundation of that.
So to be or not to be honest, is that the question? No, it’s never a question. Just do it.