a word about relationships

One of my favorite clients is retiring today. This person and I have worked together for more than 20 years (20 years!) and produced twice that many publications. We have invested countless hours in getting to know each other, coming to understand how the other works best. He has mad organization skills. He still pokes fun of my it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night ledes from back in the day.

Of course I’m thrilled about this for him. He has madly organized his time so that he has all kinds of it ahead for new adventures.

I’m also a little sentimental.

This was one of my first real clients when I was fresh out of art school. Whether or not he knew it, this client helped raise me as a professional. He helped me come to believe I could succeed on my own. And he taught me early on the value of strong, productive, long-term working relationships. Thankfully, I’ve been in a position to develop other good ones over the years, but it will be strange to be movin’ on down the road without this one.

What they say about opportunity is true: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I doubt that’s about just finding a job or landing a new client. I think it speaks to the fact that taking the time to understand where someone is coming from — and putting forth the energy to help them get to where they want to be — is perhaps the most important function of any business, particularly a communication design business.

Good working relationships are key to good work. I bet these ideas resonate with you, too:

• Good relationships make the work more meaningful. They also make the finished product better.
• Any healthy relationship requires value and give-and-take on both sides, and working relationships are no exception.
• It’s important to be honest and to be realistic. There is little benefit in setting expectations that can’t be met consistently.
• Listening is infinitely more important than talking.
• We all learn from each other, and this is a good thing, because we all have a lot to learn.

Will I find another client like this one? Probably not. But whatever I invested in getting to work with this individual for so many years has already paid in spades. I have learned more — and have been able to help the world learn more — about a wonderful organization. I believe I have made a life-long friend. And I know the power of working with people who are good at what they do and who are good human beings besides. Best wishes go out to Cap’n Kenny!

If you believe in the power of good people, too, I hope you’ll say hello!


Robin Ward