Mind your manners

Our passion for speed comes at a price. Faster computer chips and instant communication mean we can crank through our work much more quickly, but this zippy, unrelenting pace brings with it a brand new set of modern-day pressures.

Pushy clients have come to expect faster turnaround and impose shorter deadlines as a matter of course. Everything’s urgent. So you find you’re constantly fire-fighting, never able to see beyond the flames and the smoke of your current project. Working on pure adrenaline like this may produce moments of inspiration and serve you well for a time, but it runs decidedly thin after a while. Every second counts, so corners are cut, you don’t have the luxury to craft and develop your ideas, and you’re too busy chasing your tail to give anything the attention it properly deserves.

More than that, this insatiable lust for speed means we dispense with certain niceties that were once taken for granted. I don’t mean to come over all Jean Brodyish here, but one of the first things that goes out of the window is simple good manners. I’m not talking about using the correct cutlery or being upstanding when a lady enters the room, so much as affording people the time, consideration and courtesy that they deserve.

Work is built around an intricate web of relationships. It’s not only the people sitting beside you in the studio, but colleagues in other departments, clients, suppliers, contacts, the media – and, indirectly, friends and family – who affect the way you approach and conduct your work. If you’re too busy to say ‘thank you’, if you are brusque or fail to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, sooner or later your negligence will come back to bite you. When you really need the skills of that someone you’ve slighted, quite reasonably, they won’t be there for you.

It’s that good old ‘do unto others’ chestnut. You’d go the extra furlong for a client who gives you as much notice as possible, raises an order number the minute they commission, is appreciative of your efforts, pays you on time, gives you samples for your portfolio, is friendly, polite and shows a genuine interest. And, of course, the same applies to your suppliers. Treat them well, and you’ll soon reap the benefit. It’s not a lot to ask, but you’ll be amazed what a difference it makes to their attitude and effort.

It’s ironic that so many of us work on making brands appear more approachable and touchy-feely, and yet we somehow don’t have the time to apply the same basic principles to the way we do business ourselves. I recall phoning up the accounts department of a large multi-national client to chase up an exceedingly late payment for the CSR report I’d written for them – a brand which prides itself on being exceptionally progressive and human. In passing, I mentioned that part of the report touched on the efforts they were making to do better by their suppliers. ‘Oh, that doesn’t apply to us,’ came back the straight-faced reply.

Brand is simply another word for reputation and no one wants a reputation for being rude and arrogant. It’s a small industry and word soon spreads. As a backlash against the don’t-give-a-damn mega-corporations, and as the rise of the small, friendly and socially conscious brand has shown us in recent years, good manners not only maketh the man, but maketh good business too.

Oh, and many thanks for reading all the way through.

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