In the last month I’ve received two bits of news that have slightly knocked me off balance. One involved the oh so marvellous blind dog Ellie and the other, a fantastic client. Ellie, having visited the vet with a lump on her leg, was diagnosed with life-limiting arthritis; at the age of just 4. It was a huge blow; her joints were that of an 11 year old dog. How could an animal who has challenges thrown at her from birth, then be hit with more bad news? It seemed so unfair.
Regarding Kinnear Creative, we know that having multiple clients makes having your own business an exciting yet topsy-turvy affair; bounding around on peaks and in troughs. Sometimes you hit the jackpot with a fantastic project and an appreciative and understanding client, and at others times, the project is good yet the client is a challenge; they maybe don’t truly understand the work involved or how the process works. Well, I am very happy to write that every project Kinnear Creative has had, has ended with smiles and a satisfied client. Perfect you may think? Well no. This week the fabulous peak client has become a challenge. Why? Because the project has run to its natural conclusion and the work will now go in-house. So how does one handle this, emotionally?
I mention emotionally, because the other aspects; the financial, are inevitable, and any good business owner should always have this end in their mind; I’m known for making hay when the sun shines; and another metaphor; I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. You literally can’t afford to become complacent with projects; as a consultant or agent you’re often one of the first things to be cut for example when you’re a victim of your own success; the project grows arms and legs and so the client requires a permanent in-house employee or when a company department hits financial pressure. That’s fine, and that’s right. But how do you cope emotionally?
Often over the years you have created a bond with the client; you start saying “we’ instead of “you’ in meetings; your friends and family know that you’re not free on certain days. This week, I had to take a deep breath when I read the Dear John letter. Yes, it was a Dear John letter; I couldn’t help seeing it like this; I hold the client and their business in very high esteem and I’ll admit my lip quivered for a mere moment. But then, remembering all the ‘turn that frown upside down’ teachings, I had to turn this situation into an opportunity. Just as I have done with the Ellie-meister.
If I hadn’t investigated what was a small lump on Ellie, she wouldn’t have been sedated for the x-ray. It was when she was sedated that the vet started doing an overall check; and he discovered that further up the leg, unrelated to the lump, her elbows hardly moved. Curious, he x-rayed these parts too. And the rest is history; she’s riddled, the poor thing, but due to her blindness her strange running style was put down to her feeling the terrain with her paws.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the arthritis had been there all along, just like the inevitable end to my fantastic project with the fantastic client. The test was in how I handled the news. With Ellie, I drew up a plan; my husband and I researched what we could do to make her life more comfortable and not debilitated. I rather got into it and I found a new sense of purpose; I was going to make this dog even happier. I had been given an opportunity to understand her further and build an even better future. And this is what I have done with my client.
I replied to the Dear John letter with the opening line:
“As the expression goes: All good things must come to an end; and in this case, it was a great thing … Whatever success comes your way, you truly deserve it with knobs on!”
The client responded with a LOL, the acceptance of my request for conciliatory drinks and a promise of supporting my search for the next big client. And I know they will, and the chances are I’ll work with them again. I passed the test and feel great about it. Business is Business; you work as you live: “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!” Vivian Green.
I am of course chuffed to write that this is by no means an end of the marvellous Ellie. Oh no; this is the start of a new chapter; a chapter that sees Ellie losing 3 kg (not one gramme has come off yet in three weeks, but that’s a whole new story), and taking tablets everyday, which she swallows with gusto, as if they were penny chews.
There’s nothing wrong with allowing emotions into business; how can you be passionate about something without emotion? The test is how you handle these emotions in the peaks and the troughs. I’m not perfect at it yet, and probably never will be, but I certainly feel that this month I deserve at least a B+.
A few weeks ago I decided to try out a new eating plan; no not diet, eating plan. The basis of which is eating according to your blood type. So I’m as common as you get, O positive, which means wheat and dairy aren’t my tummy’s friends whereas meat is a true buddy. This is hard for me; I’m a vegetarian.
Determined not to be put off by some of the plan’s not so Alex friendly options, I delved deep to find some positives within this ancient diet. ‘Ancient’ as supposedly your blood type’s preferred food is based on how your ancestors lived.
Upon delving deep I found some true favourites; oh yes baby! Spinach, broccoli, spelt, rye, tomatoes, soya milk, rice, rice and more rice.
Now why on earth am I wittering on about food? Well if any of you know me, you will be aware that food is one of my favourite subjects, however this isn’t the reason. It’s all to do with a design project I’ve been working on.
This project has really pushed my design skills and self belief. The client wanted the extraordinary; an extremely complex vector design with a limited budget. Could I do this? Would I start to wane mid-design? Well, nearly! Like the food plan, sometimes a brief can seem to be just filled with obstacles whilst the positives, the fun, exciting, mind blowing end product can get lost amongst a sea of hurdles and “this is crazy!”s.
Now my advice and learning in such cases is simple:
* Stick to the brief
* Don’t be a child in a sweet shop, nail your design inspiration and thoughts with your client early
* Don’t let the client be a child in a sweet shop and confirm their expectations early
* Tell any silly “but you’re a vegetarian, you can’t do this” thoughts to take a short walk off a long peer
* Stick to the brief
The design I’ve created for the client is most certainly my most challenging, most complex and most rewarding. I can’t say that the 25 hours staring at a computer screen didn’t leave me slightly bozeyed but boy was I elated when the client used the word “incredible!”.
During the 25 hours I was challenged by design and technical complications but I kept searching for the positives; that spinach and broccoli: “This is so on brief”, “the client will love this”, “I couldn’t do this last week” and “this is awesome fun, who needs non-blurry eyes?!”.
And what’s next? The product will be launched internationally this year, I will be sure to send it to as many contacts and friends as possible to show off and remind them of what I do exactly and I will continue to have a happier, less rumbly tummy.
Five fabulous clients later and here I am writing my blog with a huge satisfied smile on my mug. For a moment however, it wasn’t quite as big. You see, recently I encountered powdery mildew.
This mildew I hasten to write, was not upon my person. It was in fact upon my roses. So where do I start? Ok, so 4 months ago I purchased my first ramble of roses; yes I’ve made up that collective noun, and yes I rather like it. Well, this ramble of roses equated to 10 beautiful climbing roses that were to create a blooming wall between my neighbours and me.
It all started incredibly well, I became an obsessive nurturer; training the stems in a manner taught to me by Sir Alan of the Titchmarsh. I beamed with pride every morning when someone strolled past and commented on my potential blooms. Then last week, disaster struck; the powdery substance I had discovered on my roses was, as the RHS website informed me, powdery mildew. So what does one do now? Well, firstly remove affected leaves, and if necessary, the stems.
So here I was, cutting away all the work I had lovingly toiled over for the last 4 months. It wasn’t all gone, but let’s just say that my roses’ stems looked in need of a modesty patch.
After creating an organic spray and squirting the poor things, instead of being disheartened, I started to truly feel like a ‘gardener’. I had suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous powdery infestation and having adapted to head off the attack felt at one with Sir Alan.
And here’s where we get to the point. It’s all about adapting. You can start a project, feel you’ve got this nailed; got this in the bag; easy peasy lemon squeezy … Then, what? The brief’s changed? The client having seen the first draft realises that actually this isn’t what they required.
Well, that’s the creative business for you. And it’s human nature. Sometimes we have to see what we don’t want in order to realise what we truly want.
So, this is when as a creative consultant you need to keep your skin thick, and be ready to jump into the next required mindset and action. You have to be adaptable and understanding. And most importantly, you need to enjoy doing it. This is why we do drafts; I often give clients 3 very different designs and ideas, and once or twice none of them work. Back to the drawing board you go, but you keep the positivity you had at the first briefing.
This isn’t failure, it’s gardening. Powdery mildew is merely a creative challenge that once you’ve tackled, leaves you still with a beautiful product, but most importantly, a great feeling of ownership and satisfaction as having stepped up to the plate and truly delivered.