Let’s face it, in order to succeed in this industry, confidence is a MUST. We all have egos – usually fragile egos – and those egos can turn into monsters. Which is why our number one rule is “Don’t Be an A**hole.” We demand from ourselves open-mindedness, flexibility, and adaptability. But, above all else, we strive to treat others well.
WHEN THE BEST IDEA WINS, NO MATTER WHAT BUSINESS YOU’RE IN, THE CLIENT (AND THE WORK) ALWAYS BENEFITS.
In a creative environment, it’s especially important to be three things: OPEN to criticism, HONEST with everyone, and RESPECTFUL when you don’t agree. That’s where it all starts, and that’s what it means to not be an a**hole. A project can be wrecked if anyone on the team isn’t following rule #1…and if you’re looking around at your team and thinking “man, all these people are such a**holes”…then, sorry to tell you, but there’s a good chance that you may be the guilty party. We’ve all been on both sides of that equation, but I gotta tell you, as a husband, father, business owner, and occasional grown up, I don’t have time to deal with it. You know the stereotypes – the dude in line at Starbucks who “can’t believe” no one can get his half-caf-mocha-frappa-latte JUST RIGHT and he wants EVERYONE TO KNOW ABOUT IT. There’s also the business version of the boss that WANTS YOU TO KNOW they’re the boss, or the co-worker that brings everyone down with constant complaints. IN ALL CAPS.
For anyone who’s been to art school, being open to criticism is necessary survival technique. You have to develop a thick skin quickly, learn how to critique on the strength of the project, and to not take it personally when your ass is handed to you. Above all else, the best idea must win. Is your idea effective? Is your idea original? It it designed well? These are the same questions we ask each other every day, and we work hard to maintain an atmosphere where the best idea wins. At the most basic level, I’ll sometimes ask “Is this a thing?” That may sound silly – but when you step back a little and take stock, sometimes it’s just “not a thing” and if that’s the case it’s time to move on…and that’s ok.
So, being open is one thing. Being honest is another. Sometimes it’s your turn to declare that it is, in fact, “not a thing.” Learning how to give criticism is just as important as taking it in. The faster an idea can be improved on, discarded, or put on the pedestal for the unicorn that it is, the better. We like to say that we’re always at our best when we’re breaking things (not literally, most of the time anyway). That means trying new things all the time. (For instance, posting long form content every day for 21 days.) We don’t have time to settle for “maybe” and “good enough,” so everyone is motivated to speak up.
DESIGN CAN INDEED BE A CRUEL MISTRESS.
And then…what happens when you’ve got deadlines, and phones ringing, and code not working, and printers not printing, and emails not emailing? Every creative firm, large and small, has experienced the “Everything has to be flawless but NOTHING is working” perfect storm. You can almost guarantee that when it comes time to print that final comp for the client meeting that the printer will be offline, or when it comes time to test the interactive feature that you’ve been crowing about, the Wi-Fi will cut out. This is where an military term comes in handy: “embrace the suck.” Take life as it comes and make the best of any given situation. We work to remain respectful even when it’s hard, because that’s when it really matters, and more often than not, when the best work gets done. Design can indeed be a cruel mistress.
There is nothing that makes my day better than anyone on our team taking my idea and making it better, or coming up with something better in the first place. When the best idea wins, no matter what business you’re in, the client (and the work) always benefits. And when it comes to clients – I take to heart some very simple advice – “People want to work with people they like”. As it turns out, even internationally renowned chef and world traveller Anythony Bourdain lives by the same rule when he says, “It is truly a privilege to live by what I call the ‘no asshole’ rule. I don’t do business with assholes. I don’t care how much money they are offering me, or what project. Life is too short. Quality of life is important. I’m fortunate to collaborate with a lot of people who I respect and like, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
The moral of the story: nobody wants to work with an a**hole.
Founder, Club President