Are you happy in your work? It will certainly show in the work if you’re not.

It is said that a happy baker makes better bread. Because there’s less tension in the fingers, the dough is kneaded with love and this then shows in the lightness and texture of the finished product.

Rich and myself had a catch up with the head of another agency recently. Instead of the usual “How’s business?” question she asked “Are you happy?”, we pondered this for a few seconds before both answering with a resounding “Yes”.
“I can tell” she replied, “It shows in the work you’re doing.”

What a lovely thing to say. As agency principals, we spend our lives attempting to hide the trauma of the life and career we’ve chosen. Forever putting on that brave face to hide the anguish we suffer every day. Reassuring clients we are going to solve their problems and that we’re never too busy for another brief or putting an arm around our people to make them confident but rarely stopping to think about our own happiness.

But the astute can spot it. Only a happy agency can produce great work. Briefs solved under duress, scrutiny and relentless pressure rarely spawn award winners and game changers.

We used to have a client who used to yell at his junior team, “Keep the agency’s feet to the fire!”, they out of fear would then feel the pressure to constantly squeeze budgets, timelines and enjoyment as part of their job description. A combative relationship developed and nobody won. We would feel constantly exhausted and undervalued. The client received work on time and on budget but rarely that was any good.

Looking back on it, this one client (our largest at the time) set the agency back years. They demoralised the place and nearly caused us to implode. From the outside things looked okay from a business perspective, we were profitable, growing and working with an international household name. Yet if you looked closer you could see all was not well. The work was shit. And that’s because we felt the same way.

Thankfully, we’re now in a much happier place. We have working relationships that actually work – with clients that make us laugh and love the everyday. And that results in solutions that makes both awards juries, clients (and believe it or not), the accountants on both sides who count the dough very, very happy.