There is No “B” Team

During a couple of our recent new business pursuits, we were asked, “Will you have interns or entry-level people working on our account?”

The first time I just answered the question, “Well, no.”

The second time, I answered with a question of my own, “Why do you ask?”.

The answer I was given made sense. The potential future client had hired another agency, and upon closing the deal, the leaders threw the account to interns and new hires. The account became a nightmare and an expensive lesson for the client and they wanted to ensure that it didn’t happen again.

I understood the question far better and was not surprised once I understood the context. They felt slighted, tricked.

I’m pretty confident the experience wasn’t a great one for the interns and new hires who had worked on their account either.

So here our future clients were, meeting with another design agency attempting to fix their previous disaster.

They’d forked over a lot of money the first time and it had been a failure. That didn’t want to repeat the failure again.

They rightfully blamed leadership in the previous agency, not the interns and newbies. But they didn’t want a repeat of the previous initiative’s mistakes.

I could write a book on my perception of what went wrong on all levels of the previous agency relationship for our client, if all were true. I could also sum it up in one word: greed.

Back to the presentation and Q&A with the potential new client.

They didn’t want to delve deeper into their previous failure and instead returned to their question of us.

Who would be working on the account at FUEL? I didn’t have to think about the answer.

Our clients only get the A team.

Our founders have decades in the business. As do our key strategic partners.

Typically, when a new designer comes on board, they might work behind the scenes, in somewhat of an apprentice capacity for months or longer if needed.

Why is that?

Because we want them to focus on learning our systems and processes and learning about our clients, not working on the front lines. They don’t get to join the A team until they have learned and experienced — and more importantly demonstrated — they are ready.

It is an expensive and time consuming on-boarding process, but it makes all the difference for everyone involved.

So how does that jibe with FUEL’s mission to encourage, support, and promote designers and design thinking in the Midwest?

We focus our efforts in two areas. First, we do a lot of job shadows and tours of FUEL for individual students and entire classes. We also co-founded and co-lead an annual event with the University of Iowa called “On Your Mark”.

It is our belief that these are areas that need our support, and hopefully fill a gap between the designer’s post-secondary education, internships and first job. It also takes clients out of the equation, which makes our clients happy.

I received another RFP while wrapping up writing this blog post.

Guess what one of the key questions was?

– John M.