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Is the grass greener on the other side?

Wayne McMaster

27 August 2015

I'll never forget one of the key messages that was imparted by our vicar at my wedding: "If the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence, its time to water your lawn." Succinct, I think we all know what we mean here, but I wonder whether we can apply this to other relationships we share in our lives in business in the world of high-end interiors. The client-agency relationship.

A beautiful relationship

Once upon a time, there was a design agency and a client. They decided to work together. There was optimism and excitement on both sides. The agency and client set to work managing the constraints of budget and timeframes. The project came to fruition. The client was pleased. The agency was happy with this new exciting relationship. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.

Time passes and slowly, the lights started to go down on the relationship. Little niggles began to creep in on both sides. The level of contact between the agency and the client started to tail off. The client, sensed that something was wrong and commenced looking at other agencies. And the agency, sensed too that something was wrong and responded by starting to seek out new clients. Both parties went off in search of greener grass.

Does this sound familiar, inevitable even?


Strong working relationships

Going in search of a new partner is an expensive way to work for clients and agencies. It takes up both time and money. Both new parties have to get used to each other and build a strong working relationship. And it’s a pattern that’s destined to be repeated. When the grass on the other side appears to be greener, both new partners are at risk of repeating the same behaviour over again, unless thei tend to their own garden and improve the relationship.


So why does this happen in a client-agency relationship? Perhaps the issues are not tackled in the right way when they emerge, by either partner. Neither has the appetite to do it, and because the situation is left to roll on in the hope it will fix itself, in the end both parties are left exposed.


Gardening tips


Ways to 'water your lawn', or 'what can you do to avoid this happening to your relationships?


  1. Be direct, diplomatic and swift to respond to changes in the relationship
    When change happens and unusual requests are made, be willing to tackle what lies behind the behaviour straight away. Be prepared to explain the context of the request and what you’re prepared to give in return. Do it in person, on the telephone or face to face. Not by email.
  2. Ask questions to open up thinking
    When someone asks a question it opens up thinking around a subject for both sides. Do this as part of your regular review meetings, and if you’re not having these, set them up.
  3. Listen for opportunities
    Hidden in the above conversation could be some new information, and potentially a new way of working. So if you’re the client, keep giving in terms of information, and if you’re the agency, keep asking. There is a new way of working, and a new buzz, just around the corner.
  4. Spot a pattern and discuss internally
    Put something in place to chart your relationships and identify when patterns are emerging. This could be achieved through regular internal meetings to guage the ‘temperature’ of client-agency relationships. Score the relationship based on a set of factors that you believe make a great relationship.
  5. Use your knowledge of the relationship to create a dialogue
    Invite each other to discuss the relationship, and be ready to talk. This very process of opening up a dialogue is likely to uncover something that is useful in the relationship for both of you.


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