Growing up, my family owned a small business in New York City. I learned from a young age the importance of establishing relationships with both clients and employees.

Drawing from these early experiences is a no-brainer for me as Vice President of Client Services at Gavin. As I settle into my role, I’ll be working across the agency to ensure that clients harness all the capabilities we have to offer, and strive to mentor and grow — and ultimately retain — our staff.

What does “client services” mean? You might be surprised to find it doesn’t affect only our client relationships. Rather, it informs our approach in everything we do.

Establishing true client partnerships takes time up front but has significant long-term benefits. For example, clients switch jobs or get promoted — and some like to take their agencies along for the ride.

Building Trust by Listening First

I’ve found that the best way to understand the needs and wants of clients is fearless listening. If we listen to what clients are saying and ask smart questions, we’re better equipped to deliver on the true need they have.

Everyone wants to be heard. Even if a client is going in a direction we will eventually counsel them against, it’s important to understand why they want to do what they are suggesting. Fearless listening comes first. By returning to the client with critical thinking to support their needs, we establish trust and become a true extension of the client team.

In addition to fearless listening, asking tough questions is critical to a successful client engagement. Understanding what keeps clients up at night drives our team to address and fix those problems. It also informs the work and ideas delivered, so the client knows we are hearing them and our focus is on helping them succeed.

Create A Team-First Environment

In an agency, both the client and employee experience are paramount. Expectations are high and deadlines can come quickly, creating a high-stress environment. On the other hand, agencies should be more creative, flexible and fun than a traditional corporate office.

As I take on my role at Gavin, talent management and growth is something I’m extremely passionate about. I have a team-first philosophy, where I strive to learn how teams work and how I can integrate myself for greater outcomes. I like to take the time to work with team members — not to change their opinions or styles, but to understand how they work best and how I might be able to add value to their experience. For me, it’s important that a firm not only provide an excellent environment for clients, but one for employees, too.

As a manager, my style is to trust first. Everyone has ability. By showing teammates that you trust their ability and work, I believe you can establish stronger working relationships more quickly.

From there, I’ve found giving people the room they need to run is essential. This goes back to trusting first and avoiding micromanagement. This includes an effort to ensure that team members are being given opportunities to work on things they are passionate about.

Ignoring employee needs in favor of a singular focus on client relationships — or vice versa — is a recipe for disaster. Instead, agencies should strive to understand the needs and wants of clients and employees. The right balance is critical to the success of any agency and service business.