“Let me do my job!”: When collaboration becomes control, it’s time to step back.

“Let me do my job!”: When collaboration becomes control, it’s time to step back.

I’ve been a web designer and all that stuff for near on 2 decades. I am pretty decent at it. Been doing it a while. Been doing it quite well for others for some years. Because of that you might assume that we have no issue with our own branding, or content, or design.

You’d be wrong.

I like the logo, the colours are good. The palette is accessible. The website is okay, the UX is very meh. The copy is alright in some places and I hate it in others. I don’t like the blog design. I like our business cards. I am not sure of the tagline.

But here it is. I have had to move on because it works.

We design websites. What?

It is a whole different ball-game trying to implement your own branding and website.

Recently, I spent some time on our own branding. It’s changed a few times. But, I reached a point where I had to just get it done and let it go or it was never going to be done.

So, I speak with personal experience when I say this.

No matter how much you might know about marketing, or branding, or web or whatever, your own emotional investment, as a founder, MD or anyone else with an emotional stake in the business, is a potential problem.

And, you might be unwittingly undermining your own efforts because you aren’t letting people do what you hired them to do. Trust me, I have had to part ways with a few clients over this, so I understand things from both sides.

Success or failure has many moving parts, but clients usually don’t ask this one question:

“Am I really the best person to lead this?”.

A large percentage of projects fail because of the emotional state of the people involved. Even when it is wrapped up in logic and requirements and contracts and checklists… it is never about that. From a Small Business owner who micromanages everything and insists on DIY and editing everything into their own words rather than their customers’, to the owner who puts the IT Guy in charge(that is its own post… oh Lord), to having a project manager or product manager who doesn’t have the authority, skillset, experience or confidence to run the project properly…. projects succeed and fail on anything but logical stuff.

Do you really have your emotions in check?

It is imperative that you are aware of your own bias, and especially be aware of your own role when things aren’t going well. Because, like that guy who has a lot of “crazy” exes, a client who has been “burned” by all their agencies is a red flag for me. Yes, there are some bad agencies, mostly mediocre ones, but if they’re all bad, sorry, but the problem is probably closer to home.

As a business owner, you have to admit that you are never going to be objective about your own brand or your strategy — no matter how knowledgeable you are. That is okay. Nobody makes decisions based on logic anyway, but if you are engaging consultants to advise you, you should be aware that this might cause problems for you. That’s why you should always hire someone else. I am hiring someone else I trust to build on our brand because I have realised I am the wrong person to do it.

As a business owner I know that I have three big trigger points: my reputation, client perception and money. I absolutely make more emotional, less rational decisions when any of those are at risk. I will openly admit that I have frequently stood in the way of the “bigger picture” because I was too scared to risk my reputation (by sacking a bad client), a client’s perception (giving away far too much and not setting boundaries), and about paying my bills (discounting too heavily to get the sale) — frequently to my long term detriment.

This won’t change, because caring about these things is what makes us good. But, it doesn’t mean I don’t have blind spots. We have to be aware of it and factor it in.

Maybe put someone else in charge.

I see a lot of businesses making terrible decisions (and ruining projects) simply because the wrong person is running it, or they’re too emotionally invested in it.

They don’t like the copy because it is written for their audience. They prefer hot pink. Their cousin doesn’t like it. They are self conscious, or afraid of alienating anyone (remember: by pleasing everyone, you please no one). They want to vomit industry jargon all over the place. They want SEO but don’t want to do the necessary changes that help SEO, because they’re married to their buzzword headline. The list goes on.

I struggled with this too. I am still not happy with anything on here. Thankfully, Paul and Yas kick my arse, so we have something up that I can live with, but we all know that it’ll never be right in my eyes. And I am not making an agency’s life hell because of my emotional bullshit.

If you are with a good agency, that does good work for other people, but you feel like they aren’t giving you what you want, are you the problem?

Is your agency trying to give you what you need, but you are too close to be objective?

I have tinkered with my (now our) brand for years and years. I get it. I overcomplicate everything, not just because I have been born with a lawyer-overthinky-brain and have 25 years of Internetting that I want to share, but because I am in MY head. Not the head of those who have no idea who I am. I overcomplicate my own copy, because like every other business owner, I am emotionally attached to it all and want to show everything upfront.

Have you ever gone on a date with someone who vomits their entire childhood and emotional baggage all over you?

Boner-killer, ain’t it.

I have learned that I don’t need to unload everything. With some reflection about how I tend to overcomplicate things, I managed to get over myself, and ended up with the simplest, and yet effective opener imaginable. And to be okay with “done” rather than “perfect” so that over time we can do “better”.

If you’re a client, wherever possible, you need to back off and let the pros handle it. If you DIY it will NEVER be as good as someone objective. If you find yourself micromanaging your agency, step back and ask yourself why. It just so happens that I can help you with this stuff, even if you have an agency. I can go through your current setup or project and tell you if it’s you, them or somewhere in-between. I can help find a way forward in a way that has everyone happy.

But, the first step is admitting that you might not actually know best, that the experts do, and you need to step back.

Originally published at kintsugi.com.au on November 27, 2018.

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