Know, Like, Respect

10/02/2011 08:09 pm ET | Updated Dec 02, 2011

Three simple words. They tell the story of how business actually happens. Your prospect has to really know you; know what you do (and don't or can't do), know what makes you unique, know how you fit into their lives. That prospect has to like you; they have to actually enjoy working with you. And lastly, they have to respect you. Respect is another word for trust.

So if it's that simple, why don't more companies get it right? The main reason, I believe, is that they spend too much time and effort looking at themselves and not nearly enough time or effort looking at their customers and prospects. They agonize over mission statements and then pay zero attention to the words. They desperately want their customers to like them but, all too often, they have no respect... and often disdain... for them. I can't count the number of times I have heard associates (and maybe even me) throughout my career complaining about those 'dumb' clients. The only dumb thing most clients ever do is pick partners/suppliers/vendors who do not have their self-interest first and foremost.

Advertising Week is a good time for a bit of reflection. Do you love this business? Are you passionate about what you do? Do you genuinely love your clients' products and services? If the answer to any of these is anything less than wildly affirmative then you really need to take the rest of the week off and give serious thought to whether this is the right business for you.

In 1998, when Yahoo! acquired the company where I worked (Yoyodyne), it was clear that they loved their users, but had only contempt for advertisers and especially advertising agencies. They called them the 'order prevention department'. When we got the true religion and genuinely embraced our clients and their agencies our business grew exponentially.

My daughter has just begun her career in advertising. Although she rarely gets close to a real client, she loves their product... a lot. She thinks about it, talks about it and uses it. So when she was given a real assignment she was able to bring enormous enthusiasm, knowledge and insight to the assignment. She truly knew, liked and respected her client.

This is my 42nd year in this wonderful business and I am more excited and enthusiastic than ever. I get to play with really great companies and the things we do with and for them have real value and impact. As you go to the seminars and the parties ask yourself, often, can you say the same.

Happy 8th Anniversary to Advertising Week!