In advertising we see risk everywhere.  Everyone in the industry always seems to be paranoid about losing their accounts.  That paranoia has brought us a lot of learning about where and when the business relationship risks occur.

Agencies are at risk when there is a change of personnel at client organizations.  The chemistry between agency and client and the relationships are the glue that hold the business together.

We have lost large accounts, more than a few times, when there was a change in senior management.  In more than one case, we had been given an outstanding review of services shortly before the senior client personnel change.  No matter.

There is also risk when there are mergers or corporate structural changes.  Or when there were sea changes in the business environment.

Those disruptions create an environment of change and unintended consequences occur in service relationships.

The relevance of these becomes crystal clear in the disruptive era of COVID19.

Patterns are broken.  Change is in the air.  This may have also contributed to the riots going on.

Any business that relies on smooth efficiency due to trusting relationships must take action to maintain those relationships during the period of disruption.  Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, it opens the relationship to questions, new partners and new structures.

Businesses need to be proactive regarding their clients.  Reach out and discuss improvements that might have come to light in the hiatus.  It is only by actively taking initiative that businesses can survive.

Over time we generate patterns and habits.  If those patterns are broken, we become open to new options and new ways of doing things.

After the COVID19 lockdown, quarantine, whatever you want to call it, people will be rethinking their old patterns.  The interruption is permission to do so.  That puts business relationships at risk from all sides.

Businesses cannot be complacent and expect the new normal will be the same as it used to be.  We have been experiencing a long-term trend of reduced personal meetings, reduced travel and reduced entertaining as part of business.

After COVID19, we expect a sharp continuation of these trends.  Business relationships often depend on having some face-to-face involvement.  Once it is appropriate, we would recommend bucking that trend with as much face-to-face meeting as is practical and more social interaction, despite the pressure to get backed up projects done.

Social trust is the glue that keeps businesses working together.  If you do not rebuild that trust, as a first priority, things will unravel later.  Start building it even before all the doors reopen.

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