I’ve been in the ad business for a long time. And every once in a while I get asked questions about how I’ve handled situations over the years. Here are the most recent three and my candid answers:
How did you handle an unexpected problem that happened during your last project?
Every project has unexpected issues that come up. You have to be prepared from the start for these problems so they don’t derail you midway. Give your team extra time, extra budget, and manage your client expectations carefully each day. One project we did recently was for a special-order lunch box that was going to be used as a press kit for a private school on the West Coast. We did everything right—got the lunch boxes ordered on time; delivered to our office on time so we could pre-pack them for our clients; they were collated on time with all the internal branded elements that were going inside the lunch boxes; and then we took them to the local FedEx to ship them, actually a day earlier than expected. The person at FedEx misread the instructions for shipping and set them to arrive three days past the event where they were needed. There was no rescuing them—they were on a train, in a car with 30,000 other boxes. We had to reach back out to our vendor and special order just one lunch box and get it custom printed in less than 48 hours. We had already ordered extra internal items, which we had on hand, and were able to deliver it exactly on time for the event. This was nothing short of a miracle. We stayed on budget through all of this due to careful planning and managed the client’s expectations through all of the chaos. They were thrilled with the final product, and it was ready for the event where it was needed on time, and the remaining lunch boxes arrived three days later.
How do you plan your projects—and how do you work with your clients?
Good planning for projects comes from good experience. I have been in the business for over 20 years, so I have seen it all. I have literally had boxes of brochures fall out of a FedEx airplane and all kinds of other unbelievable obstacles to overcome. The client wants what they want when they want it, so a large part of managing projects is simply problem solving. I don’t start a project without all the information I need to be successful, and then I manage it, as the CD, very tightly from start to finish. My designers and team have the authority to handle issues that come up, and when I need to step in, I do. Using a good traffic program is a big help, and having a traffic manager working with your design team and writers is very helpful in staying organized.
What problem made you angry on your last project?
You can’t get angry when problems come up with projects—you have to just expect issues as part of the process of serving clients and delivering excellent work. You have to be a smart problem-solver and stay proactive on all the elements of the task at hand. Getting angry creates stress and frustration with the team, and they need to be able to stay focused and be creative. Being organized and paying attention to every detail will keep most issues from happening. Be committed to excellence, as greatness is in the details, and treat everyone interacting with the project and responsible for its success with kindness and respect.