A.A.s are quick to march up with a firm handshake and a smile. If they give you 10 seconds, though, they've given you a year. They'll go on the hyper-offensive if you run into each other at an industry event, answering their own questions before fleeing with enough speed to make a cheetah on Animal Planet jealous.
Feel your ears ringing? That's because you've just been subjected to Babbling Brook. B.B. rarely takes a breath, and can mention a dozen new client wins in the blink of an eye. So no, don't expect to discuss how well business is going for you. B.B. is a fast-moving train -- get out of the way!
These folks tell it like it is, good news or bad. But they do appreciate the strength in "combining forces." It's not by accident these are also the people who build the strongest businesses. I recently met up with an old colleague whom I've always respected, especially for her rare PR art of media training. We had a client need that fit with her skills, and -- voila! -- a match made in heaven. After all, isn't it collaboration, not trying to be all things to all people, that serves the client best?
No, that's not the sound of an engine turning over. It's the person standing in front of you who hates this client, can't take the business anymore, and ... gosh it was too hot yesterday and it's just too cold today! Between allergy reports and complaints of early wake-up calls, you get the picture. This is "keeping it real" gone wrong. Being candid is fine, and no, you don't have to act all Tony-Robbins-meets-Zig-Ziglar. But a little balance is nice. As my dad says, you're on the right side of the grass, so things can't be all that bad.
Bottom line: Our industry isn't the WWF. Instead of a smackdown, open up to the people at "that other agency." Have some real conversations, ask real questions about work and life. You don't have to be insta-friends, but it's amazing how a conversation sans filter can lead to your best work -- and your best small agency.