This small agency lost a big client and came out strong: Living on the Edge
Living on the Edge is a weekly series exploring how small agencies have overcome adversity and applied creativity, ingenuity and hard work to solve a business problem. This installment is about how one small agency lost a client and came back even stronger.
In early 2019 I experienced one of my biggest professional highs when my creative agency, YARD NYC, was selected by Walmart in a pitch that involved some rather intimidating competitors.
It was Walmart’s first real push into fashion and beauty, and our assignment was to establish credentials and support an enhanced shopping experience in these aspirational categories. We developed the platforms “We Dress America” and “Here for Every Beauty,” and built radically inclusive campaigns that helped change perception of Walmart’s fashion and beauty offerings.
We loved working with our clients and their in-house agency, and we had hoped to continue making transformative work together. Then one day I received the call: they were bringing all of the work in-house. Walmart’s new brand point of view enabled them to continue telling the story without us. We consoled ourselves with the knowledge that we’d done our job well, and that the in-house team would build on the great work we created together.
The unexpected loss meant we had some difficult choices to make. We’ve never hired and fired based on accounts coming or going; instead, we are a home for best-in-class talent, and we hire hoping that a person will remain part of our team for a long time.
But the loss of Walmart forced us to make our first ever layoffs. I wasn’t sure how it would impact the team we had carefully curated, who worked so hard to help us build what we are today.
We did what we had to do. With my hands shaking and voice breaking, I delivered the news. But strangely, it was during this time—one of our saddest moments—that I saw a spirit of unity and support emerge. My team rallied in a way that I had never seen before. Our resilience and ability to come together was somehow stronger than ever.
It wasn’t long before we’d need to summon that strength again: Shortly after Walmart left, COVID-19 hit. We were now forced from our office and onto computer screens. We quickly found our rhythm at home and built real human connections remotely within our team and with new partners.
We won new business in pitches that were entirely virtual including four Clorox brands, Faherty Brand and UBS. I wonder if we would have been capable of such a string of wins if we hadn’t gone through the recent loss together.
2020 continues to reveal what my team is made of. We’ve been inspired by the protests to consider how to best serve as allies in the fight for a racially just world. It’s forced me to ask myself tough questions about who I am as a leader and how I support my team. Ultimately, it’s proven to me that being a small agency means your team is everything, and it’s the setbacks that demonstrate how strong your culture really is.
Do you have a story to tell about how your small shop overcame adversity and came out stronger? Click here to learn more about out new series and learn more about our Small Agency Conference & Awards coming in August.