During my time as Client Services Director at bbd, I have been lucky enough to lead a long standing account team collective. Many of whom I have worked alongside for over 5 years and some who have since become dear friends. Watching them progress through the agency and helping them develop has definitely been a career highlight for me – along with overcoming the challenge of learning to balance my work/friend/mentor style, which hasn’t always been easy.

Fierce but flexible

In general I believe I can be what they would sometimes call a ‘hard’ boss (whilst I try to always let my integrity hold the reins). It means that I am usually business first and chat later. I truly believe in a client-first approach to our account teams and am always looking for job well done, not just job done. I demand excellent client servicing from the team, every single time, because I have seen it yield results. Most of the bbd current and most recognisable clients are here today because of referral and recommendation born out of our client servicing; and they stay due to a consistent delivery of that service promised (and of course the award-winning results!).

In the handbook you receive when starting at bbd towers, we talk of our ethos and how we believe in achieving mastery and going beyond good – we also talk of independent thinking and being authentic, and it was this which was at the heart of my response when the team started to grow in a slightly different way.

A new way of thinking

A few months after becoming CSD, my first bbd client services baby was born and another would be before the year was out. By the end of 2019 we would have our third. The team was blessed with three beautiful bouncing girls, and fair to say three rather tired but happy account handlers.

Each took maternity/paternity leave and returned with the request of flexible working. It was uncharted territory and a few years ago was almost unheard of in the world of client servicing. The epitome of an always-on job which often included late night pitch panics, constant email monitoring, long client workshops and a knowledgeable understanding of the Southwest Trains line. But like most of the industry we knew not only was change necessary but it was our duty to the new parents who had grown so much with us already, and had shown endless passion and commitment to bbd over the years – I needed to make it work, because in my mind we needed them to work.

And whilst I would like to take a lot of the glory for now having a successfully flexible working account team; I can hand on heart say it has been because of each of them. The passion, commitment and energy they were known for coming to work with has only heightened because of their ability to balance what is important to them…

Did it work in reality?

I asked the team to share a little bit with us about how they made it work. How do they deliver job well done when there is less time to do the jobs?

“Let it go”

To start with, I was a little worried to go from 5 to 4 working days, especially as sometimes even 5 days didn’t feel like enough time to do everything that needed to be done. But over time I have worked out a routine; organising myself and the team so it was possible and not a burden for anyone. My main focus is to never let it become a ‘thing’ (don’t let it be the reason) with my colleagues, bosses or clients. When possible I never schedule new briefs, Skype calls or meetings for a Friday. If I have to handover anything urgent I always make sure the detailed notes is in place OR that more than x1 team member are looped in the conversations so there’s always someone there who can jump in and cover. The real key trick I’ve learnt, however, is to let it go on Fridays! Stop interfering and let other people to respond and pick up requests. Ad hoc jumping in on emails can do more bad than good. But i do let the team know that I’m on my WhatsApp to jump on call to answer any urgent questions.

Magda – Account Director

“More flexible together”

Flexibility in working patterns is the only way I can make the meeting of my two worlds work. Being able to leave just an hour earlier a couple of times a week, as well as having Wednesdays off, makes a huge difference to mine and India’s life. Aside from the absolute must of picking up from nursery on time, it makes the evening dinner / bath/ book/ bedtime routine way less stressful. But I have to be super organised in structuring my work load to make it work. I have learnt that includes leaving time to brief the team on what needs to be picked up, briefing the studio in advance and letting clients know I’m out (but that the standard of service will absolutely not slip). Luckily for me I have a great and supportive team, and they’re good at looping me back in on my return. Support from your crew really is the bedrock of flexible working.

Louise – Senior Account Manager

“Plan the work, work the plan”

As the newest member of the team to switch to a part time work schedule I can’t claim to have mastered the balance of my new working schedule. But both my clients and colleagues have been incredibly supportive of my new working schedule, and I can’t help thinking this is due to the hard work of those who have worn this path before me to whom I am extremely thankful. 

I have also found that a 4 day working week gives my brain breathing space and I find the solutions to work problems popping into my head when completely distracted on a Monday. Practicalities wise it means planning my time more to mitigate for my Monday absence. I am having to be harsher on myself with deadlines, otherwise I would be leaving unfinished business for others on a Monday, which would be unfair on them and affect client satisfaction. I have by no means got home or work anywhere 100% right in this new working pattern but it has started well.

Anthony – Account Director

We are still finding solutions as a team and overcoming some of the challenges that client management can throw at us but it is working. And in my experience the crucial role of bbd has been a relatively simple one…. to support.

What flexible support looks like for us

The teams work hard together to make it work, and those taking up flexible working have worked even harder to make process and clients adapt with them without affecting the quality of delivery. They have never made it an excuse and when required they flex with us as much as we do with them – changing days or adapting time when possible.

Supporting them has been a focus for me – concentrating on:

  • taking the time to understand the motivation behind the decision
  • demonstrating support from the front to encourage wider understanding and acceptance
  • sharing plans and approaches to flexible working openly with teams
  • allowing for realistic problem spotting but not making it someone’s problem
  • encouraging transparent conversations about varying successes
  • acknowledging that the same approach might not work for all

We have now been ‘flexing our client servicing’ for over 2 years now, and it’s not only working, it’s changing how we work.

It makes me happy

Flexible working has definitely changed my life for better – it made me happier and less stressed. It made me focus on the bigger picture rather than wasting time on small matters fuelling my anxiety.  I’ve learnt how to work smart and not just do, do, do, until I can’t do anymore. I value my time at work so much more and try not to waste any minute or delay any tasks. I’m ever grateful for bbd to allow me make this desirable lifestyle choice. And prove that it can be done. It works.

Magda – Account Director

So for me the daunting task of enabling client services to work 4 day weeks has been pleasantly easy, and I truly believe that is all because of the mindset of those making it work. As a team we have grown together and are all entirely committed to our bbd ethos and client servicing principles, but are learning to be flexible in how we achieve success.

And as we expand flexible thinking not just for working mums and dads but for those looking to get more peace of mind or work on their own passions and interests, we continue to work together to make it work.

Focus on offering support as much as you offer solutions.

Jessica Williams – Company Director