Recently I was lucky enough to celebrate 15 years of partnership with my first client. Being there, seeing so many familiar faces I couldn’t help but think back to my first days on the job as an account coordinator at AKHIA, fresh out of college and trying to impress my supervisors and my client.

I remembered being nervous, as I filled out the guest book, patiently waited for my visitors badge and tried to remember 1.) where the bathroom was and 2.) how to get back to the lobby. Over time that office and that lobby became a second home. I was given ‘my own’ visitor badge, I was able to walk through the halls unescorted…and made sure I was there 20 minutes earlier than my meeting started, just so I had time to stop in and say hi to everyone I wasn’t meeting with. And I was able to help myself to as much coffee as I wanted.

AKHIA has been in business for 19 years. The average length of time for our client relationships is pushing eight years – more than double the industry average of three. Ask anyone at our office and they’ll spit these numbers back at you just as quickly as I can. Ask them our mission, and they’ll tell you with as much passion as I will – “to exceed our clients’ expectations, in everything that we do”. Why? Because service, caring for the client and working at an agency relationship takes time and care—and if done right will create tremendous return.

A lot has changed over the past 15 years. And I could argue that no business or aspect of business has been changed more than marketing. Data, channels and expectations have increased while time, attention spans and patience have decreased. But one thing that hasn’t changed is how an agency partner should lead and support their clients through all the changes our industry has seen – and will continue to see. I’ve learned a lot in 15 years – but maybe the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never underestimate the impact service has in this business. The human touch – the learning, the listening, the work and ideation that can only come from people who trust each other and who are willing to lock themselves in a room until they come up with the best solution.

I’ve been married for 14 years. That’s one less year than I’ve been at AKHIA – and one less year than my first, and longest, client relationship. And I can tell you as they’ve both grown on a parallel track, they have both required the same amount of understanding and passion. And just like a marriage it takes work from both sides. That number I threw out – nearly eight years average client relationship – is as much a testament to our clients as it is to our teams. They match our energy and our desire to impact their business. Yes, you need your idea merchants – your big picture thinkers; people who challenge the status quo in hopes of avoiding becoming the status quo. But you also need your client champions – the people who believe in you and trust you, not only with their budget, but their reputation, their equity and, in a lot of cases, their careers.  Am I as passionate about my clients’ business as they are? Maybe the better question is, should I be? If you want to succeed in this business and you want to grow your clients’ business the answer is: yes. Why? Because you can be damn sure your client thinks you should be.