Relationships in business matter. The relationship with your team, the relationships with your clients. And without a doubt, they will be the key to unlocking success every day, no matter what the circumstances.

I have often found “the rules” of business difficult to navigate. Being a business owner is an incredibly personal thing. In times of crisis and difficulty, it is always people and connections that get me through. The old cliché saying “it’s not personal, it’s business” has always been a contradiction to me. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I have had to make difficult decisions for the greater good of the business – but every one of those decisions I would still consider to be a personal decision. A decision that I would need to live with as a human and take responsibility to communicate.

Under the current conditions and uncertainly brought about by COVID-19, all businesses have the primary objective of survival. No matter their size, ownership status, or the country in which they are located. We are all sharing this same objective. But how we behave in order to meet this objective is what sets us apart.

Internally in my own business, I have been so warmly touched by how my team has rallied around me. The strength of the relationship between us all, that we have been so actively been building together, has set us up to be able to weather this storm as one. We are all in a state of shock that this is now our new, temporary reality, but when one of us is down, there is someone to bring us up. The strength of our team relationship means that no team member is alone or unsupported, despite our physical distance we are closer than ever.

I have always been big on loyalty. I believe that it is a key ingredient for any strong relationship and with clients, I would expect that loyalty and support should always be a two-way street. At Saltmine, I quite deliberately keep our client base small. I believe that this is the best way to successfully establish strong and connected partnerships that ultimately create success for both businesses. What I’ve clearly seen from this approach to working, is that the more loyalty is shared between agency and client, the better the relationship and the better the outcomes for both businesses. Saltmine was founded based on empathy, and we lean into this more so with our clients in times of need. In the circumstance of a client’s budget being cut, for example, the strength of our relationship means that we’ll do our best to deliver what they need, working with the budget they have. It just takes honest, transparent conversations with partners to have this happen, in a safe environment without games or threats. This is the way that we have always intentionally behaved.

It is my core belief that the best way to establish and maintain a successful working partnership in the current circumstances is no different to the way it has previously been. Let’s be honest, be transparent, be ethical. Let’s have conversations about how you are, what your current challenges are, and how we can best support you to get through this challenging time. As creatives, we are problems solvers, always looking at things through different lenses and looking to discover new and innovative solutions for your biggest challenges. Now is not the time to question the way we work. It’s not the time to present your agency partner with an unexpected pitch or to threaten to move to another, perhaps cheaper, agency. Now is the time to have an honest conversation with me – and if you have our back then I’ve certainly got yours.

Honesty and humanity are what will get us all through. I believe that businesses that hold these values will be the ones that will not only survive but thrive today and into the future.

Sara Salter, Chief Curation Officer