It seems that over the course of the last 10-20 years or so, the word “client” has evolved from having a positive connotation to drawing a line in the sand between companies and the “clients” they are helping. Many of my current “client” relationships are GREAT, and with those individuals we have built a successful creative/innovative partnership that stands the test of time. However, in the mind of some clients, there seems to be an idea of “us” (the paid pros) and “them” (the client). It permeates and discourages the honesty and trust needed to build an AMAZING relationship; it’s almost as if the word “client” keeps us separated and holds them (and us) back from creating a more solid, no-BS connection.

We’ve seen it often in our experience working with franchise and multi-location brands; they’re ready to grow and expand, but they don’t know what is inhibiting them from success! Some clients feel wary to tell us the whole truth. They don’t want us to meet with the whole team. They don’t want us to take a “big picture look” into their organization – they would rather us “just take their word for it.” In some cases, the client is holding their cards too close to the chest because they are scared to let their guard down and be vulnerable. However, we must have an objective view of the WHOLE organization, ESPECIALLY the flaws, in order for us to create true growth and change in the areas that our client needs it the most.

I want something BETTER for my “clients” and I, something that fosters the truth that we are in this together, always honest (even if the truth is ugly), supporting, championing, and working together to create a final product that is better than either of us could have imagined (and I have a fantastic imagination!). In short, celebrating the wins and overcoming the challenges TOGETHER so everyone is more profitable with less hassle – these are the type of business relationships I seek, and I won’t settle for less!

As we are in the midst of the holiday season, I’m going shopping for a better word than “client.” Maybe not shopping – more like crafting. I think there is something more fitting out there for every company, a branded term that will allow you to highlight your particular company culture and values and describe the unique type of business partnership you seek to cultivate.

In our case, we base our business model on the idea that each brand we work with is their own unique planet with individual wants and needs. Our job is to use our abilities and experience to help shape that planet into something better and allow it to grow, thrive and prosper. So, for us, a great term to replace the word “client” would be “Core Partner”. It implies that our business relationship is a two-way street that involves mutual responsibility and trust – at the core – and it ties directly into our brand.

If you took the time to think about your “clients” and the way they fit into your company culture, I bet you could come up with an exciting new term that more aptly describes the relationship you’re after and better showcases your brand experience, as well.

I hope you’re with me in saying “So long” to your “clients” this year– together, we can create something better for everyone, and unite “us” and “them” for good!