I used to work at an agency where the print production manager thought she was Cleopatra. Her job was to take the files that the creative department had provided and then seek out and award the printing to the various printers in the area. She loved her job. She would summon them to her office/throne with a promise of maybe getting the work–maybe. She did everything to these poor vendors but make them kneel before her.

The printers hated her. And it didn’t reflect well on the otherwise very good agency we worked for. The problem was that for all the time printers were in our offices, we didn’t have any real relationships with them. They were all afraid of the production manager. She always planted herself between the agency and the vendor–and was loath to being just a conduit. Good printers don’t just deliver printing—they deliver ideas and solve problems. The last thing an agency needs is a print production manager that diminishes a vendors’ partnership role. I appreciate that people, and particularly support staff, want to protect their turf. Ownership of a function is key to accountability. But everybody’s agendas have to line up with one another.

That’s when I first learned the value of having strong working relationships with the vendors that worked on my accounts. The best source for what new technology can make me look good in front of my clients was often the printers, the media reps, and the broadcast production houses. I still relied on the in-house agency production and media managers, but to really service a client, I wanted to get closer to the solutions myself. If in-house production managers felt a bit crowded, too bad—I’m the account manager.