Contributor: Kylie Green

What I have learnt about collaboration

Having spent much of my career in advertising and marketing, I’ve experienced collaboration at both its best and worst as well as everything in between.

Early in my career, I worked with several agencies, more often than not under ‘us and them’ style of directors who’d endlessly drive their teams to the brink, pitch after pitch, only to take all the kudos. Then there were the creatives with single-vision ideas for a brand’s requirements without ever considering the talent that supported them.

I ultimately launched my first agency at age 29, and while I didn’t necessarily have the requisite agency acumen what I did have were my own fundamental ideals on what true collaboration could be. And so, I surrounded myself with people whose creativity and intellect I passionately believed would support my agency’s success. More often than not I was right to select some insanely smart, creative people to collaborate with. And because I treated them with respect, care and integrity, they stuck around to prove I was right to collaborate with them – a win-win for all.

Ultimately, I led an agency with collaborators instead of staff – a team of freelance creatives, designers, photographers, wordsmiths, lawyers, printers, producers and so on. With mutual respect; the foundation amongst all of us, our campaigns were highly successful (many recognised with industry awards too). Ideas were openly considered, challenged, critiqued and changed – all with the focus of producing meaningful campaigns that delivered on client objectives.

Within two years it came time to build an internal team. Finding full-time collaborators within a boutique agency setting is more difficult than you could imagine. It brought with it a whole new set of rules, and sometimes I had to learn the hard way how to employ great collaborators.

Seven-year itch, exit strategy and ASX-listed aquisition

Call it the seven-year itch, but I ultimately decided to sell to a multi-national ASX-listed company but stayed on to help build the business to some 30+ staff operating across three locations in Australia. During that time, I had what I considered to be the dream team of collaborators. That was until it all suddenly changed. Looking back, I’d possibly allowed myself to believe my time was up; it was time to hand over the reins to the leaders I’d mentored and collaborated with over the previous five or so years. But not even a year had passed when I discovered the new leadership team packed it in, taking with them clients and staff and launching their own agency.

It’s hard not to take such things personally when you’ve invested so much of your life into both a business and its people only to see it all fall apart within a matter of months of handing it over. However, I learned a valuable lesson from it: Trust lies at the heart of collaboration. Absolute trust from both sides.

The value of collaboration

All that feels like a lifetime ago now as I reflect on the value of collaboration and what it means for me today. One thing that definitely remains true – my most successful collaborations that continue to thrive are those built on explicit trust and supporting one another in more ways than one. Leaders of today need to loosen the noose around their own ideals and develop a deeper, more meaningful trust in the people they surround themselves with. Ultimately, they’re still the ones who’ll make the necessary business decisions but with a more collaborative culture, the decisions made will be far more successful having come from a more collaborative approach. 

It’s one of the best gifts I’ve learned throughout my career as well as continue to learn today from my eight-year-old daughter Addison.

Kylie Green

The Lime Agency Founder and Director.