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Home » Ideas to chew on » Bigmouth works with values-aligned clients. What does that mean?

Bigmouth works with values-aligned clients. What does that mean?

The Bigmouth team kicked off 2024 with a conversation about the state of our agency: Where are we at, what are our goals for the year and what kind of clients do we want to work with?

Our high-level goals are pretty typical of any small business. We want to hit a specific billing number, prove 2023 wasn’t a fluke and do great work without running ourselves ragged.

We batted around a few industries when the topic turned to our ideal clients: healthcare, higher education, hospitals and, as always, organizations that work with animals. (Zoos and animal shelters, we’re ready to chat!)

But here’s the thing about Bigmouth: Our desire to work with any client goes beyond whether they produce a cool product or are on the cutting edge of a trend.

Conversations about ideal clients inevitably circle back to the big question: Are our values aligned?

Bigmouth wasn’t started to make a ton of money and win a ton of awards. It’s a safe place for people from past agencies to feel comfortable working on things that impact others.

What we stand for — as individuals and a company

Part of Bigmouth’s original brand-building process included identifying and defining our core values. We recommend that our clients narrow those values down to five; we landed on seven because, well, sometimes you ignore your own advice. After hours of self-reflection and tough conversations, here’s where we landed:

1. Communication.
Serve as an example of thoughtful communication by listening first, talking second, and then listening again. Be proactively transparent and honest.

2. Respect.
Prioritize marginalized voices. Listen hardest when people tell you what they need. Show people their worth by giving them more than their value.

3. Balance.
Productivity isn’t a homogenous concept of time spent working; give people the space to be adventurous and happy in their lives. Question the “way we do things” and find a more efficient way.

4. Authorship.
Giving credit when and where it’s due builds trusting teams. Encourage others to create—ideas can come from the unlikeliest of places. And never steal.

5. Collaboration.
Only work with clients who are willing to participate in shared successes. Build teams based on diversity of thought and a desire to support each other.

6. Effort.
If you don’t believe in the idea strongly enough to create your best work, find another idea. Strive for creative excellence. Take pride. Recharge. Rinse and repeat.

We defined these values in 2020, long before many of our team members arrived on the scene. So we were curious whether they still aligned with each person’s personal and professional values. Time for a group survey!

What do you personally value?

“Helping others, inspiring kindness”
“Quality time and respect”
“Family, teamwork, advocacy and respect”
“Thoughtfulness, perceptiveness and inclusivity”
“Optimism, communication and kindness”
“Empathy, vulnerability and building connections”

We weren’t exactly shocked that phrases like “drive,” “wealth” and “accolades” didn’t appear on this list. Many organizations attract like-minded people, and Bigmouth is no different. We share similar heartfelt values with small twists that reflect our lived experiences. If pressed to define them in a single sentence, we’d say:
“Bigmouth prioritizes people and a positive impact on our communities.”
How to find your organization’s values
Bigmouth’s values guide us in everything we do as an agency—for ourselves; with our clients and collaborators; and for our communities. Now, we’re giving you the tools to do the same. Download our free guide to organizational values, full of questions and activities for exploring and defining what matters to your team.
How we decide if a client is values-aligned

Historically, Bigmouth clients aren’t shy about what they stand for; it’s easy to find their mission and impact statements, and their values are splashed all over their websites and social media. But talking the talk and walking the walk are two entirely different realities.

Dating apps and TikTok taught us about relationship green flags, those crucial indicators of healthy emotional habits and genuine compatibility. Here are a few green flags we look for when deciding whether a client is on the same values page:

Having a plan. Detailed statements that include how the organization lives its mission, vision and values.

Accountability. Sharing how money is spent and tangible results of their work; owning up to mistakes and doing better.

A supportive workplace. How they talk about mental health and personal balance; what employees say about their culture.

Looking outward. Working to improve their world as a B Corp or through actions like donations and community involvement. 

DEI visibility. Showcasing DEI through their work; talking about and activating DEI in company culture.

Identifying green (and red) flags and setting boundaries doesn’t stop after the contracts are signed. Working with a creative agency is a collaborative process, and each person involved needs to bring commitment and an open mind to the relationship. We spelled out a few expectations on our website to ensure everyone feels heard and respected.

What our collaborators can expect from Bigmouth

Proactive, detailed communication. We’ll update you the moment we have news or need feedback. Our team is small and nimble—you’ll always speak directly with the person you need.

A collaborative mindset. Bigmouth isn’t precious about our creative ideas. We’ll go back and forth together until we find an idea that works for everyone.

Creativity that solves real problems. Bigmouth isn’t about flashy for the sake of flashy. We’re humans coming together to build awareness and support others.

What Bigmouth expects from our collaborators

Clear direction and feedback. We’re always interested in the “why”: the reasons you don’t like something are often more important than why you like it. Your detailed responses help us arrive at the best outcome together.

Making the time. Deadlines help keep everyone on track to meet our goals. Our success together depends on sticking to a schedule for interviews, reviewing creative and providing feedback.

A human-centered attitude. Bigmouth was founded as a safe space to create work that impacts others. We treat our clients like you’re our friends and neighbors, and we expect the same in return.

These expectations also apply to our relationships with vendors and partner agencies. In 2023, our founder, Jonathan Hart, sat down with Emerald-Jane Hunter, founder/ringleader of myWHY and a frequent Bigmouth collaborator, to talk about our work together. The topic naturally turned to values.
“Our teams gel very well together; the company cultures and values we hold close to our hearts are very aligned. I think those values only get stronger with the more people who hold them dear, especially when it comes to communities we care about.”

—Emerald-Jane Hunter, myWHY founder/ringleader

myWHY’s BRAVE values —be real, respect, ask questions, value details and empower — speak to relationships grounded in trust and integrity. And they’re not just words; we constantly see their values in action.

READ MORE: Thinking Bigger about Collaboration + Partnerships

The big question about values alignment

In an ideal world, Bigmouth would work for free for every values-aligned nonprofit. And while we do take on pro bono work, we also have specific financial needs. We compensate our team at a level that reflects our experience and hard work. We have to cover costs like health insurance, equipment and asset production. And we put 5% of our agency fees back into the community.

So, how do we balance being values-driven and human-centered with our financial needs?

The approach varies for every small business. Bigmouth is doing our best by trying to find the right mix of clients and work to satisfy both our needs and our values.

We can be good corporate citizens by enacting change through our work with every client. For some clients, that change is central to the project goals and easily identified. For others, we serve as an agent of internal change by holding up a mirror to their mission, vision and brand.

Bigmouth will keep asking ourselves the hard questions, this year and beyond. Together, we wrote this manifesto to keep us honest and plant a stake in the ground. We hope it inspires similar reflection for your human-centric team.

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