For the past 6 months and some more, I was a part of a digital agency in Dubai. A proud contributing member of a team teetering on the edge of madness and reeling towards a definite status level – if they can keep it together. The sound of clanging parts is getting louder and louder still in the bullpen but the road seems clearer across the edge. We just need to open our eyes. And dream.

1. “Couple” is Two and a “Few” is Three

One of the grand rules of Client Servicing or so I’ve learnt is that its a precise juggling of active communication. You’ve got your own internal design team to get the work done from and then you’ve got the… ah… clients.

*sigh*

So if you ever, ever promise the client that you’ll have it back in a ‘couple’ of hours, they’re thinking two. So just move to something a little more sane – “end of morning”.

2. End of Morning

I think this is the most essential phrase my dad (http://twitter.com/manojkgarg) could have taught me. If you said by Noon, the client is thinking – “what does he need half a day for?” You tell him, End of Day/COB, and then you’ve honestly called on the Ides of March. We’ve fortunately not yet talked about the first thing xDay morning. Next on that. But End of Morning, is just plain too positive.

End of Morning. To be precise, would mean by 11.59am. This is the perfect comeback. For two reasons:

1. People check their emails first thing in the morning and move on with their tasks or some come in at 10am and are in a rush to complete things-to-do. So you’re essentially not hearing back from your client until 11.

2. People go to lunch. Its that plain simple. Working lunches happen when one side is buying. If you haven’t heard back from your client until 12.30pm, you can assume they’re not returning till after lunch.

3. First thing ‘Sunday’ Morning

I honestly find this to be the most ridiculous reminder. First thing Sunday morning means, I begin working on Saturday. I honestly don’t mind putting in the first minute of  day – wait, may I brush my teeth – for a client who has been great but even then its a very herculean task. But unfortunately, our discussions can no longer erase this term from client memory.

4. The Client is always Right

Let’s do an introduction first. We, are the digital agency. We , bring ideas to the table. We, want you to become the best brand – helps us grow, its common sense. We, don’t mind the competition but will help you beat them. You, keep us going by sharpening away at our ideas till they feel right to you. You, keep us in check but your focus is selling, while ours is to help you do it right. You see what I mean. We want to help YOU, do it right. So please, listen to us. Let us suggest some things that will set you apart from every other Fan Page toting brand. Your #WIN, means more work for us. I always thought that it was a mutual growth, common sense, don’t you think?

5. Image sells and Balls sell even more

You walk into any advertising agency in Dubai and you will find yourself in Lebanon. Replace Beirut with glass facades and marble floors and you find yourself amongst the lords of the land – the Lebanese Invasion (could be a cool name for a Lebanese trance band). Why do you think that such a geographical abundance occurs here? Image is everything. To the early men in Dubai, the Indians came in to trade cloth, the Iranians for spices and nuts while the Lebanese came, toting their French mouths and their Arab hearts. The Arab Chic. That image still sells for them to this day.

And onwards to the most important aspect of being in the environment is to have balls. Plain and simple. My boss once said to me – “If you don’t oppose me, then why did I hire you?” I wasn’t sure if this statement had any support at the time. Man is prideful. He doesn’t like to be told otherwise. And certainly not a guy who has over 30years in the industry to somebody who is a Sophomore. But my boss has stood up to his end and I applaud him for that. But for me that meant, manning it up and being stubborn. Taught me a lot that one.

6. Language Cartels

There are three language cartels in Dubai – French, Arabic and… Malayalam. The first one allows the pseudo-Arab French yuppies to form their own language barriers mostly between teamworkers and clients. With clients, this can leave an Indian man with nothing else to do but play caddy. The second is a given considering the country you’re in. Most if not all clients speak Arabic. And the French Yuppies here too are at hand to break into Arabic when they can. The third cartel is for Malayalam. The less I say about it would be wise. But again, they too have made it a point to mirror the local sentiment and so they too can break into Arabic. Two cartels, who found a growth opportunity through language.

Which leaves us Hindi, Urdu and English speaking people. We are the floaters. The middle class if you may. So my advice – learn Arabic. Probably, even spray on some French if you fly through Paris (or Beirut).

To be continued…