Entrepreneurs admit they are difficult clients as they expect more from agencies for less

Breaking the ceiling touch the sky event in Singapore

Break the ceiling touch the sky event in Singapore

Entrepreneurs make difficult clients for agencies as they expect perfection, panelists at the ‘Break the ceiling, touch the sky’ leadership summit for women suggested last week.

Sreyashi Sen, who founded Singapore-based United Entertainment, a movie distribution, events and entertainment company behind the Darpan film festival, told delegates: “We are very tough clients, because our expectations are high. I know that I’m a perfectionist, and that’s a flaw. You want everything on time. You expect the same perfection that you’d expect of yourself,” she said.

She was talking on a panel that included Madhulika Mathur, the co-founder of, an online bridal media company she founded in 2000 that is now the biggest in India.

Mathur told Mumbrella Asia after the session that it is important that agencies working with entrepreneurs first get clarity on the business lifestage of their venture. “If you can identify that, you will know how much help they need, and what kind of value you can add,” she said.

She admitted that as a young entrepreneur she solicited proposals from big agencies and then hired smaller, cheaper agencies to do the work.

“I’ll be very honest. When I was an early stage entrepreneur and needed marketing services, I met the best companies, got detailed proposals and then went with a small firm who was cost effective but not very experienced, and I helped them with my learnings from interacting with bigger agencies.”

After building the business and with more resources, Mathur said “price sensitivity reduced.”

On whether inhouse or agency is the best option, Mathur said she prefers to outsource for large, time-sensitive projects.

On what she looks for in an agency, she said the most important thing was a solid understanding of her business. Responsiveness, a willingness to invest time educating the client, and an understanding of what a young business can realistically afford are also key; she said she did not want to be pitched work that is “obscenely expensive and a larger scope than I need.”

With entrepreneurs, it’s best to start small, she said.

“Get a small chunk of business, get a foot in the door, build the relationship, credibility, friendship and then expand the scope of the service as they grow. Once they are used to working with you, they will pay 10 per cent more than what others pitch to just stay in the comfort zone and not have to worry about monitoring performance of a new vendor.”

“Be an advisor, be a friend – building a relationship and investing in the entrepreneur will go a long way, especially if you believe in their business,” she said.

Also on the panel was Kavita Jhunjhunwala, the founder of digital marketing agency Web Spiders. She agreed that entrepreneurs make tough clients, but in an exchange with Mumbrella after the session countered that tough clients “make great agencies.”

“Entrepreneurs tend to push you to do more (especially in the field of tech where we are only limited by ideas) and so go down new paths. Some of our best clients have been entrepreneurs and the biggest thing that they bring on the table is passion for their business which gets transferred to you as well. What you may not get in profitability, you make up with a showcase project and new experiences.”

Jhunjhunwala offered three pieces of advice for agencies on how to work with entrepreneurs.

“Be patient and listen. They will have loads of ideas in their head, not all will be on a PPT slide and they are also using you as a sounding board for their ideas.”

“Be reasonable with your pricing. Don’t give entrepreneurs ‘rack rates’ if you really want their business. They would have likely done good research on the market by the time they see your pricing.”

“Follow through with your commitments. Heaven hath no fury than love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury as an entrepreneur left in the lurch,” she said.

Jhunjhunwala, Sen and Mathur were on a panel that included Rhonda Wong, CEO of real estate firm Anthill Realtors and Denise Lim, who founded

Wong told Mumbrella that she had become a more “understanding” client after starting her own businesses.

“Because I now understand the difficulties businesses face, the unhappy moments of an employee as a result of bad management, I understand how businesses derive their profit and therefore I become more understanding when I meet good people behind businesses and also less patient when I meet bad business people.”

Wong drew a parallel with customer service to make her point.

“I used to get annoyed with bad customer service but now I know that it is not easy to train or develop the ‘perfect’ customer experience. I give them credit for effort in trying. There’s no point getting mad at service staff who simply have not been well trained.”

She added: “On the other hand it has become easy to see through greedy business people and make an active choice not to deal with them.”

The Break the ceiling touch the sky event was organised by PR firm House of Rose Professional.

Robin Hicks


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