The first of our Core Values is “We Lead With Service”, but what does that mean in practice. For many companies, core values live on the shelf for most of the year. They get pulled down and dusted off for the annual meeting. Everyone nods agreeably, and they get put back on the shelf till next year. At EMC, we try to make our values an active part of our everyday lives. We hire to them, we review to them, and they are part of our weekly staff meetings.

Each quarter we place extra focus on one of our values and make it an area of emphasis. This quarter that is our first core value – “We Lead With Service”. I wanted to talk about what that means to us as an agency, as team members, and to me personally.

What does it mean for our agency to Lead With Service?

When our agency talks about Leading With Service we focus on a couple of different things. In the first sense, we think of “lead” as “begin”. This means start everything you do from the standpoint of how this will provide service to our clients. In the second sense, we think of “lead” as “be at the front of the pack”. We want to be a leader when it comes to taking care of our clients so that when they think of us, one of the first things they think of is what excellent service they get.

So, how do we begin everything we do from the standpoint of service? It all starts with putting the client at the center, servicing the client’s needs as our most important goal. We frequently talk about leaving a “seat at the table” for our clients. This means do everything as if the client was sitting in the chair next to you.

This starts with active listening. We have to pay attention to what the client is telling us, but also dig deep and ask probing questions. What’s the purpose of the campaign? What else are you doing? What are the expected outcomes and KPIs? Why are you asking for this media or market? Who are the stakeholders on their end, and what do they need? How can we make this process easier for you and our company? This all helps us provide the best service we can when it comes to constructing the actual plan and focuses us on delivering a plan that aligns with the client’s needs.

Leading with service also means being flexible. Not every client is organized the same way, and not every business has the same processes and procedures. Being independent means we’re not shackled by legacy systems of agencies that are part of larger holding companies. We are nimble enough to make changes when we need to without having a board meeting first.

It also means being a resource for our client, and that can take many different shapes. This could include providing training to help educate and inform their internal team, so that they can make better decisions. It can mean providing thought leadership and supporting data to help sell their plan up the ladder. Or, we can be providing market overviews to help with their strategic decision-making. Sometimes it means just being a sounding board for clients to bounce ideas, or even just vent. In the end it’s about being a partner who puts our clients goals at the center of everything we do.

Finally, for our agency, leading with service also means being a service to our community. We make regular charitable donations to organizations like Feeding America or Doctors Without Borders. We provide pro bono work to local cause-based organizations and serve on advisory committees for small business owners and women-owned businesses. Last month, our team got together to pack over 7,000 meals to help those struggling with food insecurity.

From our clients to our community service isn’t just a word; it’s integral to what we do every day.

Our agency team helping pack meals for those dealing with food insecurity

What does it mean for our Team to Lead With Service?

Much the same as for our agency, for our team members leading with service, can mean a couple of different things.

First off, it means taking personal accountability for the service we provide to our clients. That’s the most important goal for our agency. It has to be front and center for our team as well. That means starting off by covering all the basics. Be responsive, be communicative, be accessible and always keep the client in the loop with whatever is going on – good or bad. It means being accurate, double-checking your work, and presenting it in a way that is easy for the client to absorb.

And sometimes leading with service means NOT doing something. If we’re keeping our clients at the center of what we do, sometimes we have to steer them away from decisions we firmly believe are not in their best interests.  Sometimes that can be uncomfortable. No one likes to say “no” to a client. You might lose a contract or potentially lose the goodwill of that client, all of which can be scary. Our team knows that and knows that they have our full support when it comes to servicing the client. We believe that doing the best for our clients will outweigh any negative outcomes from telling them an uncomfortable truth.

The other way that we expect our team to lead with service is internally – providing service to their colleagues. Our team has always been close-knit, and Covid just reinforced that. We strive to put our team members’ needs above our own. To help them out just because that’s the only thing we could do, and not from a desire for gain or recognition. It also means not waiting to be asked. To always be looking out for a team member who might be overloaded, need help figuring something out, or just be having a tough day. Part of our review process for our employees is to look at how they live these values on a daily basis. Being of service to our colleagues is an essential part of that.

Outlines of people created with string and linked together

What does it mean to me personally to Lead With Service?

The idea of being a “servant leader” is one that is very important to me personally and is very close to my heart. I’ve always believed that leading by example is the best way to build a high-performing team and, frankly, just to be a good person. Being of service, whether it’s to my family, my friends, my community, my co-workers or my clients, is something that I value deeply. I look for it in the people around me and constantly try to cultivate it in myself.

First and foremost, that means staying humble and always remembering that I’m not “above” anything. I try to be a “roll up my sleeves” person and be ready to pitch in when anyone is overwhelmed, needs help or insight, or just needs to talk through something. Being able to pitch in and help leads to a better product in the end, a happier client, and a less burned-out team member, all of which are good things. Or in the words of Harry Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Leading with service also means mentoring and prioritizing people over tasks. There’s always work that needs to get done. Proposals need to be submitted, campaigns launched, art specs to be delivered, etc., and we all pitch in to get those things done. But I believe when we focus on the well-being and development of our team, it makes all the tasks easier in the long run. It’s vital to keep tabs on your team – not to count every second they work or the contracts they generate – but to keep track of the person. How are they feeling? Do they feel valued and fulfilled in their work? Are they over capacity? Are we asking things of them that aren’t in their wheelhouse?.

The tasks and numbers are important. But, the tasks won’t get done, and you won’t hit your numbers if you don’t keep your team in good shape. Addressing the well-being and development of our team can mean training, or it can mean pairing someone with a mentor or walking them through something. It can mean lending a hand or even just an ear when they need to talk. It also means demonstrating – both in words and actions – that balance in their life is important and encouraging them and empowering them to maintain balance in theirs.

An image of a group of hands working together toward a common goal


Our headquarters is located not too far from Lancaster County, PA. A phrase I’ve heard my whole life that comes from the Amish community there is “Many hands make light work”. (It probably has other origins, but that’s where I know it from.) When we all work together, the result is better for everyone.

That sort of sums up the idea of “We Lead With Service.” When we all work with service in mind, it’s better for everyone.