Tandem Bicycle Riding and the Client/Agency Relationship
With roughly 85% of Melamed Riley blog postings being about cycling, I figured I’d go ahead and saddle up with one of my own. But mine’s not going to be about riding one of those run-of-the-mill, single-seated set of wheels. I’m going to discuss the nuances of riding a head-turning tandem and what we can learn from the potentially perilous pastime as it relates to client/agency relationships in the ad biz.
There are two roles to be played on the tandem. There’s the Captain who rides up front and gets to steer, shift and brake, and the Stoker who takes the rear saddle and is basically just a motor to help propel the whole apparatus forward.
So, in the client/agency relationship, it is usually best if the client takes the position of the Captain. For one reason, they’re paying for the bike, so it’s only fair. They are also the one who should know best where they want to wind up, so they may as well be the one steering the unit. However, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Having a communicative Captain is key to successful tandem journeys. One reason is that the Captain can see bumps in the road that the Stoker is shielded from. And if the Captain doesn’t provide a little warning, the Stoker gets a painful shot to their undercarriage with each seemingly little bump. If this keeps up, the Stoker will certainly choose to end the ride before reaching the destination, or will arrive battered and bruised and less enthused about going for another ride.
It is also important for the Captain to warn the Stoker when shifting gears and/or braking. Without knowing of a shift, the Stoker will continue applying all of his power, which can cause a lot of nasty, damaging grinding. In addition, it makes very little sense and is counter-productive to have the Stoker going full steam ahead if the Captain is secretly putting on the brakes.
To be fair, Stokers aren’t the only ones who might find themselves annoyed on the ride. All Captains find it extremely aggravating if they’re trying to go one way but the Stoker keeps leaning in other directions. In fact, this can be downright dangerous and can bring the entire journey to an abrupt and painful stop with both parties on the ground, bloodied, bitching and pointing fingers.
Lesson in all of this? Talk, talk, talk … and be very clear about what the roles of both the Captain and the Stoker are before heading out. And if once underway there seems to be some sort of confusion over who should be doing what, where you are headed, etc. … just stop. Pull over in the shade and have a little chat.
Beware, however, if the Captain asks you if you’d like to steer for awhile. Even though they say they want you to guide the ship for a bit, they are not used to taking the backseat and will more often than not start leaning this way and that way and create all that “steering” frustration previously mentioned. It’s their bike — let them steer the damn thing. Just try to get ‘em to talk more all along the way while you do the best you can at powering it.
Don’t miss my next blog: Committee Decisions and the Client/Agency Relationship.
Unfortunately, these are tough to always avoid. However, you can imagine the difficulty in trying to steer one of these machines with everyone on the back leaning in different directions. There needs to be an extremely strong Captain for this sort of rig to have any prayer of not winding up in a heap. And don’t think you’ll be better off taking one of the back seats. You will likely still get blamed for not getting the whole operation to its intended destination.