“If you come face to face with a lion, don’t run. Make yourself big and noisy.”

Years ago I was on a camping safari in a remote nature reserve in South Africa, and this was the advice from the experienced ranger.

Fighting is risky for lions. It uses a lot of energy and even a mild injury can be dangerous.

So they choose only the fights they think they can win.

Lions have a shortcut, a heuristic, for deciding whether to start a fight: “Does the other side look frightened of me or not?”

If the other side looks taller and sounds noisily confident, the lion walks away to continue their day — and probably nap.

In our agencies we often serve big beasts. Companies much bigger than us, much more powerful.

Companies that could eat us up. Or at least eat up our energy and our margin.

And often you have to deal with their buyers, procurement teams, finance teams and other stakeholders who know that.

Your margin becomes their mid morning performance-target snack.

But they, like the lion, only want it if it’s easy.

So they have a shortcut, a heuristic, for deciding whether to start a fight: “Does the other side look frightened of me or not?”

My agencies had clients that included some of the world’s biggest media companies, global financial brands, and national governments. Thousands of times bigger.

I used to make a point of making sure we stood tall and made a lot of noise at every stage.

The pitch, the contract, the project spec, the price, approval milestones, and getting paid.

I consistently found clients backed down from trying to eat us when they saw we were confident and in control.

And eventually they'd stop even trying it on.

Standing tall like this is vital in achieving an equal, respectful relationship — which, in turn, is vital in becoming their trusted adviser rather than just the hired help.

So this week, how might your agency stand taller and make more noise when dealing with the big beasts?

How can you exude lion-taming confidence in everything your agency does?