My Client (Listening) Journey

Welcome to the first issue of ‘The Happy Client’ in 2024! I hope the new year has got off to a good start for you.

How often do you find yourself taking stock of your working life? And if so, do you find you can trace a path from your earliest days to now, identifying a certain inevitability about how things have turned out?

It’s something I did recently when I was having a post-Christmas clear out and came across a pile of old documents. Working my way through them made me think about my career journey and all the clues along the way. They seemed to be pointing me towards where I am today…


A very early clue was a primary school report which talked about the development of my research skills and ability to identify and write about recurring themes. A comment from my secondary school history teacher gave another inkling, albeit from a different sort of perspective, “Anna would do well to talk less and listen more.” How right he was – and it was advice that I definitely took on board!

When I was old enough to work (an early paper round aside), my first jobs were in retail and hospitality. It was in these roles that I first made the link between offering a positive experience for customers and reward. Although back then it was tips rather than loyalty, the importance of great service is an ethos which has been imprinted on my mind ever since.


My first ‘proper’ job was in the civil service in Plymouth, where I was part of a team dealing with European Funded projects. It was there that I learned all about diplomacy, particularly when dealing with unsuccessful applicants or project leads who hadn’t submitted the correct paperwork. Fast forward to the present, and diplomacy is definitely something that’s required when I’m delivering difficult messages to my clients as a result of a listening interview. How you say something matters – not only in getting the message across, but in keeping people on-side and helping you ultimately achieve the sort of end results that you’re all after.

After two years in Plymouth, I felt the pull of London and worked on secondment as a Private Secretary to a government minister for two years. This taught me all about managing the demands of multiple stakeholders – from the minister himself, to fellow civil servants from whom I was commissioning briefings, and the minister’s constituency office.

Deciding to stay in London at the end of my secondment, I remembered that my original plan had been to work in marketing, something I concluded I’d be best served doing in the private sector. I started work at Deloitte, initially as a PA, revealing my public sector roots on the first day by asking, “Who collects the tea club money?”. Imagine my delight when I found out that at Deloitte, hot drinks were provided for free along with team socials, Christmas parties etc – happy days! It was an experience that taught me to appreciate employee perks, even more so now, as I’m back to paying for such things myself!


After a year or so as a PA, I had the opportunity to move across to the marketing department and over the ensuing years, studied for my Chartered Institute of Marketing qualification. I was also able to make good use of those well-honed diplomacy skills – handling budget issues with partners and making sound cases for the department’s marketing proposals, as well as building good stakeholder relationships (with partners, clients, suppliers and other departments within the firm). I learned how to manage multiple projects concurrently and keep relevant parties up to date with progress, all whilst delivering an excellent service to internal clients, and a positive experience for external clients, largely through thought leadership and events.

I then moved to BDO where my growing interest in client listening and exceptional service was well and truly ignited by my boss, Allan Evans. Allan’s enthusiasm and unwavering focus on ensuring clients of the firm, wherever in the world they were based, received the best possible service, was infectious and our team was at the forefront of delivering the ‘Exceptional Client Service’ (ECS) agenda in the UK. We looked after the firm’s client listening programme, promoted the results internally and externally, and I even went on secondment to BDO’s new member firm in India where part of my remit involved introducing and embedding BDO’s ECS agenda to the team there.


Because I’d absolutely loved my role at BDO, focusing on client listening and helping businesses deliver an excellent service was something of a ‘no brainer’ for me when the time came to set up on my own. The last five years may not have been all plain sailing, but I haven’t once regretted my decision to really niche down. Today, most of my business is built on referrals and returning clients.


As I start 2024, I’ll be further evolving the business by applying my listening expertise to take in wider stakeholder groups. It’s all born of a firm belief that listening to, hearing, understanding and acting on what people are saying builds stronger relationships across business ecosystems and ultimately benefits my clients and those working with, for and alongside them. After all, listening shouldn’t just be for clients!

So, although this may look like a trip down memory lane – it helped me sharpen my focus and resolve for the year ahead. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the scenes and that it gives some insight into why I’m so passionate about what I do. Maybe you’ve been inspired to trace your own career journey?

Until February!

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