Posted on January 27th, 2010 View Comments
“A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
All too often we get caught up in our ability to solve problems. We are problem solvers! It’s how we sell our services. You have a problem, we can help you solve it.
But how often do we create our own problems? How much work (which you can’t usually get paid for), must you do just to recover from a situation you created for yourself? A clever person might find a way out without losing much profit on the job. As Einstein implied, the wise person will keep (or increase) his profit by avoiding extra unbillable efforts.
The wise person seeks first to understand the problem. The problem is not a technical one. Nor is it an artistic one. The problem is a client problem. More accurately, the client’s problem. Until we understand the problem as the client perceives it, we will not be able to solve it. Regardless of how clever the technical and artistic solutions are, if the client’s basic issues were not addressed, the project has not succeeded.
If we can engage our clients systematically and frequently throughout the project, and measure their perceptions of our success with solving their problems, we can avoid creating our own. Before we’ve gone off track, the client can correct, clarify, and guide us in the right direction.
Only when we are truly asking our clients how we’re doing, listening to their feedback, and responding with a refined approach, will we ever attain professional services “genius” on level with Mr. Einstein himself.
Posted on January 14th, 2010 View Comments
As the premier feedback surveying group for the professional design industry, we are offering to gather anonymous fee and rate setting strategies from firms across the US. By taking the following poll you will have immediate access to the data gathered to help you in your fee and rate setting. Please answer the following questions with regard to the past 6 months.
What do your clients really think of your fees?
- They think we’re charing at our cost plus a reasonable profit (45%)
- They think we’re charging at our cost plus a minimal profit (27%)
- They think we’re charging at our cost plus a premium profit (24%)
- They think we’re charging below our cost (3%)
- They think we’re charging at our cost with no profit (1%)
What do your clients really think of the value you bring to solving their problems?
- They think the value we offer equals the fee we charge (36%)
- They think the value we offer slightly exceeds the fee we charge (35%)
- They think the value we offer greatly exceeds the fee we charge (17%)
- They think the value we offer is less than the fee we charge (12%)
When competing for jobs against other firms, what percentage of the time do you suspect that their fees are at or below their cost?
- 50% (30%)
- 25% (20%)
- 75% (17%)
- 10% (17%)
- 0% (14%)
- 100% (2%)
How often are you forced to set your fees at or below your cost?
Loading …Feedback and strategic reports from 100 clients for $999If you would like to enjoy the competitive advantage of Best In Class client awareness for just $999,email email@example.com or call us at 866-433-7322Posted on January 12th, 2010 View Comments
- 10% (29%)
- 0% (21%)
- 50% (19%)
- 75% (15%)
- 25% (14%)
- 100% (2%)
A friend of a friend found me on LinkedIn and passed along a resume, looking for a position as a web designer. While we weren’t hiring for that position, I took a look at the resume. To be quite candid, it was pretty awful.
I’m in the business of feedback, so I replied with some friendly but strong criticism. I offered it as feedback – information to be processed, with no intent to hurt or offend. I took time to highlight some of the good points, but spent most of my words identifying problem areas. The reply I received could have been one of indignation, defensiveness, anger, or any other counter-productive reaction. Instead, I got probably the best response I could have.
Ouch! But thank you!
That’s the subject line of the email I received in reply. What a great response! In four words, two punctuation marks, and an emoticon this young woman managed to set the entire mood for our (still ongoing) dialog. She accepted that challenges in her work exist, and acknowledged the effort (and even pain) needed to fix them. She expressed honest gratitude for identifying issues for her to work on. She also set a tone of friendly collaboration – probably the most important reaction to have when receiving tough feedback. Before reading her response, I knew she was open to ideas, and willing to work with me to improve.
I appreciate your feed back and will work on it…
If you still want to help me organize my resume, etc, I am all ears….
Thanks for the insight. I know you are right, I think I need someone to literally get in my face and prove it, instead of sugar coating it like people have been.
Within the email, she again thanked me for feedback. Instead of defending why she did things her way, opened the door to further feedback, correction, and adjustment.
Not only has she set a tone of collaboration, but she also diffused any fear or anxiety on my part about giving feedback. Since I had never met this woman before, it took quite a bit of courage to provide feedback. I really wanted to help, but also wanted to avoid hurting her feelings, or causing her any more anxiety when she’s already out of work. Instead, her reply opened the door wide open to mutually honest communication. What I thought would be a one-time note with some suggestions turned into a week-long exercise to build a great resume. I have been able to share my opinions openly and without fear of reprisal.
Now, I feel invested in this woman’s success. I want to be a part of that. Why? Because her resume, and by extension, her process of finding a job, is now a part of me and my process. I feel some ownership of what she’s built, and thus I feel connected by proxy to her eventual employment (and success).
When your clients give you feedback, they earn the same kind of ownership. Engage a client who has given you feedback with a proactive, collaborative, and kind attitude and you will tend to get more feedback! As you work with your client to tweak the processes and methods used to deliver services, these revised methods become your clients methods too. He becomes invested, not just financially, but at a deeper level as well. No one wants to see their own work or efforts fail. It’s natural to want to win, to be right, and to succeed. The more you can adopt processes and methods that match your clients preferences, the more he will want you to succeed. Your success becomes his success.
Can you imagine a business where all your clients want you to succeed? Where your clients are your biggest advocates? Imagine what this attitude shift will bring when it’s time to send invoices, or raise your fee structure, or request a contract addendum for additional services or a change order. Instead of arm wrestling over details, you have a client engaged with you on a deeper level. And since he was fundamentally a part of the process that created the need for billings, your ability to recover fair and rewarding compensation is secure.
Ask for feedback! Then respond openly and engage your clients in the solutions that follow. Mutual success is not far behind.
As for the resume, it has gone from something that would very quickly hit my recycle bin, to something I would even pass along – not because of her skills or experience, but because of the process she used to improve. That’s the kind of person I want to work with.Posted on January 5th, 2010 View Comments
You’re driving down the highway, and the car in front of you is going too slowly. You would like to go faster. Looking around, you decide that moving to the left lane will let you get ahead. Seems like a good decision so you go for it – after all, who doesn’t want to get there faster? You obey all traffic laws, use your signal, and slide over.
Except, you didn’t see the car in your blind spot. If you’re lucky, he sees you and honks, avoiding disaster. But if he’s busy yapping on his cell phone or otherwise focused, kaboom! Your easy solution to speed things up just blew up, leaving you in quite a mess. Your car is mangled; it’s going to take hours to sort out; you’ve got a very irate driver in the other car (hopefully not injured), and there’s no way you’re going to make that meeting now. Oh, yeah, and there’s the increased insurance premiums, the lawsuit, and hours of work over the coming weeks and months to sort out all the financial and legal issues.
This was totally avoidable, if you had just checked your blind spot!
If you work on projects for a client, the same story holds true.
How often have you been working on a project, and part way in, you realize there’s a “better” or “faster” way to get things done. Of course your client wants his project better and faster, so you “change lanes” and start doing things a bit differently. You innovate every day – it’s how you solve the problems needed to get projects done. You are constantly changing, adapting and adjusting your processes to “get there faster/better/cheaper.” You have to, just to meet the demands of your clients and be competitive in your market.
However, have you checked your blind spot? Do you always include your client in these process adjustments, to let him know what you’re doing and why? Most of the time, your client will appreciate that you’ve adjusted and innovated for his benefit. Does he know you’ve done so? If not, let him know so he can appreciate the value you are adding.
But what about those times when the process doesn’t work for your client? Your bright idea didn’t factor in some information your client knows (that you don’t) which will cause a wreck? Assuming nothing can go wrong is a costly and risky proposition. What you must do is check your blind spot! Get feedback from your clients constantly throughout the project. If you shift gears in order to “improve” the project, schedule, or budget – let your client know and get validation that the changes really are an enhancement. Otherwise, you risk running into your client, and damaging not just the project delivery, but your very valuable client relationship.
To read more about feedback and your blind spot, check out my post on the Johari Window.