Client Feedback Tool
  • Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    Posted on November 24th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    I’ve spent the year attending many of the best conferences in the industry, traveling alongside a few of the savviest business consultants, and working with many of the most forward-thinking professional services firms in the world. We’ve shared books, ideas, and other resources with each other.  It’s December, and my brain is full!

    Before I re-calibrate over the holidays and gear up for another new year of learning in 2016, I wanted to pause and reflect on the best of the best ideas I encountered in 2015. These ideas all went beyond AHA! moments and became integral pieces of how I operate. In short, these are the ideas that stuck, that changed my perception, and affected my behavior.

    Perhaps you’ve been too busy this year to get the professional development you wanted. Perhaps you’re just curious. Either way – I’m sharing my curated list, the best of the best, the things that rose to the top.

    In no particular order, here are ten things I learned this year I thought worth sharing:

    1. There Is No Hope! Darren Smith at Cima Strategic taught me to stop hoping for a project to end well. Instead, put processes in place to KNOW that it will end well. His goal: Have a “best project experience ever” – on every project. I have focused on understanding ideal outcomes from the beginning, and driving towards those more consistently.
    2. Precise Questions Matter. Bob Stocking at Vervago revealed the necessity of asking the right questions, precisely. A few simple techniques can keep even a talker like myself focused on listening with purpose. I have put into practice skills that are both more efficient and effective than the “old way” – leading to deeper conversations and more success in both sales and services delivery.
    3. Social Status is a Matter of Survival. Michelle Brown at Sentis shares how perceived social threats affect our neurochemistry, triggering base instincts and reactions rooted in the origins of humankind as a species. Becoming aware of these triggers, I have been able to re-wire my brain to handle criticism and negativity without the anxiety of before.
    4. Don’t Reject Myself. Jia Jiang at WuJu Learning, revealed how we’re so hardwired to avoid rejection, we will often reject ourselves before we allow others to reject us. Jia’s practical exercises have helped me be bolder, get over myself, and ask for more in life – and getting it.
    5. Clients Don’t Buy Me. Tim Asimos at circle S studio highlights how clients want their problems solved. I will never be an aspiration purchase, I will only be a practical part of a solution. I have begun to focus more on sharing relevant content that solves problems – and the work has followed.
    6. Communication Reduces Risk. Tim Corbett of SmartRisk presented evidence that firms that communicate effectively have a greater probability of being a “high performing firm.” These high performing firms realize dramatically increased profits and both reduced liability and liability premiums. I have begun re-engineering our services delivery process to increase the quality and frequency of client communication to drive better results.
    7. Client Journey Maps are Magic. Tania Salarvand at Valeocon showed me how to create a visual diagram that maps every step of a client interaction. Seeing all the exchanges and touch points enabled me to streamline our own client journey, launched a reorganization of our team to deliver accordingly.
    8. Client Delighters Drive Growth. Terry Reynolds at Kleinfelder shared a story of shopping at three stores one of which stood out. They surprised him with a unique approach that created real delight. It also created a new client and a sale. Terry’s experience encouraged me to look for delighters that we can insert into our processes every day.
    9. 21st Century Businesses Must be Frictionless.  Geoff Colvin at Fortune Magazine discusses the concept of “frictionless” businesses – new ways of doing old things that simplify processes – taking all the bumps out of the path. Uber revolutionized the transportation market – and continues to threaten many other established businesses. Uber works because it’s EASY for the consumer. Every week at our weekly team meeting we now discuss where our clients see friction points, and discuss ways to remove the friction.
    10. Build a Habit Forming Business. Nir Eyal from Nir and Far reveals the four step process every game-changing application employs. In a decade, Facebook grew from nothing to actively engaging 20% of the world’s people on a daily basis – ever wonder how? I have taken the core insights from Nir’s research and begun to shape both our services and our products accordingly. Our clients succeed when they develop habits of engaging with us, and we succeed when they keep coming back for more.

    I certainly learned more than these ten things – but these are the concepts, ideas, and best practices that have actually caused me to change how I approach business, leadership, and the future.

    What are the concepts you have put into practice in 2015? If you’re not already registered, join us on December 15th for a complementary webinar and share your ideas (so I know what to work on next year).

  • Is yours a team of generalists or specialists? Why it matters.

    Posted on October 15th, 2015 Sally Orcutt No comments
    Is yours a team of generalists or specialists? Why it matters.

     

    A problem that our A/E industry shares with the other white-collar service professions, we don’t always optimize our most important asset: our people.

    I know you’ve heard this before, but do me a favor – keep reading.

    As leaders we have a sense of what to do intuitively. The challenge is we often lack the specialized tools and processes to put our people into their optimum roles or give them the training and support they need to be most productive.

    There is good news. Recent studies and surveys show that while most managers do not think that their firm’s current processes and approaches to improving performance of teams are very effective; they still think that approaches that are customized to the specific skill-set of each team member are best.

    Create strong teamsSo, we all agree training each individual to do what comes naturally to them gives us the strongest teams. And when it comes to managing clients and managing production, understanding what piece of the puzzle each person brings to the team creates a team of specialists that excel at the work they provide your clients.

    I want to invite you to attend my seminar this December at the PSMJ Industry Summit and if you register before November 9th, receive a $100 registration credit. Here is a quick link to some highlights I will be sharing in December.

    In addition to all the valuable networking and excellent speakers you will hear at this year’s Summit, when you attend my seminar you will see the latest strategies used to create high performance teams.  Through these specialized strategies, I will show you how to enhance job satisfaction by letting (and helping) each person do what they naturally do best. I will also share first-hand experience of how our firm “turned the ship” and used these methods to make us a stronger, more profitable firm while improving the performance and satisfaction of our team members.

    1. Seminar Includes the Following Strategies:
    2. Understanding the four major skill-sets in the A/E industry
    3. How to identify the skill-set profile for each of your team members
    4. Setting team member assignments by their profile type
    5. Enhancing cooperative interaction between types
    6. Fine-tuning feedback for each profile type
    7. Identifying the optimum training for each team member

    While certainly of interest to firm leaders and managers whose role is to improve the performance of their firm’s teams, this seminar will contain information very helpful to anyone growing towards a leadership position or who wants to help their firm succeed.

    I look forward to seeing you at the 2015 PSMJ Industry Summit! When you register, use Promo Code CFT to save $100.

  • ‘Aha!’ Moments (and how they change everything)

    Posted on March 25th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    'Aha!' Moments (and how they change everything)

    Oh. I bet this guy learned a lesson he’ll never forget.

    Duh learning moment

    It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments when the light bulb goes on and your thinking and behavior change forever. He’ll never go back to a square wheel again. He’ll never wake up one day and haul a woolly mammoth across the steppes and realize he put the wrong wheel on today.

    Not all learning sticks like that.

    I am bombarded with opportunities to learn. Most of what I learn goes in, and right back out. Some ideas are important enough I capture them as an action item. “Go to the gym” might be one of those. Something important that I want to do, but I have to act upon the item to make the change. Many times, the change never happens. It’s too much work.

    Then I have moments that change the way I think. When I see a situation differently. When I realize I can’t go back and un-know what was learned. More than knowing, this type of moment changes behavior – automatically. These moments don’t happen often, and they are real game-changers.

    I help professional services firms uncover ‘Aha!’ moments with their clients, and within their firms, that allow them to drive greater success and satisfaction just because they know. I reviewed the report below with one of our clients. To help you see the ‘Aha! moment’, let me share information about how to read this data.

    • The scale on the right is used when a clients responds to a feedback request. The scale centers automatically at Met Expectations, driving clients to intentionally move the slider up or down to change the score.
    • The chart on the left, the black bar indicates the average score (by Project Manager). The dark blue represents the scores in the 25% – 75% range. The light blue shows the minimum or maximum scores.

    Duh Moments graphic 2

    When reviewing this chart, I focused on two project managers, Chris and Dan. Both were, at a minimum, meeting their clients’ needs. Most of Chris’ scores were in the Excellent to Exceptional range. Dan’s scores were between Met Expectations and Exceeded Expectations. Some may think that Chris is the better project manager. After all – he’s at the top of the chart! But, when I asked one question, we found an ‘Aha!’ moment.

    “What is the difference in their project profitability?”

    Chris’ projects average 3% profitability. Dan’s average 38%. Chris was chronically over-delivering on his projects and not charging for services out of scope. Dan, on the other hand, has a very clear sense of what his clients’ value and he prices his services accordingly.

    We showed this to Chris. He had an ‘Aha!’ moment. He realized his clients value the work he does for them. He stopped doing things they didn’t care about and started charging appropriately for services out of scope. Understanding what his clients were telling him changed everything.

    The rest of the story…

    When we checked back six months later, Chris’ project profitability had already taken a healthy upturn (up to 18%). And his feedback scores, while lower, still were near the top of the pack.

    One simple ‘Aha!’ moment changed everything for Chris. Not only was he earning his keep with the shareholders, but he felt validated by his clients, and continued to deliver a high-value proposition to them. What an easy win/win/win story.

    Interested in hearing more about stories like Chris’s – and how you can discover your own stories to drive success both within your firm and with your clients?

    Download The Power of Storytelling for Your Firm – a 90-minute Webinar outlining the importance of storytelling, methods for gathering stories, tips for using stories internally to improve staff and culture, and best practices for using stories externally in marketing, business development, and project delivery.

    I’ll wager you have an ‘Aha!’ moment by the end. What are you waiting for?

     

  • How Can I Turn my Project Managers Into Business Developers?

    Posted on January 28th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    How Can I Turn my Project Managers Into Business Developers?

    What an age old question. How do we create an organizational mindset among technical staff to be business developers? How do we support them, and hold them accountable? Tough questions no doubt – but a solution may be easier than you think.

    In a professional SERVICES company, the service you provide – the experience your clients have – is your brand. There is no better marketing and selling activity than taking great care of clients. If you’re like most of the industry, 85% or more of your work is from repeat clients.

    Managing expectations (asking for feedback) is a logical starting point. Anyone can do it (yes, even an engineer!). We started our company out of an architecture firm, and designed our processes and tools specifically for project managers. No one has more influence over client retention than the front-line staff. When project managers ask the right questions, at the right times, and take action on the information – each client feels valued and important.

    More critically, each client will recognize the project manager as his expert. When a client latches onto one of your PM’s as the expert, the client is much more likely to tell others about what a great expert he has. After all, the client helped create that expert by giving feedback. Word gets around, and suddenly people are asking how they can get access to the expert. Your project managers become business developers without even trying.

    Some people are never going to go out and use traditional “sales” techniques to find and develop new relationships. The “become an expert” approach not only makes these often introverted technical people feel great about their work, but it’s a natural way for them to develop existing and new business based on relationship and referrals.

    Consider this scenario:

    One of your strongest project managers has been working with a great client for a couple years. They know each other well, the work is going smoothly, and there’s no sign of trouble. Momentum keeps the relationship going with little investment, and everyone is complacent about the status quo.

    Now, introduce a dose of feedback. With a Client Feedback Tool survey, the project managers asks the client how an active project is progressing. The client responds, and raves about the work. We knew they would – it’s a good relationship. We confirmed our assumptions. But… we now have evidence that we are creating real value.

    As soon as the client responds, the response is sent to the project manager. Based on the positive results, the project manager, who would have no other “reason” to call the client, can do so. He’s following-up to thank the client for the feedback; he acknowledges that he also finds the relationship positive and valuable. And while they’re talking about successes, the project manager naturally asks the question: “Do you know anyone else we could help like this?”

    Seeking out new business opportunities is no longer an awkward call that a project manager dreads.  It’s a natural extension to an easy and positive conversation. And it comes with a built in recommendation!

    The objective of any feedback program, especially one powered primarily through electronic methods, is to initiate conversations with clients. When a client responds, don’t delay – follow-up and keep a conversation going. Celebrate successes or address challenges right away. Use the phone, meetings, and other existing communication tools to do so. When a client doesn’t respond, follow-up! Use that as a great opportunity to check in and verify they got the feedback request, and assure everything is going well.

    For many of us, starting the conversation is the hardest part. And starting conversations is really what business development is.

    How do you make project managers better business developers? Give them an easy process to start the conversations, and the insights they need to do a great job for their clients.

    You’ll have better clients (and more of them), happier project managers, and a better firm because of it.

  • What is your ‘best project’ story?

    Posted on August 13th, 2014 Darren Smith No comments
    What is your 'best project' story?

    I had been working with the leaders of this firm for several months on the benefits of collaboration on project schedule, budget, and team satisfaction. We had shared ‘best project’ stories and agreed those were the projects where everything went smoothly and all members of the team just seemed to do what needed to be done to create a positive outcome. They wanted to create ‘best project stories’ on all their projects so they asked team members working on one of their large projects this question. 

    “How would you rate the overall collaboration on your team?”

    They found that almost 50% of those responding said the team’s collaboration was about what they expected. It met their expectations. Another roughly 19% exceeded expectations. Good news.

    But the leaders focused in on the top 27%. They wanted to understand what about the experience for these individuals had them rate the team’s collaboration as “Exceptional” or “Excellent”? For these team members, this was one of the ‘best project stories’. The leaders wanted to understand the behavior, quantify it (if possible), and spread it around like peanut butter to the other members of their project teams.Collaboration

    I worked with the leaders to dig deeper. They spoke with team members to better understand what, for them, made the project feel more collaborative than they expected. When we pulled together the information, we recognized the team had set up Rules of Engagement. Of course, they didn’t use that label, but their discussions and actions had the same impact. They managed their team interactions effectively and efficiently and created a positive experience for the team overall.

    So what did they do, and how can you (and they) spread these behaviors around?

    Rules of Engagement are the operational and relational rules that create ‘best project’ stories. Although oversimplified, the difference between the two are that operational rules provide team accountability and relational rules provide team strength.

    Behind operational rules is the idea that for a project to run smoothly rules must be established? How will communication be handled, deadlines be met, and deliverables reviewed. What are the rewards for the individual of adhering to those rules? What are the consequences if they do not? Think about a project that ran over budget (or schedule), did it have operational rules in place? Was there a breakdown in any of the rules? Were there consequences to the individual(s) involved?

    Relational rules serve a different purpose. Getting the relational rules right means identifying the skills and talents needed to make your project run smoothly (and profitably)? Then, take that knowledge and put together the strongest possible team of individuals you can. And, for those of you with multiple office locations, don’t forget that the skills and talents you need may not be sitting right in front of you. Be sure the person’s role on the team will allow them to use their talents. If your project is complex, it is not only a good idea to have someone whose talents include organization on the team, they must serve in a role where they can bring that expertise to the project.

    Learn more about using Rules of Engagement on your next project. Click here to download a 50-minute webinar that will increase the likelihood that all of your projects will run smoothly (and more profitably).

    Darren Smith (founder and CEO of CIMA Strategic) is a collaboration subject matter expert. He helps successful executives in design, construction, and healthcare elevate their leadership and energize their strategy & business development implementation through collaboration. Darren has conducted business in 20 countries across 10 industries. His clients include HKS Architects, The Society of Petroleum Engineers, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Toyota.