This is the first of our monthly Ask The Consultants blog articles. Your questions will be answered by our core team of ALS Consultants. Submit questions via email at Meg@ALSLeadership.com.
Q: How do I choose a customer who honors my time? A customer who does the work they are committed to in the timeframe they have committed to. Without this, my clients’ projects suffer delays and it cost me time, money, and peace of mind. There is no reason a 4-6 week project should be delayed over 10 months by my clients. – Micah Kritzman via LinkedIn
A: What percentage of the population do you expect to do what they say they will do in the timeframe they say they will do it in? Yeah? Me either. Without a structure of accountability, or a strong relationship to their word, people just don’t usually do this. You, as the service provider, get to tolerate it, or not.. My question is this: Do you have clearly defined expectations to which you hold your clients (and yourself)? If so, why do you tolerate your clients’ delays? (Firing clients who do not honor agreements is A-OK in my book.) If you do not already have clearly defined agreements, get them in place immediately. And then hold your clients to them. – Meg Buck
A: I’d bet that your clients have plenty of reasons why projects are delayed, and I’d say that perhaps the issue may be that you tolerate those reasons and continue to work in those conditions. You’re asking “how” to do something, and I’m responding with a “why”—why would you set yourself up like that and continue to work that way once the situation has become clear? (Hot Tip: Consider that you are getting some payoff/ benefit from this being the way it’s been.) You don’t have to manage what you don’t tolerate. So, stop tolerating what you don’t want to deal with, clarify expectations, and create workable agreements up front. Design structures to support/enforce those agreements. – Paul Greiner
A: The success or failure of a client/service provider relationship has a lot to do with the agreements and understandings that are put in place at the start. If one asks for things “in a timely manner”, one is likely to get them at the convenience of the other party. This can lead to small projects taking a long time. I suggest creating agreements that are clear from the beginning. Let your clients know long in advance when you will be needing their input and what timeline actually works for that input. Also put into the agreement a clear delineation of the impact of delay. I have one client who literally needs to take a project out of the computer and move on to the next if input isn’t received within 48 hours of the scheduled time. For them, to be delayed is expensive and puts the client at the end of the cue. When this was made clear in the agreements, and then managed clearly and consistently, the delays virtually disappeared. And when there is a delay now, they get paid well for it. The specifics of your situation may be different, but you get the general idea. – Douglas Hoffman
A: You should try to avoid relationships where you constantly have to push to make things happen. Best case there is a strong pull or desire for something that you can offer. Also look for how they respect your time? Are the late for meetings? Are they responding in a reasonable manner to your communications? Do they want to move meetings all the time? These might be signs that you will have trouble later on. – Andreas Svedin
Edited by Meg Buck