Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dancing With The Client

I was a consultant for 5 years, and I had a really wide mix of clients. Some of them were really good, and had managed projects before, some were horrible managers and had a "Just get it done" mentality, when in fact they actually had no idea of what *it* was. As I gained some experience I found that most of the problems came from poor communication on either or both sides.

Along the way I developed strategies for dealing with the very wide range in customers, not really rocket science, but you might be surprised how when I didn't do those things things would inevitably go south.
  • Always Communicate Expectations of the Relationship to The Client - If you can't communicate with a client immediately when they request, that's ok, but tell them when and how you will be communicating. "Look I am really slammed right now but write up an email on what you want to talk about and I will get back to you with an answer by tomorrow afternoon" is completely acceptable. How often you expect to communicate with the client is important too. If you expect that you will primarily be emailing them daily and wont be available for more than one call a week, say that, make it clear to both parties so expectations are understood. What ever you think make sure there is agreement by both parties so there isn't confusion. Confusion kills productivity for everybody.
  • When You Make a Commitment Keep It - Its the foundation on what you will be judged. Be careful about what you say you will do and when, if a client proposes a date that cannot be met communicate that the exact second you see it. Clients aren't going to want you to commit to things you are not going to do, so tell them you cant commit to the date they propose, but then propose an alternative that you are sure you can accomplish. Dates sometimes are missed, when they are owning up to it taking responsibility for it and then communicating more with the client about how you are going to make up for it is important in maintaining trust.
  • Dont Do Work Out of Scope - The client doesn't own how you do something, but they do own what you do. Make sure the scope of work is clear for the engagement, if it isnt clear then your first task is to clarify it before doing work.  It is a waste of your clients money to be doing work they cant use, or is a lower priority in the lifecycle of the project so make sure your client knows and understands exactly what you are working on currently. Usually a journal helps with this with something like an entry with the start time and end time as well as a one sentence description of the activity. Make that journal available to the client.
  • Don't Take on Too Many Clients - This one is tough, everybody has to pay the bills and only you can know how many is too many, but when you take on too many clients all the other stuff starts to fall apart, you communicate less, you miss your commitments, and the right work doesn't get done. If you do take on more work than you can handle negotiate a refund as a way to end the relationship early with one of your clients to open up some bandwidth.
  • Remember that your Client is a Human Being Too - If you have an issue your client most likely wants it to work out. Probably they have alot of responsibilities too, a mortgage, and people who depend on them. If there is a disagreement just remember that they are not the enemy. In other words be nice. Always.
Now as I try to make this things bigger around here I am forced to wear the other shoe. Really I think most of these things work the other direction too, and in my life as whole with any relationship. Because when you think about it a business relationship is still just another relationship. It needs a mutual understanding and agreement to even exist.  

Its kindof like a square dance, it has to have some structure and expectation, and both people dancing have to continually try to move to the music in a synchronized way to make it all come together.

Swing your partner!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Very rarely has a biz book come along that I didnt think was a vehicle for some puffed up fool from the valley to launch his speaking career wondering what to do with themselves after they successfully negotiated themselves out of a job.

Usually these books are hogwash, full of "secrets" about hacking the investment community or how to launch the next meme in consumer social viral marketing or whatever topic that has nothing to do actually building a business. Rarely do I read these and find there any good ideas, and worse I dont really relate to the people who write them. Fail fast! Fail big! These books remind me of that book "The Secret". The secret is that you just wasted thirty bucks on a worthless book.

I guess I always saw myself an outsider because I wanted any company I started to be about building a great business that I could believe in, and that I would go to work every day thinking that I could make business impact, help other people succeed at what they loved, and discover what its like to work with a group dedicated and passionate about what they do. It always seemed to me that people were building businesses for the wrong reasons, or they actually weren't building a business at all. They were building something else that I really dont know what to call because it wasn't about making real money, just making funny monopoly money and creating opportunities to name drop, schmooze and posture like a poser.

People have recommended to me for about two weeks that I read Rework, but I thought it was just another CEO talking about how to hack the startup. Boring, and I dont have time for it, but people kept telling me that things I was saying were similar.

@pairwolff you should check out his new book, Rework. an easy and fun read.

@claytantor Yeah, I know about three people who have said that. Trying to figure out how to work a day job, do fight club, AND read.

That's why when the fourth respected person recommended that I read Rework by books on Audible I gave it a listen. And then it something happened three paragraphs in. I finally felt like I wasn't alone anymore.

Things that I had always said that are considered heresy were suddenly being affirmed, I finally was hearing from a successful CEO who didnt think I was crazy because I didnt want a bored of directors lined with VCs who have already an exit strategy for the company they have are just investing in. Who agreed with me when I said workaholics are negative agents, and that finding financing is a distraction from building a business.

Oh glorious day! Oh spectacle of comrade. I am not alone!

I will be listening to this book over and over, not because there are some hidden nuggets nestled in there just waiting for me to uncover them. There are no secrets here, just hard facts. Its just these facts remind of the truth on why I am doing this. Running a business is not easy, and you arent going to just going to wake up one day and its sitting there working for you, you have to work for it and build it with you own heart and soul and sheer tenacity.

The reason you build it isnt because you want the easy way, its because you want to build something meaningful for your life and the life of those who participate and contribute. My theory is if you love what you do, and you get really good at it you wont need to worry about the money part of it, they will bring the money in on wheelbarrows. Dont put the shit wagon before the horse.

This is the most important message of this book in my opinion, choose something you would be happy doing all the time, put your heart and soul in it, try to find people who share your passion, and you will be a success. No matter what names they call you.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What happens when you need to fan in?

The sentiment engine should allow a fan in flow of multiple streams, location streams, where consumers create a human routed peer to peer network via forward (aka RT), annotate and add another layer each forward. Fan in subscriptions to experts.

As people who respect each other pass along an idea like the telephone game, each annotation is a layer, but unlike the traditional game where an idea is mutated, each layer stands unchanged much to the ideal of copy-left, that copy that venture leftward instead of being altered remains intact, perfect unchanged by any other contributor, just added to.

We are looking to integrate the idea of data providers, with peer to peer forward. How do you create machines that use things like semantic probability that will allow many different systems of the in the cloud to feed into one domain model? These streams when mapped into a sentiment engine will allow for real time updates into the sentiment store.

UPDATE: Ok so I know this post isnt exactly lucid, but it is based on real technology we use to match multiple location sources into our data model. So just think of it as a recording in time of a mental jazz riff ok?

attributions: 26 Peacock Fan From the new fan book Abanico by Julie S Roces slightly bigger than A4 size