In consideration of a tightened belt

3 Mar
Looks comfy!

Looks comfy!

Money’s a touchy subject.  Because I work for a consulting company and do consulting myself  as a freelance writer and a personal trainer,  I know very well how the belt tightening has been affecting people. (As if hearing and reading daily reports about rising unemployment and budget cuts wasn’t enough).

People are understandably skeptical and much more careful about how and where they’re putting their money. But there is work to be done, goals to be reached, and people with whom building solid relationships is still a priority.

Managing expectations is always a key factor in the success of any endeavor, and recently I’ve experienced two unique situations that illustrate this importance.

In the first, we earned the client’s confidence.  This client had invested in another vendor and had been burned.  They exhibited lots of red flags in initial discussions — all because they were understandably VERY nervous to be investing in another web company.  However, over the course of just the first couple weeks, I established a great and open communication pattern that ultimately led to my client’s assertion: “This has been money very well spent.”  We told them what we were going to deliver, how it could be successful (and more successful), we collaboratively compromised when necessary, and they understood along the way what they were asking of us.  When all was said and done, we exceeded their expectations thanks to open communication about the pros and cons — and costs — of various ideas.

In the second, an existing client was overly confident.  We had worked with them in the past when budgets were not as tight.  They were in a pattern of asking for something that we would deliver quickly with their direction.  However, when they changed their minds that resulted in additional iterations, they expected us to *eat* the unexpected costs because of our existing relationship — or maybe because they weren’t impressed with the product they asked us to create.  In any case, when I told them how long their requests took, suddenly we had “gone over budget.”  Even though we had established a solid and successful relationship over the course of two separate projects, the client now expected services and products without price tags because they were more budget conscious than before.

Everyone needs to eat, and everyone is being impacted by the economic downturn.  I’m learning now more than ever how important transparency and communication can be to both building and hurting solid professional relationships.

To address the budget and expectation issues, some companies are (smartly, I think) asking the question without beating around the bush: What do you want, and how much money do you have?  I like the Airbag Industries example a colleague of mine showed me.  It’s not a cold shoulder — it’s a reality, and all parties shouldn’t be embarrassed that they’re wanting every penny to be well-spent on a good relationship that encourages success.

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