Bring Your “A” Game, Part 2

Last week, through my experience with a vendor, we came to the realization that, in the professional real world, if you don’t bring your “A” game, you can go ahead and tattoo a big fat, “FAIL” on your business’s forehead.  So, what can you do to ensure satisfied clients? Here are some DO‘s to keep your “A” game arsenal fully-loaded:

* DO find a subcontractor/friend/cousin-who-owes-you-a-BIG-favor to help you complete a project if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.  Sure, we all get overly ambitious at times, but if you made the mistake of bidding on a project that’s a little over your head, ‘fess up (at least to your ego) and SOS for assistance.  The worst thing you can do is to leave your client hanging by not getting the work done.  A little caveat: Make sure your contract allows for you to delegate work.  You don’t want to further anger your client by breaking a legal provision that may require you to disclose any intention to use subcontractors.

* DO make your billing terms clear.  Very clear.  Crystal Pepsi clear (whatever happened to that, by the way?). Whether billing by the hour or on a project-basis, state it in your contract.  Don’t confuse your client by “mixing and matching.”  It’s not a fashion show.  Just remember, by bidding on a project as a lump sum, you are inherently saying that you are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done for the specified amount of money.  If you misjudge how much time and effort it will actually take to complete a project (Sure, Mr. Sabino! I can build you a time-traveling rocket ship with Italian leather interior by next Wednesday!), suck up the cost and chalk it up to experience.  OR, if you have a really good relationship with your client (because your client is your mom), tell them right away that the project will require more time than expected and may incur more cost than previously estimated.  Don’t leave them in the dark until the deadline.

* DO communicate!  A LOT! Early in the project, I gave my vendor-from-the-dark-side some mockups to serve as visual reference for what I was expecting. When the vendor presented the final product to me, it wasn’t even remotely close to what I had wanted.  I, with a stunned look on my face and quickening pulse, said, “You’re kidding me, right?  This looks nothing like the mockups I sent to you 3 months ago.”  The vendor says, “Oh, we didn’t know you wanted [the product] to look like the mock-ups.”  W.T.F.  If you’re unsure about what your client wants, ask.  If you’re still unsure, ask again.  Present several options and ask your client to sign-off on the one that they like.  If you have written approval from your client, at least you’ll be saving face and not cluing your client in to the fact that you really didn’t know the definition of “mockup.”

* Finally, DO DO DO meet your deadlines!  This is the quintessential mark of professionalism.  Deliver your final product at the exact date and time that you said you would deliver.

Earn the respect and trust of your clients by always bringing your “A” game, and it won’t be long before your business is writing its Valedictorian speech!

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