Archive for the ‘Business Thoughts’ Category
Today’s final post is a letter which I dearly wish I could send back in time to myself in the past; a younger me from ten years ago when I first made the leap from permanent employment status to Freelancer. I think it will be useful to other freelancers who are either just starting out, or are struggling.
Without any further delay or waffle…
Dear younger and more inexperienced me,
As you read this, you will be just starting out freelancing. It’s a scary experience. There is nobody to hold your hand, or guide you, or give you advice. At least, I know it seems this way. But I wanted to drop you a quick line to reassure you about a few things. Plus I wanted to include some really good advice, which will stop you making some silly and expensive mistakes.
It may seem that you are own your own, but there are a lot of great resources out there. The web is full of freelancers who have gone through what you are going through, and some people have been kind enough to write those experiences down in books or web blogs (such as this one) – all it takes is for you to take the effort to read them, understand them, and follow the advice. But remember, if you don’t bother looking, or take that advice, and you make the mistakes other are trying to help you avoid – then there is nobody to blame than yourself.
I am sorry to say that there will be hard times, and tough times, times full of worry when you wont be able to sleep at night, times of self doubt, and times where things seem very unfair. All freelancers and small business owners go through this, but at the end of the day, you will do OK. Anybody who makes the effort to rise above the average, who has put in the hard work, and uses the resources that are out there will do OK – better than OK in fact. In the end, choosing a freelance life will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
But there are things that will help you on your way. Dear younger me, please listen to these, because these are nuggets of wisdom from years of experience. These tips will save you time, money, effort, and will make the whole thing so much more enjoyable. They will also allow you to rise above the troubling times.
My advice to you as you start out freelancing is:
- When times seem tough, don’t sweat the small stuff. If things seem unfair – that’s because they are – nobody ever said life was going to be a fair game. Either accept those things as unfair and move on, or change them. But don’t lose sleep about the small or unfair things
- Build up your list of supporters from the start. Have a good bank manager who you can contact whenever you want, an accountant who will explain things to you in detail, and make sure your partner (wife/husband) is included in everything you do
- Do not let the accountant run your finances. Keep everything close. Don’t let the accountant charge you too much or have your accounts vanish in to a black hole. Instead, use online accounting from day one (the accountant should be there to sign off the accounts and save your money). Having a clear picture of your accounts and cash flow every moment is key not only in making decisions, but allowing you to sleep at night.
- Know what you are doing it all for. Have a set of goals, and review them regularly. Get hold of a copy of the success principles, and read it – twice a year. It’s the best book on the planet! Trust me on that
- Do not waste effort trying to keep everybody up to date on project progress – you will end up stressing about projects and being overworked. Instead, invest in a cloud based project management system – the moment you do, your business world will change in leaps and bounds. You will never look back
- Don’t chase the money. Customers will try to take you in directions you are not prepared to go. It’s ok to say no if the work does not interest you, is not inline with what you want to do, or how you picture your small company. Be strong with customers.
- Don’t be scared to take on work involving skills you don’t have. Whilst you will be reluctant to do this initially, eventually you will come to realise that this will lead to you growing in skills and confidence, which will make your time more valuable.
- Invest in time management tools. Your time is money, so use tools like Evernote to keep track of everything you do and create, and re-use it over and over again. When you start doing this, you will see your worth grow.
- Get everything down on paper – simple terms, agreements and contracts – and get them signed. This will get you out of more problems than you could possibly imagine.
- And get a mentor. Approach your old bosses, or a local mentoring group, and become accountable. It’s also a great way to make new friends and stay in touch with what is happening ion the business world.
Younger me, its important to remember to enjoy the ride. Yes, times will be tough, customers nasty, and sometimes money will be tight – but nether the less, enjoy the ride. Getting where ever you are going is half the fun.
A more experienced Me
And that’s It!!
At the start of 2012, I said that this blog would finished at the end of 2012 – and as I type this, it’s December 2012. So that’s it – the blog is done. There is no more.
Dear reader, whoever you are, I really hope that you have found this blog useful. I have found it fun to create, and get my thoughts, systems, and processes down on (electronic) paper. I hope that you have gained something from reading my advice.
My advice does work. I am not perfect, I do not run the perfect company, I make as many mistakes as any other person out there, but my company has grown year in and year out using the tips I have written down. Most of my advice comes from people who are far more experienced and successful than me – so if any of my advice, or systems I describe feel right to you – give them a try – see if they will help you grow your own company.
As I sign off from my blog, I wish you dear reader well. I hope your company grows as you want it to, and I hope to meet you in the real world at some point.
As for me, I will continue on with growing my business, heading towards my goals, but now without the need to document it here. This blog will remain on the net until the end of 2013, at which time it will then be consigned to the great internet dustbin.
Goodbye and good luck.
Author of this Web site , Freelancer, Small Business Owner and passionate goal setter/achiever
December 20th, 2012.
The history and popularity of every company can be traced on the curve of a hill. At the start, nobody knows who the company is, they have very few customers and they struggle. Then the hill grows as the customer base grows, and soon they are at the top of the hill, looking at all their competition below them. They are popular, their products sell well, they are at the top of their game.
Sometimes the downward trend is brief, the company can turn things around and it turns into a bump in the hill rather than a descend onto the other side. But sooner or later, ALL companies will find themselves on the downward path.
For some companies, especially the smaller, newer, or one man bands, the hill can be very small indeed with almost no growth before they die. For some companies, the hill can be fairly flat, yet it can be years before they start to go downhill and die.
In the UK, we have seen many household names recently reach the other side of the hill; Jessops and HMV being headline news. But we have also had other companies vanishing without too much of a fanfare despite being big names – examples include companies such as Phillips (who no longer produces consumer electronics) and Kodak.
So let me give you a prediction for the demise of a MASSIVE company which is on the other side of the hill and is sliding down fast….
Microsoft have made massive announcements in the last 12 months of new products. We have Windows 8, Office 13 (or Office 365 if you prefer) and of course the Surface tablets.
Now putting the Surface aside (which I personally think is too expensive, too heavy and has a confusing OS), let us look at the business model of Microsoft in terms of Windows 8 and Office 2013.
I am going to suggest to you that in terms of functionality, reliability, cost, and ease of use – Windows XP and Office 2003 was as good as it needed to get. Windows 7 looks nicer, and Office 2007/2010 has some nice features – but in terms of actually doing anything you need to do, they really do not offer anything above and beyond XP and office 2003. I would agree that Windows 7 provides new features like widgets and taskbars, and office 2010 offers mini graphs in excel and online presentations – but are these worth the upgrade?
But now we have reached the crux of the matter. Windows 8 and Office 2013 are not upgrades – they are replacements. If you have office 2003, for the 20 or so new features in office 2013, you have to throw away your original investment and repurchase a completely brand new licence. Windows 8 did give a discounted upgrade path, but even now – that option is gone.
Or put it in money terms, if you are using Office 2003, 2007 or 2010, are you really going to spend another £700/$900 for a handful of new features which you may not ever use?
I would so dearly love to be a fly on the wall at an Office development team meeting and in the CEO offices – Microsoft must realise that the world has reached a point of ‘it’s good enough’ and despite all the glamour of the trade shows and press announcements, there must be panic in them there offices.
In a nutshell, asking people to pay the same again for something they already can do – is just not a sustainable business model.
What does this mean for your company?
So why am I talking about Microsoft and their inevitable doom? Well, first let me say I am not bashing Microsoft out of hate. I make my bread and butter using Microsoft products including office, SQL Server and the like – but I also recognise they are on the crest of the hill and are heading downwards. The same will be true of Apple in a few years – after all, how much of a higher resolution does anyone need before they say ‘that’s enough’ (unless Apple come along with a totally new product!)
The reason I wanted to talk about this today in relation to your own company was three fold:
- When working ON your business (rather than for your business), whatever technology you use, it is worth giving due thought to the fact that one day, that technology will no longer be around. When this happens, what will be your backup plan?
- Everybody demands value for money. If you are the size of Microsoft, you can get away with selling the same stuff over and over – but only for so long. What you need is innovation. And I am not talking about taking what somebody else has done and adding an extra widget or a bigger screen or a go-faster stripe – I am talking about something new.
- Nothing lasts forever – and all companies will eventually fit into the hill curve of growth and decline (including mine). Be smart enough to recognise where you are on the curve, wise enough to do something about it if you are on the wrong side, and brave enough to walk away and try something new if you have reached the bottom of the hill.
There I was; with an email landing in my inbox saying that they wanted me to provide services, there was the purchase order number, there was the day rate we had agreed, lets get cracking. And I said no.
I thought it was worth sharing this story – in case you ever find yourself in the same position.
The history with the prospect is not complex. They had found my company via a Google web search, I had gone and visited them, we had talked terms, agreed rates, and then the emailed order arrived.
Trouble with my Gut
Now, I could say there was something wrong with the prospect. I could say that they tried to beat my rate down or demand too much bang for their buck. But no. The problem was with me – or to be more specific, it was my gut.
The logic of wanting to earn money and have a new customer was telling me to take the work, but my gut said… something was not right.
I could not put my finger on it. I have never had the bad feeling twinges about a prospect that I was getting about this one. Not ever!
I discussed the situation with my wife and some business friends, and when they asked me why I didn’t want to work with the prospect, all I could say was that it didn’t feel right.
I even tweeted my worries:
Jaffa Brown ?@JaffaBrown
Today, i am having a hard time deciding whether to take on a prospect as a new client. Something seems wrong, & my gut says No, run away.
And got a great reply from one of my twitter friends:
@idea15webdesign The measure of your business’s quality isn’t the projects you take on, but the projects you turn away.
Confirming and attempted work around
So for the next day or two, I worked with the prospect to try and work out what was wrong. But as soon as I started to talk about working practices (rather than the work to be done or the day rate), it threw up even more concerns.
They started talking about being available for out of hours phone calls, free consultations, multiple levels of approval for work, and paying by the day with full record keeping. The worries started to crystallize. My gut feelings maybe were making me more weary than I should have been, or see problems which were not really there, but every moment the sense not to work with them grew.
In the end, I sent them a very polite email in reply to their order of work saying “Sorry to disappoint, but…..” with a few reasons why I could not work for them. At the end of the email, I said “For these reasons, I feel that it would not be prudent for us to form a working relationship at this time. However, if you are still looking for assistance, I would be happy to suggest some alternative freelancers who could assist you”.
Once I pressed send on the email, I honestly felt so much better.
The take away
Let me be straight; I may have got this very wrong. It may be that the prospect would have been a great customer, caused me no problems, would have paid their bills, and everything would have been great. But, my gut said something was wrong. Call it gut instinct, sixth sense, sub-conscious decision making or a guardian angel, but whatever it was, it was shouting to get out of there, and out of there I got.
As business owners, it is far too easy to say yes when trying to win new business or earn money, only to find that we have taken on the customer from hell which will cause us sleepiness nights, grief and lost money.
My advice for fellow freelancers, contractors and small business owners is: If in doubt, try and work the doubts out. But if at the end of the day, your gut or heart has concerns, just say no. Saying No is not just a decision which is exclusive to the customers, we freelancers have the right to say No as well if it’s the right decision.
Do you think it’s the end users of your service – the staff within the company who will use the products, services, management or consultation you are providing?
Do you think it is the top level boss of the company – the MD, FD or CEO?
Do you think its that person who insists you help them – the one who always goes whining to everybody when they are not happy?
Do you think it’s the person who pays the bills – the head of the finance department?
I am going to suggest the most important person is…. the person who originally agreed for you to start work on the contract. Simply because – it is they who will make the decision whether to keep you on when it comes to contract renewal time.
You may have done a lot of great work for the MD, helped out one thousand end users, and assisted all your new friends in the desks around you with their technical work, but if that person who employed you is not aware of all your activity, then your perceived value is greatly reduced, and this will impact you when they are weighing up whether to renew you or just let your existing contract end and let you leave.
So whatever you do, make sure that person who controls your contract is your VIP.
Give them a special “I always pick up for you” ring tone on your phone, make sure your client email system highlights all their emails, and make sure their work is always a high propriety in your do list (dropping other work when they give you a new action).
That is, assuming you want to be renewed in your contract.
But when things go bad, how honest should you be with customers or financial backers?
Let me give you an example (from the real word)….
This last month was a rough one for us. We had a former disgruntled partner that was unhappy about where we were going with Trigger Happy. Taking matters into his own hands, this employee physically wounded other employees and threatened to sell out our intellectual property. It’s a sore subject for us, so we won’t elaborate, but this former partner left us in a disastrous mess. He obscured all our shipping records so we had to rebuild our shipping lists one customer at a time. As you can guess, we have been very preoccupied rebuilding our records. The effect has caused a delay in application development and product delivery. Luckily, the storm has calmed, and everybody at Trigger Happy is smiling again. We’re back on track. We are shocked and saddened for what has happened, but we are more motivated than ever!
The above update was a long overdue update from the founder of a recent Kickstarter company/project called Trigger Happy (a way of controlling DSLR cameras from mobile phones). I am one of the backers.
After a month of people screaming on the kick-starter forum asking why the project was so overdue (3 months and counting) and with the few items that were shipped not working, the above project update was posted by the project founder.
I have a couple of problems with the above update (which can be read in full here):
- Its way too honest and gives too much information. Look, companies have problems, but no customer or backer wants to be told the details because….. they don’t care. What they care about is how it affects them. Where is the service they ordered, their product, the refund? Does the situation cause them any risk or pain?? If you are in a restaurant and you have been waiting an hour for your food to arrive, you don’t want to know there is a delay because water has flooded the kitchen or they have run out of chicken or the chief has sliced his or her finger off – they want to know if they should be leaving to get food elsewhere – i.e., just give me an ETA for my steak. In the above communication, I would have just said “We had technical issues with our customer database, but the issue is now resolved, and we apologise for the delay”.
- In this situation, after around 100 or so complaint posts on the forum (“where is my TriggerHappy?”, “I want a refund!”, “Why are you not keeping us informed?”), it took a month to post the update. When there are problems, constant communication is a MUST. It only takes 5 minutes to send an update.
I have said it before, and I will say it again – communication is King!!!! You can never communicate too much – keep everybody informed and they wont start guessing what is (or is not) going on and imagining the worst.
But as I say, you can be too honest (as in this example). Yes, tell them there was a problem (and it has been resolved), but really, people don’t care about the details – they just care what the effect will be for them, and that everything is back on track.
I recently had a dinner with my business mentor.
I have great respect for my mentor. He has been in business for over fifty years, and worked his way up from a 1 man band business, to his current position of owning and running three major IT companies with a joint turnover of over £50million a year. When he gives advice and thoughts, I listen.
During the course of the meal, we started talking about social networks media. After all, every other blog post, tweet and conversation seems to be about one form of social media or other.
His thoughts on social media were as follows:
It’s great – for what it is, but think of it this way….
In Africa, wildebeest, zebras and antelopes travel in packs. During the big migrations, these packs can number several million animals. The reason they travel in packs is protection. By traveling in a pack of so many animals, all the same, all in the same direction, the chance of being picked off by a lion or hyena is a lot slimmer. The lesson for such African ‘cattle’ is- do what others do to blend in.
BUT, in business, you don’t want to blend in. Being another zebra amongst the other 10,000 zebras is bad. How are customers supposed to tell one zebra from another? And shouting how different you are, when there are 9,999 voices raised in the same pack, all shouting there own message – well, your message just gets lost in the noise.
And social networking is just like zebras in a pack – yes it’s useful for some situations and it serves a purpose (and should not be ignored), but you will never stand out from the crowd if you are doing the exact same thing as everybody else
So whilst all the social media advice is to create blogs, create twitter streams, facebook pages and the like, maybe the best way of gaining attention is standing away from the crowd.
Again using my business mentors words, when everybody else Zigs, its time for you to Zag. In other words, time to revisit those ‘old school’ marketing techniques that everybody else is now ignoring.
Some of the assumptions have been just stupid. Some have been mean, but most are just plain wrong.
It doesn’t matter if you are a permie who is thinking about becoming a freelancer, or an existing freelancer – get these assumptions wrong, and you will soon be in financial trouble.
- You are your own boss- The number one assumption is of course you are your own boss. But EVERYBODY answers to somebody (even presidents and prime ministers of countries have a boss – the public that vote them in, and CEOs answer to the share holders). As a freelancer, your boss is your customer. At the end of the day, its they who dictate what you do and whether you get paid. However, admittedly you get to pick the roles you take, and therefore which boss you work for.
- You get to work in your pyjamas and watch TV all day - Now I admit that there are the odd occasions when I have worked in pyjamas – but they are far and few between. Most of the time, I am working on a customer site (so wearing suite and tie), or I am working in my home office so still dress for doing work. I find if you dress the part, you work the part. As for the TV watching, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
- You earn so much money compared to permanent staff – How many thousands of times do I hear this. Yes, if you look at my day rate, I get paid more than permanent staff. BUT, hang on – out of that money I have to pay personal tax, VAT, insurance, corporate tax, and a whole lot more. Plus, if I am ill, or on holiday, or it’s a public holiday I don’t get paid – a permie does. Factor that in, and the salaries won’t be too different.
- You can take holidays whenever you like – As can permanent staff – we both have to ask our current boss (customer) to check with their plans. And remember, permies get paid whilst they sit in the sun – I don’t.
- You get paid to do little to no work – I wish this was true. In fact, it’s the reverse. As customers are being charged £x a day for my services, you can be sure that they want a full detailed breakdown of what they are paying for, what I am working on, and what value they are getting. Plus, whilst earning money freelancing or contracting, I am also busy advertising, running my company, doing accounts etc.
- You can write everything off as a tax dodge - sure we can. I can order a nice plasma TV and mark it as a corporate expense. Or how about that new camera or even a holiday. It’s all good – right up to the moment when I have to justify it to the tax man. Contractors who write too much off will be looking at repaying it all the money PLUS some serious fines. One of the biggest mistakes I see other freelancers make is to spend all they earn – forgetting that out of that $100 earned, a large chunk will eventually have to be paid as one or more tax bills.
- It doesn’t matter if you make work mistakes – I actually heard this one just last week. As a freelancer – you are only as good as your last contract or assignment. Make mistakes, and it will hurt your reputation and will make landing more work difficult. At the end of the day, we all want to do a good job (and avoid being shouted at).
- You never worry about being made redundant – Now I admit I don’t worry about being made redundant (there are always other contracts and freelance gigs out there). However, you are always worried that the work will dry up, or that the contract will be cancelled with no notice (as a freelancer you get no real notice period).
- You are there just to make permanent people look foolish – I have heard this being said to other freelancers (and contractors) by permanent people who resent freelancers coming in to help on projects. Yes, there are freelancers who don’t take into account others feelings, but this would happen even if they were joining a company as a regular employee. Being a freelancer just makes it more likely this will be thrown in a freelancer’s direction by employees with an axe to grind. I generally overcome this by working with the permanent staff, and sharing knowledge with them.
- You get paid SOOOO MUCH MONEY – Finally, we come to the assumption that freelancers (or contractors) are rich beyond compare. We all drive flash cars, live in mansions, sleep on beds of cash and want for nothing. Well, whilst a skilled and clever freelancer can make a decent living, I can assure you that my bed is sprung loaded rather than cash-stuffed, and I can’t yet afford a new set of solid gold cutlery for each and every meal.
This may all seem very negative towards being a freelancer. It’s not meant to be. It’s just that even now, I know people who are considering freelancing as a new career and have a rose-tinted view of what it is like to work for yourself (see assumption #1).
Can it make you rich? Well, if you are skilled in what you do and are lucky in the work that you secure – it can be fruitful. Is it hard work? Yes, very hard – especially in the beginning.
Is it worth it? Oh yes – but it takes time for it to become so.
You want your freelance or small business to grow, right? You want an easy life, and happy customers or staff, yes? And you don’t want people complaining to or about you, do you?
If so, then can I recommend the following five rules of business communication (which were handed down to me by one of my old business mentors)? He taught me that if you follow these rules in all communication (with prospects, staff, customers and even in personal matters), it will make things run a lot easier and will head off a lot of problems before they occur.
I have these rules on a small card pinned next to my computer screen – just so I don’t forget them, and I try to follow them in all my communication.
Anyway – on with the rules…
Rule 1 – Keep people up-to-speed
One of the worst things in business is not knowing what is going on. It’s an easy situation for people to find themselves in. They ask you to do something, and the response is silence – they can only guess whether you are working on their request, they are number 100 in your queue of actions, or if you are ignoring them. So remember to communicate whenever anything significant changes, or just send them a regular status email to keep them informed.
Rule 2 – Be explicit in what you are saying and asking
Miss-communication is bad. But what is worse, is expecting somebody else to read your mind, or in-between the lines. If you want something, say exactly what it is you want. As an example, don’t say fuzzy things such as “well, your support ends next month, so what do you want to do about it?” – Say what you want – “your support ends next month, so I need you to raise a new purchase order for £5,000 which needs to be with me by Friday because without this….”.
Rule 3 – Make it easy, simple and obvious
Keep the communication short, use simple words, and keep it obvious in terms of subject and content. Think of each communication as costing you money – every word you can cut out saves you a pound, and every word that isn’t used on a day to day basis (the extra long padding words such as ‘conceptualize’, ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘leverage’) costs you £2.
Rule 4 – If in doubt, pick up the phone
Some things are better said than typed. If emails or letters have turned into a multi-bouncing discussion or too many people have been copied in, pick up the phone and have the discussion. If its bad news, pick up the phone and take the heat rather than taking the cowards way out with a text or email.
Rule 5 – Automate the communication
Where possible – automate the communication. This doesn’t mean adopting a spam generating system which will churn out useless sales rubbish, but use a system that either allows people to find the information themselves (such as using a really good online project portal allowing customers to keep track of their projects when they want), or create manual processes where you keep people up to date with the current situation.
We put a lot of effort into starting projects; from nurturing prospects through to agreeing terms and requirements. But what about when projects are completed – how do you wrap up and complete projects?
In order to keep a good relationship and possibly win future business with the customer, doing a project hand over is just as important as the project start.
What to include in the hand over
Depending on the type of work that you do and the size of the project, a face to face hand over meeting may be required. If this is the case, it should normally be agreed from the start and factored in your initial work assessment and quotations.
Regardless of whether the project hand over is a face to face meeting, or is performed by email, some of the hand over aspects which you may want to factor in include:
- Training – Depending on the skill level of your customer, some degree of hand over training may be required. This of course could be factored into the initial quotation, or could be offered as an after-service when the project is completed (with an additional fee). Just remember that if you train them *too well*, they may not need your services in the future.
- Support and Maintenance – The flip side of training is support and maintenance (for me, the icing on the freelance cake). If you can charge your customer a regular yearly amount in advance for fixing problems and answer questions, well, that’s how companies grow and big profits are made. If support and maintenance is a consideration, you will need to think about what form the support will take and what the limits are.
- Problem Resolution and Warranty – As part of a hand over, your customer will want to know what to do if they hit a problem. Let them know how long you will support them for (if at all), what to do if they need changes, and how to contact you (you may want them to use a separate support email address for instance). This then ties them in to the support and maintenance agreements. Be clear about what will be free corrections, and what will be chargeable.
- Suggested Next Steps – Without being too pushy, it is worth providing them with a suggested set of next steps (how their product, web site, documents, etc could be expanded for more value). This is one of my key ways of generating future business.
- Passwords and source code – If you have provided them with a product (software product, documents, art work or web site), they will most likely expect to receive the source code. If there are associated web domains, passwords, or accounts, don’t forget to document these. It will save a lot of problems in the future.
- Time Periods – For most projects, you will have copies of their designs/source/art work on your computers and their projects on your project management systems (you do use a project management system to save time and money, right?). It is well worth stating clearly how long you will retain these copies for before you delete them. This is important as you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where they delete their copy by mistake, and expect to come back to you in 5 years time for another copy (which you no longer can provide).
Thank you – Don’t forget to say a big thank you for their business. You don’t need to go over the top, but in today’s climate, a simple thank you will go a long way.
- Survey and Referral – The end of the project is a perfect time to arrange an end of contract customer survey which covers all your dealings with the customer (from quotation to invoice), and also to ask if they would be happy to provide either a reference or a referral.
- Contact Branding – And don’t forget to brand everything with your company. It should be clearly stamped with your company logo, name, address, web site URL, phone number and email address. It may be that your main customer contact may leave in the future, but your documentation will remain on file for others to get in contact for future work.
Get it right, repeat and evolve
This may all seem like a lot of effort, but the secret is to create a generic project hand-over document (or set of documents), which can be used and tweaked for each project. Once you have a template, the updating of a hand over document becomes part of the project closure, and takes a lot less effort in the future.
As with all other documents your company produces (such as the quotation templates, questions list, etc), this can be a living document, that evolves (and improves) over time.
Preparation and submission of the handover document soon becomes a natural part of your project delivery structure.
Maybe now is not the right time to sell
One thing to bear in mind is that the project handover process and documents are there to present subtle messages of next actions, professionalism, and to keep your company name in front of your customer. However, I have found in the past that coming out and asking for more work directly as part of the project handover very rarely works.
The customer will be too wrapped up in getting to grips with the product or service you have just delivered.
It is far better to present the hand over, and at the end, agree a scheduled call or meeting as a ‘follow up’ (to check everything is still ok) in a month or so’s time. That is then the perfect time to raise the ‘next steps’ you have suggested and to look at fishing for the next project.
Let me kick off this brief discussion about the KISS system with one basic fact….
The more Complex Something is, the more likely it is that it will fail
Now let me expand on this with an example….
Let’s assume you have been tasked to design a prison. This prison will hold just one inmate – for life. So let’s start with the most basic of prison ideas.
You build a prison made up of four walls – the walls are 20 feet tall and 3 foot thick, with no windows or doors. Into this walled box, you put the prisoner. With no tools available – the chances of escape are very slim (other than somebody landing a helicopter in the prison or throwing a rope over the wall). Its simple – it works – it’s almost escape proof.
But, you need to feed the prisoner, and give them a view – so you build a door and a couple of windows. Now, they have a means of escape – the doors and windows become ‘weak points’.
So to compensate, you make it even more complex – now you have to place guards at the doors and windows, and complex locks. But by making it more complex, so it becomes easier to escape – there are more options. Locks can be picked, guards can be bribed.
So the cycle of making things more complex grows, until you have a system so complex that you have introduced 100 ways to escape, and another 100 ways to protect the 100 soft points.
The KISS principle in Business
Software for instance grows to be so complex with so many wiz-bang features that a program can end up with millions of lines of code, and millions of possible bugs. Whenever a change is required, all of the actions of the software have to be considered to see what any changes will break – and things can easily be forgotten. Which is why there are never ending patches in Windows and Microsoft Office Products.
Sometimes it’s too easy to get wrapped up with having the most features, buttons, menus, options, configurations, colours, languages, and choices. But this means more time and cost for design, development and maintenance – and more problems for you and your customers.
So maybe, keeping things simple (at least to start with) is a design and sales tactic worth considering in your next project.