Make the Most out of Your Professional Relationships
Have you ever worked with someone that took ages to respond to your emails, didn't tell you the full story/truth at the start or went AWOL halfway through your project? Well, I have... and it doesn't feel very nice. It can be the client or the professional behaving in this way, but you shouldn't have to put up with it and you definitely should make sure you are not the one behaving badly... here are some pointers that I feel are important for professional relationships running smoothly.
Life is busy. Business is busy. People are busy. It is, what it is. While you surely think of how your actions affect others as much as you possibly can, eg. when on the road or in a restaurant, do you think of how your actions are affecting your professional relationships? Are you too busy to respond to an email, return a call or send through the requested files? Or even, pay your bill?
Too busy is not a valid excuse anymore... we are all 'too' busy.
You know that saying 'nice guys finish last' - well, it relates to relationships (and is totally untrue) but it also relates to business and this makes me sad. I'm a nice person. I love helping people. I will always do my absolute best to help someone and whenever I've been employed I've tried to treat the business as my own - to really care about what I do. But I'll tell you what, I've been treated like absolute dirt by MANY people. Walked all over, given HUGE workloads and paid peanuts... and I know loads of other people who have been or are in the same position! But after years of this, I finally learned to set my boundaries and values and make sure I stick to them and now I also expect people I deal with to have good values and mutual respect too. Those who don't, are not my ideal client - and I'm in a place in business and life, where I only work with my ideal client: heart-centered, inspired entrepreneurs who value and respect themselves, other people and their time + have a positive impact on the world.
I want to share some advice on how to make the best out of any professional relationship. I want to make it easy for you to get the most out of your relationship and for the relationship to be mutually beneficial > one person gets their problem solved professionally and properly > the other gets paid to do what they love doing and help a business grow (which in turn helps others)... because everything is connected.
Right, my advice:
Be honest from the start: many a time I have talked openly with people about their business goals, only to later find out they had neglected to tell me some potentially game changing information. You might not think it is relevant, but the best policy is to be transparent, authentic and honest... because what you keep 'hidden' might be the part that was missing all along.
Ask questions just to know the answer or when you are unsure: its pretty straight forward... you don't know something until you know it and you learn things from asking questions (whether you ask a person, Google or a book). With knowledge comes freedom and power + new abilities we never knew we had and new solutions to problems we thought were unsolvable - it is ultimately where growth comes from.
Write things down and take notes: People ask me how I know so much, or how I can pick up a job or task so quickly.... well friends, my secret is.... I write everything down! Easy, any new task, I buy a little notebook and I take notes, photocopy pricing sheets and reduce them in size and paste them into my notebook, ask questions and write down answers. Easy... I once learned how to run a WHOLE video store(systems, ordering, suppliers, computer programs, cleaning discs, etc) PLUS the ID card printer, laminator and how to manage 3-5 staff IN 3 DAYS. Take notes, I'm not lying... it works. (As well as listening and asking questions when unsure).
Provide the information requested in full as asked: So I published a free emagazine for the last couple of years and I would send out the interview questions with some instructions on how to respond... I reckon it was 50/50 on people actually following those instructions and those who just made it really difficult for me to put it all together for publishing. Some people didn't even answer the questions (despite the published creative profiles being in Q+A format), they just wrote what they wanted, among other things... With my design biz I have clients I request information from that is required to start their project so it can be completed within our pre-arranged timeline and don't hear from them for a week (or more) and when they do send what is requested, it isn't correct... It happens all over the show, more than you think so please, please, please... follow instructions and provide information as requested. Most businesses have processes in place to streamline things to reduce time wastage and therefore expense... it saves you time and them time and therefore money - because as we all know Time IS Money
Be prompt with your response time: this one is pretty simple, get back to people within a 'reasonable' timeframe. Try for a 24-48hr turnaround time with responding to emails, etc. Waiting on you might be holding the whole project up (or you might miss an important deadline). The best thing to do is to set aside time each day to respond to emails/messages/request. When I'm super busy I try to do morning, noon and end of day - usually I can see them pop up throughout the day and know if they are urgent or not. I also know if it is SUPER urgent, then hopefully the person will phone me... It's always good to note someone's business hours as maybe they only work Tues-Thurs, which means if you don't get back to them by Thursday midday, they likely won't get it until Tuesday morning... that is a long time when you are waiting on an answer!
Keep your commitments and be on time to appointments: I like to keep things pretty casual and flexible because I know life throws you curveballs, but, I also get booked up pretty quick with client work and personal projects that require scheduling to meet deadlines. This means if you delay the start on a project that has already been pre-scheduled, you will drop down the queue in priority... Just as important as keeping your commitments, is being on time for them - we all know that if we are late to the doctor or dentist, then we will probably miss our appointment and still have to pay for it - it isn't any different for a designer. Every minute during work-time is money. [People will have learned pretty quick if they have worked with a lawyer or accountant who charges $250 PER HOUR! That is around $4.17 per minute and they usually charge a minimum 15 minutes...] We are all late every so often through no fault of our own, but just don't be surprised if you get charged from the start time of your appointment, even though you were 20 minutes late AND don't be surprised if your appointment still finishes on time (this means you lose a precious 20 minutes of time you paid for but didn't actively use) [TIME IS MONEY]
Don't take the relationship for granted: self-explanatory. We are all human and we are all hopefully trying our best at having a good fulfilling life. Be respectful of your relationship and don't take it for granted. You don't know what you've lost until its gone...
Well that felt like a bit of a rant... but hey, just information and ideas in my head that needed to get out and into your head! On a closing note, now that you are 'checking' your behaviour... Remember why you hired this person... It was/is to do something that either you cannot, don't have time to or don't want to do yourself but still want done properly. That is worth respecting and remembering.
Be a good client.
Most people these days don't need to and won't put up with bad clients and unprofessional business people. Don't burn your bridges. Have fun and enjoy working with these professionals. They are your TEAM and may grow to be like family for you. We can't do life alone and we can't do business on our own either. Mutual respect and communication is the key to a good professional relationship.
Thanks for reading.