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|Friday, August 09, 2013|
BY TOM COX | BUSINESS TIPS CONTRIBUTOR
Joan was tearing out her hair. Her client was driving her nuts.
Every project with this client, it was some variation on the same thing — they took forever to approve anything, and then expected next-day turnaround from Joan’s team. Other times, in the middle of important discussions, they would just go silent, like a submarine avoiding the enemy.
When Joan tried to discuss the delays, or suggested charging a rush fee, the client would wig out.
I hear this a lot with my project-based clients — be they engineering firms, software, creative, construction, whatever.
And in a recent analysis of causes of how projects lose money, a few key drivers emerged as causing 80% of losses — the most common being client communications failures.
Why We Suffer
We allow projects to drift and run late for several reasons:
Unfortunately, these rarely have the desired effect. Clients push because they are trying to get as much ‘free stuff’ as we’ll give them — and they won’t know how much we’ll give until we stop. It’s our job to set firm boundaries.
What We can Do
For Joan, we actually counted all the ways projects got side-tracked or became “un-smooth.” (A correctly estimated “smooth” project makes money. An un-smooth project nearly always loses money.) We found that 83% of the problems were caused by this same trio:
For that client we devised what I now call the “TWIST Memo” — it worked for Joan and it very well might work for you.
The TWIST Memo
A TWIST Memo is a standard email you send to your client at least once a week in which you communicate with extreme clarity. This clarity leaves neither party any room to hide. It drives projects forward.
Here’s how to write a TWIST Memo.
Before you Begin
When you on-board your client or start your next project or re-launch a struggling project, introduce the TWIST Memo. Explain that you will regularly send them emails of this format. Explain that you’re doing it in order to make the project work. Show them an example.
This on-boarding of the client regarding TWIST memos makes it easier to follow through. Real accountability (not blame) is always front-loaded. (For a free assessment of your firm’s true level of accountability, click here.)
The TWIST Memo has five parts.
T = Thing I Need
In the first part you state exactly what you need — a decision, an approval, a marked up sheet, some text, whatever it is. Be super-clear on what you need.
Example: “I need you to send me back your choice of which of the attached three images we should use on the promotions page.”
W = When I Need It
Here you state the exact deadline, including the date, time, and even the Time Zone.
Example: “This decision needs to be in our hands no later than 3 PM on Friday of this week, 8/9.”
I = Impact of Missing It
Here you tell the client what happens if the deadline is missed.
Example: “If we don’t get your decision by then and you ask for an extension, the web page will launch late, or you’ll be charged a rush fee of $500.”
S = Silence Means What
Sometimes clients just go silent. They don’t approve anything, and they don’t tell you they’ll be late. In this section we handle that case explicitly by stating what exactly you will interpret their silence to mean.
Example: “If I don’t hear anything from you by the deadline and you don’t ask for an extension, I will select the image that I think is the best fit to the campaign theme, and we’ll move forward with it.”
T = Thank you
End by sincerely thanking the client. It’s short, and you must always include it.
Example: “Thank you for your business. We all appreciate your confidence in us.”
Moral of the Story
Clients will live up or down to your expectations.
For Joan, the drive to make every project be “smooth” led to a quadrupling of profitability. Meanwhile, stress and burnout went down.
Instead of letting your project get tangled and delayed, use a simple TWIST to keep things straight.
Tom Cox is a Beaverton consultant, author and speaker. He coaches CEOs on how to boost performance by building workplace trust.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
BY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER
The founder of Pacific Foods talks about why his company has flown under the radar in Oregon, how saving a family-run chicken hatchery has helped his bottom line and why he thinks organic food is anything but elitist.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY BRANDON SAWYER
A conversation about the event-planning industry with sales directors from McMenamins and the Portland Art Museum.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
BY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Our 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
BY CLIFF HOCKLEY | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Proposed regulations protect Portland’s strict zoning codes and hotel operators, but they may have an adverse effect on Airbnb’s business.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR
SEMpdx hosted a workshop this week for entrepreneurs, website developers and others interested in search engine optimization (SEO). Here are a few tips and tricks aimed at bumping up your search engine rankings.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Brad Smith, founder of Hot Pepper Studios, and Travis Boersma, president of Dutch Bros. Coffee, share their recent reads.
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