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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, December 04, 2014
BY DEBRA RINGOLD | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
How important are institutional and/or program evaluations provided by third parties in selecting a college or university program?
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:
The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace.
Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.
This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay.
Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.
New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”
That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE
The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER
Tamara Lundgren tackles the challenges—without getting trampled.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY
Lawger upends the typical hourly based fee model by letting clients determine the cost.
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Amy will practice in the firm's Business, Real Estate, and Tax practice groups.
While the Bend City Council ultimately upheld the approval which enables OSU-Cascades to move forward with the 10 acre site, it did also thoughtfully consider the nature of its code requirements, resident concerns and OSU-Cascade’s efforts and suggestions and crafted conditions of approval to address potential impacts of the site in the area.