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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.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Spring rains are the bane of an Oregon cherry farmer’s existence. Even a few sprinkles can crack the fruit so badly it’s not worth picking. Science to the rescue: Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a spray-on film that cuts rain-related cracking in half, potentially saving a season’s crop. The coating, patented as SureSeal, is made from natural chemicals similar to those found in the skins of cherries: cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
The right sunglasses can protect your eyes and look cool at the same time. This being the 21st century, select shades are socially conscious, too. Portland brand Shwood uses wood and other natural materials and manufactures locally. Founded by Ann Sacks, the brand Fetch dedicates a portion of its profits to animal welfare. But whether you choose classic tortiseshell or aviator chic, please, shed the sunglasses when you walk in the door — and, of course, at night.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE
Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that ban self serve gas stations. But these two holdouts may be ready to give up the game. New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. Oregon is considering smaller scale changes.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes.
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR
More than 250 people turned out today for Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon.
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