Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are you GOOD or FLEXIBLE ?


A few days ago, I had a conversation with a client. It went something like this:

Client: I want this and this and that, and I want it for yesterday. I don't care if you have to work nights and week ends, I'm the client, I'm paying you and I'm always right.

Me: I hear you. I will do everything I can to give you the best possible product at a decent price in the shortest time possible; but it will not be exactly as you say because: 1) You're late 2) You do not have the budget and 3) We have other good clients in the pipeline and the word I gave them is worth more than any money you can put on the table.

Client: You're not very flexible.

Me: No we're not. But we're very good instead.

Client: And you're cocky as well.

Me: No, not cocky; honest.

Client: What you're saying is that you are walking out of this deal.

Me: Not exactly. What I am saying is that we will walk out of any deal that will prevent us to deliver top quality.


I am in the service business and I have a variation of this conversation at least once a week.

People are always surprised when a business refuses money, even when the rest of the deal is crappy. For them, it just doesn't make sense. When you think short term, this way of thinking is just impossible.

When you think long term however, it is the only way to go.

FLEXIBLE Business will always:

- say YES
- promise whatever is asked of them
- over-promise and under-deliver
- accept money, regardless of what is attached to it
- bend their own rules and principles

By so doing:

- they will please the client in the short run, but disappoint him in the long run
- burn their staff and lose the respect of their team
- this will lead to high turnover with the added costs, lower morale and other problems that come along with it
- their best people will leave for better (GOOD) companies
- in the end, only the mediocre, insecure and newbies will remain

The more FLEXIBLE they'll be, the more they'll need to be, because by being FLEXIBLE, they will create conditions where is is impossible to be good.

On the other hand, GOOD companies will do just the opposite. By choosing their projects well, they might lose some money short term, but over time they will excel and establish a stellar track record. And by so doing, they will gain the respect of their staff and attract superstars into their team. They will never neglect an established client to accommodate a new one in a hurry. They will also get good client referrals because they will very rarely disappoint their clients. Their word will become more valuable than all the money they will have left on the table.

By refusing jobs where they cannot excel, they'll become better and better. Their portfolio and referrals will attract other interesting customers looking for a GOOD business partner rather than a FLEXIBLE one. And these are the best and most profitable clients a business can have.

You see, it's Pareto's principle all over again: 80% of your profits comes from 20% of your clients. And that's the 20% of very good clients that never complains. On the other hand, 80% of your problems comes from 20% of your clients. These are the ones that are never satisfied, that want you to be more FLEXIBLE.

Be careful not to neglect your good (and quiet) clients to please the vocal ones asking you to be more FLEXIBLE.

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