Often times in business there is a mindset that change is a necessity or that change, for change’s sake, is needed in order to improve upon things.
Even if those things are going well. To that, I say “hogwash.” Why must we change things that seemingly work well?
A quote from Thomas J. Watson, chairman and CEO of IBM stuck with me while I was writing this post: “The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it’s very difficult to build and very easy to destroy. The essence of trust building is to emphasize the similarities between you and the customer.”
Why is there a mindset in services businesses to replace solid, existing clients with shiny new ones? (Or a procurement mindset that we should replace service providers every few years, even when that service provider has proven they know our business and can deliver against our objectives?) Shouldn’t the focus be on building relationships with existing clients, while growing their respective businesses? Certainly that’s not to suggest companies shouldn’t pursue new clients.
New business is the lifeblood of any consultancy
And new work often times galvanizes the workforce. It breeds innovation and thought leadership. I’m not arguing against bringing in new business; new business is exciting and often, without it, business stagnates. But, we shouldn’t be so quick to kick existing clients to the curb just because they’re “difficult.” They may experience pressure from their superiors that makes their job difficult and have no control over the the things you find difficult about working with them. Helping them succeed by learning about their pain points, their business challenges and ways to improve their bottom lines can go a long way to changing the dynamic of a client relationship.
In our industry a lot of companies are very quick to say they offer “strategic services.” What exactly are these strategic services? Can you describe them? I’d argue that it’s not very easy to offer strategic insight into businesses where you have little- to- no experience. Sure, as a Mobile Development Shop that requires its team members to be masters of our technology, we can offer insights into “Best Mobile Practices” all day long. And we are damn good at it. But, suggesting that we can overhaul a business in a short period of time is a bit of a stretch. It takes time to truly understand a client’s business needs, especially in industries we haven’t yet worked.
The real opportunity with clients is in the long term
Short term plays don’t really benefit anyone. After all, how much skin do you really have in the game if you are building something quickly and then walking away from it? We have several clients at stable/kernel that we have worked with for a lengthy period of time (more than twelve months). And, I would argue that their mobile app trajectory is far greater than most new clients. Why? Because we understand their business needs. Over time they have shared these needs with us and through our countless meetings, we really understand their challenges and goals. And we get where they want to go because they have shared their vision and strategies to achieve that vision with us. This allows us to dive deeper into their respective businesses. And this is truly when we become the product team. Therein is the real value.
Developing open, transparent client relationships is what we set out to do every day
If we feel like a client is not a good fit, we are not afraid to say so. There is no silver bullet, but we believe if we work hard to understand each client’s business needs and goals, we are one step closer to developing a clear and effective strategy to reach those goals.
This approach often involves a great deal of investment in discovery and investigation, but it is worth everyone’s time in the short term to avoid wasting everyone’s time in the long term. And isn’t every good relationship worth a little investment on the part of both parties? We are not the right shop for every business. And that’s ok. But we owe it to potential partners to examine the relationship carefully and develop a plan that will deliver long-term, meaningful results.