While a story is fresh in ones mind, it’s a great time to tell it. And so I set out to putting pen to paper about a recent consulting war story.
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A financial services firm reached out to me, asking about services. We discussed the project plan, and the day after the call I sent along a quote. I suggested three options, a weekly fee, a monthly one, or monthly with advance payment.
They decided to go with option C, and we arranged a kickoff meeting.
1. Level setting on trust
I’ve done this kind of work for so long, and worked with so many clients over the years, that it sometimes becomes second nature. I arrived, and we chatted amicably. I asked him about his wikipedia page, which he seemed excited to talk about.
I was surprised that there wasn’t a check ready, as we had decided on advanced payment in full, but didn’t make a mention right away. He then tried to dial in his partner, but that just went to voicemail. So we continued the meeting without him.
I don’t know how important the meeting was to both team members, but they were both on the invite & emails. His partner never called back through the meeting either.
2. Negotiations is part art & dance
Interestingly I had met up with some colleagues the night before over italian food. I mentioned I was meeting a new prospect the next day, but had reservations about whether they had really decided to hire me, or were just still prospecting.
So during the meeting I was somewhat conscious of that question. Are we already in exploratory, discovery mode? Has the project even begun? That’s a question, and from what I sensed it was still an open one.
As the meeting wore on, questions about oracle licenses, versions, and EC2 configurations came up. Furious note taking continues.
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3. Time & mismanagement
One thing that comes up for me in these situations is questions of time management. In order to work with a new client, I must clear my schedule, and make time available. That has a value to start with. When it turns out a project isn’t actually ready yet, it becomes an awkward stumble out of the gates.
4. Can you research this one thing
As I raised various concerns about Oracle, the data loader portion, and unknowns around how that software worked, the prospect asked if I could do a little research for them.
This is where things started to crack. Rather than answer the question, I made a more aggressive nod to the question on my mind: Have we really started on this project yet? I explained that I was confused, and gathered from our email this this was a kickoff meeting. The tension in the air rose noticeably.
He then explained “Well we’re still waiting to hear back from a vendor about XYZ”. From there I began to gather up my things.
5. Watch out for those Rothkos
As I stand up I comment on the digs. “Is this shared office space, those look like Rothkos?” I ask. “Nope this is all ours, my wife is a collector & art dealer. We have some real Warhol’s too”. “Wow…”, I respond, “tough business to be in!”. With that he says “Well it is very volatile, we can be out of business in a month.”
My take away here isn’t to be wary of all new prospects. Each person or business has their own *style* of doing business. Rather, until you’ve established trust with a new client, consider that you may not yet be working on the project at all.
And with that the dance continues. While you may wish to demonstrate and illustrate your knowledge, and the solutions you’d recommend, beware of solving the problem before you’re even hired!
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