I personally take lots of things for granted. When I don’t – I grow. Same growth is enabled for business, profits, value gained. Let me briefly share how verbally arranged details can both create value and lead to massive business losses if not managed properly at the same time.
Who am I to tell? For the last 15 years, when people have a start-up idea or need a new service for their corporate job, they come to me to understand how to turn an idea into a digital product or improved processes/procedures at traditional businesses. In lots of cases, these requests turned to orders for the development agency I created or consultancy gigs to support development. I worked with a range of clients from Baltics (Europe) to Scandinavia, Western Europe, USA and Canada.
In all cases, small details mattered. Those tiny minor details, no matter how cool was the tech we developed, either made clients happy or unsatisfied with the end result. Each deliverable they got either strengthened our business relationships or weakened. Only a small fraction of corporate clients didn’t care about the end result.
Investing in detailed notes, double-checking what were crucial details helped. I did not take anything for granted, my team neither. Lots of notes in the meetings, follow up notes after meetings, wrap-ups, and lengthyyyy emails. This approach did not work. We were selling (and on the other side of the table we wanted to buy) an end product. If the price wouldn’t meet the budget – all the investment goes to the trashbin. It was hard to sell only analytical work and keep transparency that afterward there might be no project happening. With confirmed projects once we faced questions (or discussions what we agreed on) it turned out that detailed emails weren’t read and/or understood. In order to stay in the business we treated these situations in favor of the client (and profitability was lover then expected).
The second approach we tested was to include juniors. Juniors were our assistants to take notes. We saved some numbers on the payroll, doubled the amount of the documentation and helped juniors to grow a lot. However, without the senior management, juniors lacked knowledge, competence was low and clients started questioning our pricing. Nobody wanted to invest their valuable time explaining obvious (for them) things before the contract was signed. When juniors shadowed senior managers, the gain for business was really small or not existing at all. Quality of the documents was ok, but the main question – which features, details are the killer ones were often answered incorrectly.
Juniors simply lack the experience to notice the importance of small details. A pre-set list of questions with a leading flow to the details was pretty unique and non-existing at the time.
Automation is in our blood. IT solutions we were creating help to automate work and we were building those! We tried to automate ours. We created templates of questionnaires for a more standardized approach. We listed those questions, made experiments sending out to the clients. In addition, we tested bringing questionnaires to the meetings. After 6 months we stopped doing that actively. Knowledge gained was a great learning resource for junior and huge paperwork to do for the client. A client did not see what’s in it for him so he’d put his heart into the task. We did not understand that at the time. Seeing this as a help for the client was delusional.
When I receive similar questionnaires from other IT companies I capture myself thinking I waste my time with unimportant tasks. Personally, I get that they want to be secured (same as I did) in case something is not meeting expectations. Yet it is not my problem (yet), it’s theirs!
Considering I am often distracted by other activities happening, it makes things worse. By nature – sitting down, thinking carefully and deeply is a thing that happens on rare occasions in this fast pace world. At the same time, without assistance, I am not sure what the question actually means or why it is important for the other side.
The relationship is built over time. Obviously, we put the nicest image of us in the beginning. We put most of the effort into understanding these pain points, explaining stuff and advocate small misunderstandings in favor of others. With most of the projects, we learned, the confirmed and secured workflow of noting details, scoping budgets, etc is… left only on paper. We go for compromises and senior people are less involved as “there is no need for them, tasks are relatively simple”. Confirmation of budgets, once there is some money constantly circulating, is not so strict anymore.
And that is why verbally arranged details matter so much. People in business relationship speak or chat more than write and define (on paper). Each short cut (for speed / efficiency / saved money) was making everybody unhappy on the long run. Communication is key. And the lock communication unlocks is clarity. To reach the highest level possible of clarity each detail matters. Being on the same page is equally important to have the same context (having read the same book so far).
For the last 3 years, I was experimenting with different speech 2 text engines for personal and business usage. Once we built DoneDeal Today I sorted all the above-listed issues/challenges with a single app. We can again put a minimum effort into documenting agreements and focus on understanding the important details that actually create the difference for our relationship with the AI assistance.