Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Advanced Technique

After much thought and consideration, I've decided to share a bit of what I've learned over the years. From this, I hope you will come to appreciate what I now call 'The advanced technique'.

1. Dealing with clients

When dealing with clients, especially in the fields I am accustomed to working in (Programming, Design, etc.) I have three simple rules that are of the utmost importance to uphold (for me anyway).

A. ALWAYS have a signed contract with EVERY SINGLE DETAIL (services to be rendered, payment down to the dollar/euro, etc., etc.) CLEARLY spelled out, AND a 25-50% payment before writing a single line of code.

B. Never let the client talk you out of the contract or into changing it once it's signed.

C. Always have a contingency plan in the event that anything goes south later on down the road.

Let me go ahead and explain reasoning behind the preceding rules. The first one is a protection for both me and the client. Especially the down payment. I've noticed that clients are A LOT less likely to stiff you on a bill if they've already paid at least something. Also, clarity is an absolute necessity because many people like to exploit 'shades of gray'. The second one is especially applicable when dealing with clients that are known personally. Many times friends or personal associates unknowingly breach the wall of professionalism by attempting such a ploy. This can be devastating to not only my wallet, but also my reputation. I'll admit there are times when friends will get a little discount based on my own discretion, but this friendly reduction in price should be decided upon BEFORE the written agreement is made and is to be reflected accordingly IN THE CONTRACT. The damage done to the reputation is simple: once word gets out that so and so has gotten a 'deal' in spite of a contract, then the binding authority of it is diminished. Now we come to the third 'rule': the contingency plan. This is needed at all times because one never knows when the arrangement can go south. This can happen even if a contract is signed. I'll go ahead and relate an example that occurred quite recently in fact with me. I was contracted to do some work for a client that I worked with previously for a little over a year or so. After completing what I was contracted to do (setting up a database, a simple 'coming soon' page, creating email addresses and configuring them with both outlook and entourage, and some financial consulting), he decided not to pay the final installment of the previously agreed upon compensation. I made several attempts to contact this client but was faced with phone call screening (i.e. 'caller-i.d.-ing') and no responses to voicemails, emails, or text communication. After four days of this I enacted my 'contingency plan', which was to undo everything I had done for the client. This involved deleting the database, the email addresses, and the coming soon page. This is just one example of a contingency plan that I have been forced to use over the years. That being said, I hope my logic has become a bit clearer.

2. Dealing with friends

Ah yes, the one thing that can be closer than a sibling. I must say, I have made a ton of friends over the years. I also have to admit that I've discontinued my association with many as well. I think the way you need to deal with friends is a bit different than how you deal with clients or even family. There are decisions that have to be made on how and even when to interact with them. I've noticed over the years that a few key elements have to be in a friendship. Some of these are as follows:

1. Honesty.
I say this because I've suffered a few too many times from the betrayal of a dishonest friend. This can be absolutely infuriating to discover that someone within your 'inner circle' is not who they appear to be.

2. Trustworthiness.
This actually ties in with the honesty point but goes a bit further. I mean, how can you truly be friends with a person if they aren't trustworthy? I actually have had a so-called 'friend' steal from me (I'm actually trying to track this ape down to this day). It is still amazing to me how a person can have a close association with another and then all of a sudden take advantage of him/her. Well, I believe that the offender was never really of strong moral fiber at all. That it was simply a matter of masking their true selves for as long as possible. However, a tiger never changes his stripes.

3. Trust.
This may be an academic matter but I believe trust is essential for a friendship to be a close one. When one has a close friend, he/she can be confided in with delicate and profound matters of discussion and thought. There is no need to repeatedly say 'this is just between you and me'. One knows that if he/she pays for dinner, coffee or whatever the other person will respond in kind eventually. I look at it this way: for my friends (when it comes to money), 'if I have it, you have it'. That means, if I have the means to assist financially then I will without hesitation. It also means that if I need assistance, I do not have to worry about whether or not my close friend will provide it. Nor do I have to be concerned with backstabbing talk behind the back.
Like I said, these are just a few requirements of a close friendship, the list is nearly limitless. As long as no shadiness of any kind is present, the friendship (I've found)will be truly enjoyable and lasting. I suppose there are a few things that can destroy a friendship...for example:

1. Juvenile behavior.
Playing with one's food in a restaurant makes me want to get violent with the person. Eating crayons in public garners a slap as well. Dancing in the middle of Michigan avenue in Chicago is a capital offense. The list goes on and on.

2. Being overly 'clingy'.
If we are 'just friends', there should never arise a question of whereabouts. Let me elaborate. This should never be heard: 'where the eff have you been?! I've been waiting all day for you!' when no prior plans or arrangements have been made. This crosses into the boyfriend/girlfriend realm. There are other 'clingy' behaviors but again, the list is limitless.

3. Two-faced actions.
I don't think this really needs an explanation. Basically when one smiles in your face and then talks about you like a dog behind your back. 'Nuff said'.
These are again, just a few examples. Without these undesirable traits 'mucking' things up, the friendship should be just fine.

After these considerations, I leave you with my trademark phrase that is applicable both professionally and personally:

No time for regrets, only success.

This is The Advanced Technique.


ARealist said...

I’ve heard horror stories about clients and the “Dealing with Friends”…. MAJOR! Actions regarded as a capital offense, should be reprimanded! LOL!

Vanessa D. said...

Good advice. I made a rule long ago never transact money related business with friends or family. Money can bring out the worst in people.

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