July 9, 2008

Who's the boss? Part 2



Last week, I wrote about taking charge of your event as a speaker and working closely with the organizers to ensure the best possible environment for your audience.

Today I was reading Cam's post at ChaosScenario about dealing with bureaucracy, and I realized that I better mention this other critical aspect of setting up a speaking or coaching gig with an individual or organization.

Last year I worked with a client to create a PowerPoint presentation for a new program her department was rolling out. After working with me for two weeks, she ran a draft of the presentation by her boss, who didn't like the direction the presentation was going in and requested changes.

So we made the changes and kept working on it. Every time my client ran it by her boss, there was something else she didn't like or that didn't work for her. And each time we checked in, the process took days, holding up the completion of the project.

My client was frustrated, her team was frustrated, and I was frustrated! I was working on a deadline as I was approaching a ten-day vacation and this project needed to be finished by then.

I finally completed the PowerPoint and sent it to my client, who responded by telling me that she would not be using the presentation after all -- and that she was quitting her job!

This was when the lesson hit home that I should always find out from my client who is the final decision-maker on a project. Most of my clients are self-employed or are the heads of their companies, but I do have a few who rely on the approval of a supervisor or a consulting client of their own.

In these situations, the client and I might feel great about what we're producing, but the approval still rests with a third party or committee. Knowing this in advance can save time and frustration.

Had I known there would be a (difficult) third party in the picture, I could have factored in the extra time it took for every round of approval. I also could have asked my client to get a clear picture from her boss right up front about what she wanted to see in the presentation, rather than relying only on my client's direction.

I should mention that I take payment from coaching clients in advance of our first session. For my PowerPoint design service, I require a deposit. So I wasn't worried about getting paid, although the balance of the PowerPoint design fee was hanging for a short time.

But for those of you who do things the other way around, putting in a lot of time, energy and expertise preparing for a speaking engagement or other project and then not getting paid for it is a real possible outcome of a scenario like this.

Whenever possible, make sure you're working directly with the person who has "approval authority," as Cam said in his post, or the "economic buyer," the person who has the authority to purchase your service or product.

If that's not possible in your situation, be prepared to take a lot of extra time dealing with conflicting opinions, revised decisions, unexpected objections and general delays. As Cam said, "You’d better come prepared for anything, because you’ll likely have to deal with it."

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Cam Beck said...

What a great illustration.

I was also thinking about a different scenario - one where everyone thinks he is the final decision-maker.

Some times this is easier to sniff out than others. Approach with caution.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Haha! That's a good one, Cam! I have found myself working with multiple decision-makers before, too. Another situation where nothing gets done. Except maybe some backbiting.

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