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Saturday, December 13, 2008

How do I do business? (thanks Michele)

One of the things I really like about folks in the Maritimes is the lack of formality in business dealings. Perhaps it's just that we live in a rural area, but it seems that people are happy and comfortable to make business arrangements based on their word. Quotes, contracts, etc. “just ain't in it”. (Thanks Killick, care of Patrick O'Brian.)

And that suits me.

I learned in my corporate employee days that the union stewards, and hallway lawyers, and Legal Affairs, etc. needed their paperwork, because, after all, who could one trust?

And now that we have to have agreements documented with our clients, and contracting partners, so we get paid, I have learned to cross “i”s and dot “t”s with the best of them. :)

But, at the end of the day, you really want to be able to look your customer, partner, fellow human being in the eye and say, “That was a fair exchange of energy”. (The “energy” part is Vickie's phrase and I like it because whatever the work and money in the arrangement, energy is exchanged, and energy and matter are just words for the same thing if I grok the current thinking in quantum physics – so it all works out.)

So for me business hums when the relationships are strong, built on trust, the letters of understanding or statements of work are short, concise, and factual, and the players have intent to be honest with each other. It also helps if they like really good coffee.

And how do we get business?

In the beginning (sounds very auspicious!) we had to sell our capabilities, skills, services which really becomes selling one's self – who we are, what we do, etc. (This should sound very familiar from the page layout of my web site; it does – doesn't it ?!). Now we are referred to by people with whom we have previously done business. And that is so much easier and more productive.

So the question is: why would people do that?

Let's be really crass for a moment and say it is money. We do offer a finder's fee for referrals that become revenue generating business. However, in 15 years no one has ever taken us up on that. OK; the companies to which we often subcontract get their share, and usually a handsome one. On the other hand they have done all the initial work of finding the client, persuading them to buy, arranging meetings, getting contracts signed, etc.

But, still, why do clients refer us?

We hope it is because they have enjoyed working with us.

OK; this is silly – stop this right now. “Enjoyed”? Really? Are you serious?

Actually I am. The operating rule Vickie and I have is “Work equals Play” so we should all enjoy the experience.
  • If, as the client, you aren't having to worry about integrity, trust, getting results, receiving value in the exchange, then that should be enjoyable.
  • If you are working with people who like people, understanding them, finding the best for them, being serious and having fun whenever appropriate, that also should be enjoyable.
  • If there are no hassles, that should be enjoyable.
  • And if you get the results you want, that should be enjoyable.
After all where would you rather spend your money? And it is your money even buried in a financial budget allocation somewhere in the vault, because your success with us is going to keep your company capable of generating more revenue or allocating current spending more wisely, and that puts salary in your pocket.

Since we base our work on using these principles (the How page on my web site), providing built-in quality (not an add-on), and on getting results, we have happy customers who, yes, enjoy our work.

And we're happy to do business that way too.

[Upcoming topics: Difficult situations, How we stay calm and detached (oh?), Leadership, ROI for ITSM... Let me know what you would like to see via your comments and the survey at the bottom left.]

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