It happens to the best of us.
We get deep into a client engagement and become laser-focused on the deliverables along with all of the details and tasks that go into ensuring those deliverables are accurate, on time, and most importantly, valuable to the client. We begin to lose sight of the strategic side and become focused on the tactical. This shift comes from the best, most well-meaning position; caring for the client and ensuring value is being delivered. It’s a trap we’ve all fallen into at one time or another.
When we lose sight of the strategic, we often lose sight of the human element. We become focused on tasks on a list, dates on the calendar, or the number of emails piling up that need answering. On the opposite end of those emails and tasks are other human beings. People who have the same goal as you, delivering value and successfully completing a project. They’re not just responses that need sending or boxes that need checking.
Building a rapport.
We at 33 Sticks pride ourselves on making rapport building one of the key aspects of our engagements with clients. By building a rapport we’re able to get a better feel and understanding for our clients’ businesses so we can tailor our engagement to solving actual business problems and not just ticking items off a list and billing hours. That’s a key way we provide our clients value.
We’re also remote at 33 Sticks which may seem like a limitation at first, but actually enables us to provide unique benefits to our clients, such as not being tightly tied to one time zone or a specific window of operation. We have flexibility so we’re able to mold an engagement to fit a client’s needs. That goes a long way to building rapport.
A little time together goes a long way.
As the year started we were kicking off several projects and the first quarter was shaping up to be a pretty busy one. One my clients approached me about making a visit and spending time with their development team that is based in the Czech Republic and new to our engagement. This would be more than 18 hours of travel and would take me away from other clients and items that we’re working on together. I was initially hesitant.
I know what you’re thinking, but allow me to explain. I was starting to fall into that trap I mentioned above. I was becoming more concerned with the tasks in front of me and losing site of the bigger picture. There were tasks to complete and projects to keep moving and meetings to attend. While I was hesitant for those reasons, I knew this is something I had to do. While there wasn’t a task on a project plan for this, it was important as any other. This is a critical project for the client and their team builds rapport through face to face interaction.
The time I spent with the team in the Czech Republic wasn’t always about work. We laughed over drinks. We talked about hockey. We compared little nuances about each of our home counties. These little things went a long way in opening lines of communication that email, Skype, Jira, and even Slack can’t open. The result has been a strong working relationship right off the bat.
Finding the right balance.
In our industry, we’re able to build working relationships with our clients through a variety of tools, but none of them can truly replicate the conversation had over lunch. There are those that prefer to go onsite as frequently as possible, but that can become costly to the client after a period of time.
Part of the right balance comes in the form of recognizing that there is more to ensuring a successful engagement than just sending technical specifications or providing a status update. Part of that balance is engaging with the client on a personal level as part of the engagement to build a connection that can make things run much smoother.