As you grow, what transitions are useful and even expected? Let’s look at a few that you’ll almost certainly encounter and help you see what might be on the other side of the transition.
One: Hiring for Expertise vs. Money
The first good transition to make is to begin hiring people for their expertise rather than for what they cost you. In the early days, you have a budget and you hire accordingly. You aim for whatever you can get for that price, and that’s the best you can do. There simply isn’t any more money, and expertise takes a back seat to available funds.
Eventually, though, you determine that expertise is more important than money. So you outline what you’re looking for in great detail and you don’t settle for less. You have a budget in mind, but the budget takes a back seat to the requirements for expertise. That means you may bust the budget. But in this scenario, one very qualified person may actually be equally as effective as two less qualified individuals.
Two: From Judging to Shaping
The second good transition to make is to move from judging to shaping the work underneath....Read More
I had trouble getting to sleep last night, and for some reason I started thinking about how managing client relationships has changed over the years. I'm not talking about my clients, but your clients. Do you know the really important things about how to do it right? I'm not sure i would have figured all these out, but I have paid attention to the hundreds of firms I've worked with and tried to cull out the best practices that have been proven in the field.
Just for fun, I started writing these down as they came to mind in a stream of consciousness style. Here are a few of them:
- The only power you have in a client relationship is to withhold your expertise.
- The degree to which you have power in a relationship is directly related to how long it takes to replace you.
- There are only two ways to have more opportunity than capacity, which represents your ability to say "no" to prospects and clients: create more opportunity or reduce your capacity.
- The most important criteria in evaluating a prospective client is whether or not they've used a firm like yours before. Never be the first.
- Your cheap ass clients are the ones spending their own money. You want to work for clients with budget authority over someone else's money.
- The clients who trust you say: "I have $140,000 for this project. What's the most we could do with that money?" The ones who don't trust you say, "Here's what I need. What will it cost?"....
A great client recently asked me to outline my definition of success for their firm. I really enjoyed doing that, and below is a version that you can adapt to your own situation, putting your own stamp on it:
- Partner compensation equals or exceeds industry benchmarks.
- After that is achieved, you still 20% net profit.
- The more entrepreneurial employees are satisfied that their contribution to your gain is recognized and accounted for.
- Partners and employees in key roles will have already tasted competence in the area of your focus, or they will experience it within nine months of joining the firm.
- There will be few or no young employees who value variety over expertise.
- When employees talk about your firm, while still employed, their private comments will be complimentary.
- When partners and employees head out the door to work for the day, they look forward to the challenges, the companionship, and their participation in the overall culture.
- As a firm you will not require extraordinary people....
I was recently working with a firm under our new "Come to Nashville" program for a day and we were doing long-term planning, mainly, but with an eye on how that might impact the short term. I came up with some questions that turned out to be very helpful as they took a break from the continuous crazy days we all have, and then answered them honestly and seriously.
- How do you feel about the current positioning of your firm? If you could waive a magic wand and change it (without regard to current employees or clients), what would your positioning be?
- What are your biggest fears in just pursuing that positioning, even if it means doing so alongside your current firm and maybe even doing it all alone without employees?
- If I watched you on a typical day, would it look like you are taking care of clients or would it look like you were taking care of employees (who would then take care of clients if you did your job well)?
- Who are the two weakest employee links who probably should be dismissed in the near future?
- Who is the most talented person at your firm who is disruptive to the culture? Are they on the list, above, of people to dismiss?
- You likely started this firm to create an environment for yourself that allowed for more freedom, control, and money. Now that you have built it, to what degree are these three things true?...
Every manager on earth is going to encounter significant management challenges. How you react to them is what will set you apart.
First Wrong Reaction: High Control Mode
The first wrong reaction to difficulties you’ll experience is to go into a high control mode and seek to eliminate the messiness of the management environment. That might manifest itself in coming down hard on people, drawing artificial lines in the sand, insisting on rule keeping all out of proportion to the circumstances, etc.
Essentially you quit trusting people and try to control them. The problem is that you can’t really control what they’re thinking—instead, you take a stab at merely controlling their behavior, but their attitude is actually worse. And of course that’s the root of the issue.
This instinct to control things is your perceived antidote to feeling out of control. You think people aren’t listening to you or aren’t respecting your directives, so you clamp down even harder, hoping to force compliance.
If the issue really is an obstinate employee who needs to be dismissed, well, then deal with the issue directly and dismiss them. It’s not very productive to penalize the entire group just because you’re deeply annoyed with a few people who, you fear, are infecting the others.
If you feel like things are spinning out of control, that’s usually a sign that something else—something deeper—is amiss. Take a deep breath and look underneath the surface to see what’s really happening.
Second Wrong Reaction: Revert to Former Expertise
The second wrong reaction to difficulties you’ll experience is to go back into the craft or the technical expertise from which you were promoted...Read More
Good project managers are hard enough to find, and great project managers are rarer still. Thanks to Andy Crowe (Alpha Project Managers), though, we now have a peek inside the top 2% of project managers, based on a study of 5,000 of them as rated by their peers/clients. Not surprisingly, great project management requires a lot more than the ability to move a milestone.
Here are the top ten traits of project managers who are really making ideas happen:
Qualities of a Great Project Manager
- Command authority naturally. In other words, they don’t need borrowed power to enlist the help of others--they just know how to do it. They are optimistic leaders who are viewed in a favorable light and are valued by the organization.
Using a database of hundreds of firms in about 90 different metropolitan areas across North America, what are the three things that principals struggle with the most? You might recognize yourself.Read More
There’s not a lot to say on this subject, but management does seem to attract control freaks in inordinate numbers. My own experience as a control freak was a bit hilarious. I decided that it was time to research OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies, and so I went online and ordered three books. Right. Not one book, but three. As I explained this to someone, she just laughed, nearly rolling around on the floor. Ordering three books on obsessive compulsive tendencies seems to confirm the diagnosis before even cracking open one of the books, no?Read More
The reason marketing firms fail is not creativity, location, or the marketplace. It’s management ability. Your firm is a direct reflection of you, and you must take responsibility for it. Here are the most common dozen mistakes we see marketing firms make. If you are managing a firm now, you’ll identify immediately. If you are an employee, this might give you some context for the decisions you may not agree with. If you are considering starting a company, this will help you learn from the mistakes of others.Read More
While running your firm looks a lot like the reverse peeling of an onion, building layer after layer, at some point you need to quit building on the past and start constructing an entirely new firm. That process of cutting ties with the past is essential…and terrifying. It’s what happens when a child moves out, a bird gets kicked out of a nest, or a student pilot takes off on that first solo flight. It’s probably more likely that you’d associate moments of terror with starting your firm, but it actually requires far more courage to move beyond that initial founding.Read More