Operating Your Business
Operating, again I hope you enjoy my use of stock photography. And I think this is apropo cause if you don't operate this thing well, it all falls apart. You have to be, you have to be the domino that doesn't fall. If this is your project, you're the project manager, you're ultimately responsible for the thing, everything can go crazy and explode but you can't. Someone has to be that, and I, I like being that. And I view that as a personal value proposition. So we've been involved in some very hairy, crazy, crazy campaigns that have never been done before and are really high stakes and seen by millions of people and all this stuff. And the behind the scenes is a mess, but what the world sees looks great. And so, you get clients that are freaking out, crying, not happy or something like that and what I often do in that situation is I'll say, "I will not fail, my team isn't gonna fail, "panicking is not going to help us get to the end goal, "so you don't have to worry about it, "we're go...
nna get it done." And everything could be going crazy, but if you start to have that calm, coming into operating something, or throughout the process, it will go a lot better than if you're the one panicking and freaking out. Right, so you have to be, be that domino that can't be pushed over. This is my favorite edict for operating projects. This is something that every project manager in the company understands. All of our team understands. We should always be waiting for our clients. What that means is, what I owe you, I have already given you, always. You are, you're doing something. You're gonna look at it, you're gonna provide some feedback, whatever else that might be. It's putting the hot potato back in their lap. The hot potato is not in my lap, it is never in my lap. It's always out there, you should always be waiting for them. Which is not what clients expect. They believe that, "Ughh, I'm always going to be waiting for my agency. "Or I'm always going to be waiting "for my designer to get me something. "Or I'm always going to be waiting "for our developer to finish something. "Or I'm always going to be waiting "for those selects to come back from our photographer." So if you can generate that, that reality, you're gonna beat half the people out there just for that. Right, so I love that edict. I understand there is a thing called work life balance, that's fine. I do think that this is a 24/7 world. I think that we're often in 24/7 businesses. I reinforce this with all of our people, I operate 24/7. If I see something at three in the morning for whatever reason because I woke-up, I'm going to respond to it then, cause why not? I feel like if that person sees a response at, the first thing when they walk in the morning, it's getting me towards the end goal faster. And if the end goal is to win the project, or to end the project, or whatever else it might be, why wouldn't you try to get it, why don't you want the future to be closer to you. Just give me the future. And so being 24/7 gives me the future faster. I know that gets complicated when there's a family context or otherwise. This is a choice that I make. This is a choice that I made for the company early on. And I will say that we have a very family friendly environment and we have a, it's not a sweat shop. People certainly do not work 24/7, but I want, especially our clients to feel like, man these guys are on it. Like it was Sunday, I sent them a note and I said, "I really, really need this document for a 9:00 am meeting "and I got it in a half hour." Well guess what, we orient our entire world around that ability. Like I could send any single deliverable the whole company has, just out of my cell phone through a drop box link in a second. I could be walking to get coffee, right. And I'll do that, why not? So I think having a 24/7 mentality is a real competitive advantage. I'll put it this way, there will be competitors that operate this way and they'll be you, if you're not operating this way and they will win and you will not. And you can decide not to win as much, that's fine. You may not want to push it 24/ and that's okay, but you may lose because of it. You may not need to win all the time, you may have plenty of work anyway and you say, "Listen, I'm gonna work nine to five, "Monday through Friday, "and earn the living that is making me happy "and I don't need to work 24/7." That's fine, I'm not judging that. In my business, god, we had to create something, something very substantial from nothing in a short period of time and that required working around the clock. So I probably harped on the 24/7 approach in the onset too much. So something, first of all I do not celebrate micromanagement of anything in general, but I do, I do think you should micromanage your client interactions. Notice I didn't say relationships, interactions. And I, maybe I'm OCD about this. I think about, I think about the tone of my email, I think about when I walk in the room how much did I smile? Did I shake that hand,? Did I say hello to everybody? Did I look, did I make that eye contact? When I got off the phone, did my, the tone of my voice go up or down? Okay great, bye. Oh that was a great call. Or, alright guys it's great, have a great weekend! Oh yeah great, it was a great call, right. And so, some of the junior people, at I Strategy Labs over the years, like I would sort of listen to the phone conversations and I hear this like, that downward slope and I was like, it's like you talk to the mortician. Like did you hate this person and you couldn't wait to get off the call and did you want to leave them with the sense that maybe they chose the wrong company, maybe they chose the wrong agency to work with? Right, like instill that confidence. Think about all those little pieces of minutiae, not because you've got nothing better to do, but because this lubricates everything else. It makes your job easier, they leave the call feeling confident and comfortable in the choice they've made. You've just said the project is going to be on time and we've got no problems with engineering whatsoever, and they're gonna believe you or they're not. So you have to think about the tone of your voice. This can be maddening and it can be, it can actually be impossible for some people. So if you're not someone who has a high emotional IQ this could be impossible. You may not be able to even tell whether or not someone is looking at you in a meeting hates your guts, or do they love you? How do you get people to go from hating your guts to loving you? That's the magic. And so when I'm in a room with people, room of clients and I'm looking around and I'm seeing the one person who's like on their phone the whole time and does not care that I exist, or the person that has the frowny face the whole time. I think there's another phrase for it, it's the fart smelling face.
Yeah, Christian wasn't gonna say it, so I had to say it.
You can say it, that's allowed.
Yeah it is, it is. And so when I look at these people, especially the people with the real, the frowny face thing, my mission becomes to make them smile. I will not stop until they do because I can't, I can't trust I can't trust how they actually think about me and the project at that point. If they're frowning through the whole course of it they're betraying something to me, through their body language and so I need to decide, I need to determine it, and I'll say, "Mary, you look like you're not too happy over there, "is there something about the scope "that you weren't happy with? "What should we talk about? And she's like, "No, no, no, nothings wrong." "And I'm like are you sure? She's like, "Actually yes, I'm worried "that the timeline's not gonna work "cause we have this other product that we're launching "and I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody "about it, so." I said, "Go ahead, lets talk about it." And then we talk about it and now Mary's happy and now everything's better. So there is this like, this just micromanagement of the, the client interactions I think are so crucial you can learn so much and what you have to do is you're always, it's a, it's almost political. It's like you gotta get people on your side. You got em into your campaign, they've gotta be fully behind you or else they're detractors and they're gonna slow the thing down they're gonna question your creative judgment, they're gonna question your budgets, they're gonna question your timeline and it's gonna make it harder. That was a good rant, you like that? Alright. Alright. You have to have a reason not to commit. And what I mean by this, this is hard when you're the only person in the company. I like having, it's not a scapegoat, I don't know what the phrase is. I could be on a call with a client and they'll say, "Okay, remember we were gonna do this thing for the website, "but now we want it to have all these "other bells and whistles." I need a reason not to commit to that on the phone. And the reason why is cause I have no idea what the cost implications might be, or the time implications, or I'm just not willing to give that free work, or that concession right then and there. So I need plenty of reasons. First reason is: I think my engineering team would hate me if I committed to that right now on the call, so I'm gonna have to call you back about it but I totally hear you, and what I've heard is these three things are what you want. And so yeah, and that's totally reasonable. There's nothing unreasonable about needing a little bit of time to talk to the people that area actually gonna make the thing, about whether or not the thing can be made, and in the time frame. So you need to come into certain situations knowing, like what is my reason not to commit to the ask that's gonna happen? If you're not thinking that way, you're gonna get asks, and you're gonna commit, probably, and then if you work in a bigger team, your team is gonna be pissed off, cause you've just committed them to not sleeping for the next two weeks. Or, you're CEO is gonna hate you because you just committed to not making any money on this thing. Or, or, or, or, right. So figure out, especially if you're in a small, small context, maybe a team of one or two, how can I not commit to something if I get that request? Just know that you're gonna get those requests. You will not, not get those requests. It happens everyday, and I hate to remind you it is 100% chess. You have to know what you're gonna get asked and then you have to know what your response is gonna be and sometimes the response of, I don't know, I'll get back to you, is fine, but you gotta get back to them, right. What's worse is just committing blindly to things that could lead you into poverty. You don't want that, okay.