Client Relationship | WorkBook6

Navigating the Client Relationship

By Kara Hutcheson

Some know this, already, but my journey to WorkBook6 started through my former startup, which was acquired by the company in late 2017. Before I got ‘acqui-hired,’ I was the founder of an administrative support business called Maszi. Throughout this time working as an independent contractor (then business owner), I learned some very valuable lessons about managing client relationships. These have served me well, here, as well.

A big part of what makes WorkBook6 so valuable is that we’re not a ‘single shingle’ – there’s a growing group of people who work together to help our clients. I get this in a big way, because when I personally served multiple clients, it took many fumbled and failed attempts to find that delicate balance between both championing for the client and preserving my sanity. Ideally, when approaching a new client, you search for the win-win scenario where you can do great work for a fair price; the client not only values the work you do, but also feels valued as a customer. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

So why are so many entrepreneurs struggling with “unreasonable” clients, with “unmanageable” expectations and find themselves struggling to end volatile client relationships? I’d like to share a few tips below (incuding some I’ve picked up at WorkBook6) to help kickstart these working relationships down the right path.

Aggressive sales, not desperate sales

Each client is a little bit unique in that you won’t find one cookie-cutter mold that fits all when it comes to specialized services. If you have the ability to tailor your services to suit specific client needs, great!

Do it!

Use customization as a weapon in your pocket, but avoid being the “yes” person just to make the sale. Be aware of your scope and what services you are truly willing to commit to providing. It’s only natural a client is going to want to get the most out of their money, and you can’t blame them for trying to expand their resources as far as possible.

If you agree to provide a specialized service (especially one you are reluctant to do), don’t take this lightly. The services you claim to offer play an important role in the client’s final decision, so the lesson here?

Don’t make promises you can’t, or don’t want to keep, just to land the sale.

Not every client is the right client

Playing off tip number one, if you find yourself on an introduction call or meeting with a client who you know needs/wants more than you can provide, it is okay to walk away. I’m going to repeat that – it is okay to walk away, seriously.

Not every single lead is going to be a good fit for your business. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially in the beginning stages of entrepreneurship when ramping up business is the number one priority. However, in most situations, retention is king, and accepting a client you know you’ll want to fire after a month or so is only going to distract you from your ultimate goal and beat down morale. 

This is something we do very well at WorkBook6. We’re careful to preserve the culture, and I’ve seen the leadership team say ‘no.’ to plenty of business.

Know your worth

This is my favorite take-away from my experience as a contractor and was also the most difficult to learn.

Knowing your worth is incredibly strategic from a business standpoint. Here’s the caveat; your worth as a business or service, might not be exactly on point to what you think your worth is.

I’ve seen this pitfall two-ways: the contractor who does excellent work, truly a gem, but sets their price point so low they feel taken advantage of; or, the inexperienced and under-qualified contractor who sets their price-point too high and fails to perform, making the client feel taken advantage of. These are two different paths that lead down the same road.

Spend some time comparing yourself against the market, getting client feedback and mastering your trade before you determine what type of service you’re going to provide at what price. This is going to help funnel in the right type of client and business to compliment your working style.

100% Full transparency

Once we’re past tips one, two and three and you’re in the midst of working with a client, it is crucial to practice transparency (where appropriate).

Now, I’m not asking you to break NDAs or share unsavory details about your personal life here, I’m suggesting that you cultivate a personal relationship with your client, instead of a robotic one. When you are a contractor or hired service, you don’t have the protocol of sick-leave or vacation time to guide you during emergencies of periods of absence. Instead, you have to communicate.

My big three big rules of communication in client-contractor relationships are:

  1. Communicate early
  2. Communicate often
  3. Confirm communication has been received

When Maszi got to a larger scale, and I had multiple employees, I was able to identify from client feedback that the single-most irritating behavior from a contractor or vendor is unresponsiveness. I’ve rarely encountered the client who is unforgiving of an emergency hospital visit, running into unexpected obstacles when attempting to finish a project, or even needing a “mental health” day (seriously!). However, when it’s three days past a deadline and all they’ve heard is radio silence, people get angry. This is another strength of ours, here – WorkBook6 has created a series of communication rules and even has integrated Slack channels with each our clients to make communication as efficient as possible.

Prioritize communication and see how much more smoothly your client working relationship will run!

Write it down…and save a copy

 The last tip I’ll leave you with runs along the lines of “cover your butt” as a contractor. While that may sound a little juvenile, I’ve found it to be very important.

While we’ve discussed actions to help set the contractor up for success, remember that clients hold some responsibility in the working relationship as well. It is important they are just as communicative in expectations and feedback. An unresponsive or distracted client can completely derail a working relationship.

It’s important to keep record of expectations, both in the initial working agreement and from project to project. When you launch the initial working relationship or project, make sure you are aligned on expectations for aspects such as turn-around time and work quality; then, document this!

Reference this agreement moving forward if necessary, because as the relationship continues, it’ll become much easier for client expectations to rely on their current needs, versus the original agreement. Without a written agreement, these lines become very easily blurred and can lead right into a recipe for disaster.

What are your favorite tips for navigating the client relationship?

Hold Music | WorkBook6

Hold Please: The Joy of Perfect Hold Music

By JT Benton

One time, my sophomore year in college, I got to be a sit-in DJ for our school radio station. (My buddy couldn’t make it in – I’m sure I was his last choice.) Later, I became a slightly more frequent contributor on air (we were required to produce a few news pieces for campus radio and television as part of my major).

I always loved it. I could talk about whatever I wanted. And I could play music I liked and also take requests. One time, on a Sunday afternoon shift, I did a call-in giveaway for a local restaurant that received exactly zero responses until a call came in from a local correctional facility. I later hand delivered the inmate’s prize – a gift certificate – to the Putnam County jail. True story.

Somewhere, Brett Kaufman is screaming “get to the point!”

Hold music.

This relates to hold music. More specifically, ours at WorkBook6, and the fun little cultural thing it’s become in our business. Every month, we all propose ideas for which song will greet visitors to our company conference lines. In May, *NSYNC’s It’s Gonna Be Me (the one where Justin Timberlake pronounces “Me” as “m-a-a-a-a-a-y”) was the winner. June? School’s out for Summer by local boy Alice Cooper. This month it’s Walk of Life by Dire Straits.

This was never meant to be a thing. We just didn’t like the standard-sounding hold music our service uses, so I asked if we could upload our own, and it just sort of took off from there.

It’s become a social/culture attribute for us. We banter about it on Slack – most of the suggestions are out-of-this-world inappropriate or hysterical. But we always end up picking something together.

Another funny thing has happened.

People comment on it. And they show up early for calls. Our call provider, Uberconference, sends the host a text message when someone joins; I often get these five minutes BEFORE the call is scheduled to begin. This was also not by design – we were just being silly – but we’ll take it.

So if we can all agree that the best part of a conference call is the hold music, what are you favorite songs to listen to while you wait?

Summertime Sadness | WorkBook6

Summertime Sadness

By Brett Kaufman

I love music, so I try and correlate music and business as much as I can, combining my two loves.

And that got me thinking: Lana Del Rey said “I got that summertime, summertime summertime sadness”.

I personally love the summer months, and generally try to grow our business as much as I can during the three months we all like to consider summer.

I know it’s hot, in Arizona we’ve got 110+ degree weather and monsoons and in some cities you have 90%+ humidity.

So what do we all do? We stay inside, in the air conditioning with our army of devices and tools in hands and focus on work. Even though we’ve got several holidays and lots of vacations, I still find the summer to be extremely productive. Once that July 4th break finishes up, people seem to be in GO MODE. They are energized and working towards their Q3 goals.

This summer at WorkBook6 our team has lots of conferences and client visits on tap, combined with some personal vacation time to recharge the batteries.

If your summer plans bring you to the Phoenix area, please let us know. We’d love to have you at the office or enjoy a nice meal or go fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Happy Summer. Happy July. Happy Q3.

NBA Summer League | WorkBook6

The NBA Summer League, but in real life

By Rob Stevenson

Full disclosure – I’m a hockey fan. The NHL is by far the best spectator sport in the world (come at me, NFL fans), but Max in our office – he’s a basketball guy.

Max loves the NBA, and in particular, the Phoenix Suns (hometown team, woot woot!). And so today in the office Max had a couple of NBA Summer League games on in the background.

“NBA Summer League?”, I asked. And Max explained the concept of the summer league, a chance for NBA teams to play their rookies and sophomores and other undrafted players, a chance to check out the merchandise, if you will, install systems and get players used to the professional experience.

The league is also a chance for players to learn about what it takes to be professional basketball players, getting into team-centric routines and understanding the day-to-day routine of being a professional athlete (though, to be certain, most of these players’ college experiences pretty closely resemble a professional experience, too, amirite?).

That got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be cool if you, right out of college, for example, could start in a business world summer league, a chance to learn the ropes and get acclimated to the real world? A chance to develop and hone your skills in a team setting so you are set and ready to go when the points matter and the games count for real?

Think about the benefits for companies, getting to see who can perform under pressure, who can adapt and overcome, who can carry themselves like a pro.

And yes, I get it – interning is kind of like this, but let’s be honest – interning would be much cooler if it had a competitive vibe to it.

So what say you? Shall we establish a performance marketing summer league? And get Nike to sponsor our jerseys?

Power of Unplugging | WorkBook6

The Power of Unplugging

By Justin Guido

Shortly before I joined the Workbook6 team, I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Portugal and Spain with my girlfriend – and experienced firsthand the power of unplugging.

The experiences of this trip – coupled with being almost completely unplugged for nine days, turned out to be the perfect recipe for a fresh start in the role awaiting me when I returned.

We started out in Lisbon, which, I have to confess—I didn’t even know was the capital of Portugal until a few months ago. The first word that comes to mind when I think about Lisbon now is underrated. How could this amazingly beautiful city with such rich history, architecture, art and cuisine fly relatively under the radar in comparison to most other European capital cities?

The people were very friendly and welcoming. For example, I had an Uber driver that seemed more like a tour guide; eager on one hand to educate me the current politics of Portugese housing and development, and it’s relation to overall economic growth in the country, while seamlessly shifting gears into sports talk. He shared his excitement for the upcoming World Cup and Portugal’s biggest star, Ronaldo, and beamed about the NBA and his favorite team—the San Antonio Spurs (a favorite for most Portugese it turns out).

After a couple days exploring the old streets and neighborhoods of Lisbon (stopping for delicious fresh seafood like “pulpo”—an octopus dish; razor clams and the occasional glass or two of port wine), it was time to make our way to Spain.

We booked an overnight passenger train from Lisbon to Madrid, which surprisingly took a lot longer than expected (11+ hours). It was a little hectic getting on board/getting settled. Once the train arrived, we had to sprint to our assigned car entrance from the platform, pulling big suitcases in tow.

After one conductor told us to enter near the back of the train, when we got there—the other conductor told us to go back. I almost lost it, as the train was slowly starting to pull away–fearful that we may not be able to get on in time. Luckily we did, and I breathed a sigh of relief while trying to catch my breath and wipe the sweat from my brow.

We made it. Now it was time to navigate the narrow, creaky train car hallways in search of our assigned rooms (each with four bunkbeds and randomly assigned roommates), while trying not to run over other passengers’ toes with our luggage. By the time we had our tickets punched, rooms located and bags dropped, we were both ready for a drink!  To the café car!

It was a little surreal to be winding through dark, rural Portugese countryside in the middle of the night, with everyone around speaking another language and having zero cell phone service or wi-fi. I was soaking up every minute, and loving it.

By the time we arrived in the Spanish capital, we couldn’t wait to get off the train, breathe some fresh air and just walk. We stayed at a quaint AirBnB rental in the heart of the city—within walking distance of all major attractions. Being self-proclaimed “foodies”, our first real destination in Madrid had to be Mercado de San Miguel. This central city market is a food lover’s dream with vendor after vendor offering up different and delicious tapas ranging from paella and patatas bravas to blood sausage and fresh anchovies in vinegar. Of course, we had to wash it down with some local Sangria!

From there we walked to Plaza Mayor (Madrid’s main town square) and Palacio Real (the Royal Palace). Once again, it just felt surreal that after all of the planes and trains and ubers getting to this point—I was really standing here, halfway across the globe in the center of one of the world’s most influential cultures and society’s throughout history.  All I could do was smile.

Finally, our last destination on this trip was Barcelona. We saved the best for last. I could probably write a novel about my thoughts on this wonderful city but I think this sums it up: I could happily move and live there tomorrow – and maybe one day I will.

I think it boils down to lifestyle. Some of these traits are common in big U.S. cities as well, but for me it’s the combination of: 1. Great weather 2. Lots of culture and history and 3. Being pedestrian-friendly. We experienced these characteristics in Lisbon and Madrid as well but spent the most time in Barcelona, so it resonated more, there.

The cool weather made us want to simply walk and explore all day. When we’d get hungry or tired, we’d stop for some tapas, wine and/or espresso and be on our way—no matter what time of day–maybe several times day. There must’ve been hundreds of neighborhood street cafes with chairs and umbrellas luring you to stop, sit, eat and relax while enjoying laid back conversation and great people watching.

These cafes were on every corner of every major intersection and almost always full of patrons at most hours of the day. No one was in a rush, no one seemed stressed or pre-occupied. Everyone was living in the moment.

On top of that, the food was insanely good—all extremely fresh and unprocessed. I could eat olives, Manchego cheese and Serrano ham every day and not get sick of it. And I felt great and didn’t gain any weight on this vacation because we were walking so much –sometimes 10-12 miles/day. All the while, I’m without cell service and can only get online for a few minutes during espresso stops at cafes with wi-fi.

Our hotel accommodations were slightly more modest than our choice in food though, but I guess that’s to be expected when you stay in a hostel. That’s right, after staying at the Four Seasons in Lisbon (the perks are nice when your girlfriend works in the hospitality industry), we really shifted gears in Barcelona when opting to stay at Hostel World. Neither of us had studied abroad in college or anything and had never stayed in a hostel so we thought it would be fun—and it was!

While the rooms were a little cramped (with 6 people in bunkbeds per room and locker room style showers and bathrooms) it felt like we were back in college dorms. Except this time, the dormmates were from all over the world including: Italy, France, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, South Korea, Germany, Brazil and other countries.

We were definitely the two oldest renters in this hostel but that didn’t stop us from joining the pub crawls at night and going out to the Barcelona night clubs with the rest of the gang. Definitely a great experience to meet new people from all over the world, and that’s one thing a 4-star hotel cannot offer.

This was a trip I’ll never forget. It definitely had a big influence on me. One of my biggest takeaways was to never stop traveling and experiencing new things in person. There’s just some things you can’t fully grasp by reading about it in a book, magazine or seeing it on TV.

And of course, the power of unplugging. Nothing clears your head better than (every now and then) going completely offline—free of any and all alarms and notifications, turning off the TV and experiencing real life without a screen. It was the perfect reset button to hit before joining this amazing team at WorkBook6. Fresh energy, fresh perspective and ready for a fresh challenge.

Let’s Connect!