Why Won’t the Client Call You Back?

You were thrilled to be invited to submit a proposal for a project that will bring in a good amount of billable hours wrapped in a most respectable fee structure.  In the meeting with your prospective client, you asked all the right questions–

  • Confirmation of the decision-maker, s/he who can green-light the project
  • Details of the project timetable and deadline
  • The approximate start date
  • The value of the project outcomes and deliverables to the organization
  • The project  budget

You have every reason to believe that the project is legitimate and that there is organizational money and motive to get it done.  You may have worked previously with this client and you relish the prospect of working with him/her again.  Or, you’ve not worked with this client before and the project represents a step-up for you.  You can’t wait to add this brand enhancing and validating client to your roster and you plan to do whatever it takes to exceed expectations and become a preferred vendor.

Because you met with the project advocate and decision-maker, your comprehensive and professionally presented proposal is essentially a confirmation of what was discussed and agreed upon.  The deliverables and deadline are confirmed.  Your proposed financials are within budget.  You’ve submitted on time.  You were told when the answer would be given.

But uh, oh, that date passed three weeks ago and you are now tense with worry.  Where are they?  You try sending a diplomatically written email, but receive no reply.  A week later you call the project advocate and s/he has stopped answering the phone, regardless of when you call, early or late.  In resignation you leave a voicemail and of course, there’s no reply to that, either.

Why do clients play these passive-aggressive games? What the hell are they made of? Here are some behind-the-scenes reasons that will let you see the other side and I hope, avoid feeling like a failure and a fool.

  1. There’s no answer yet

Just because your prospect told you that s/he is the decision-maker does not mean that s/he is the sole decision-maker.  Group decisions are the norm.  Your prospect is most likely one of three or four “decision-makers,” the one who is assigned to speak with all vendor candidates, or maybe just one or two.  Alternatively, your prospect may be one of several team leaders who at the end of the month (or whenever) sit down and review all pending projects and discuss proposals received.

Depending on what is going on at the organization, the team leaders will agree to move forward on certain projects, delay one or two and put the remaining on hold.  Your prospect may advocate for funding, but a project that is more urgent, or more favored by other team leaders, could overrule your prospect and kill your project.  Your project advocate will speak with you only when a definitive answer can be given to you.

2.  Waiting for a favored vendor

One of the group of decision-makers may have the power to push in a vendor candidate with whom s/he has worked previously (and who may have the inside track).  That vendor candidate might be a late entry and no decision will be made until his/her bid is received and reviewed.  One of the vendors might have a powerful friend on the decision-making team and that friend plans to push his/her preferred vendor candidate into the project (whether or not that vendor is the best qualified, or offers the most competitive price).  Your prospective client is too busy politicking to speak with you.  S/he would like to say yes, but a battle must first be won, s/he hopes.

3.  Your decision-maker advocate has had an unexpected emergency 

Things happen.  An unexpected problem or opportunity may draw your advocate’s attention away from your project, which is no doubt #1 in your life, but is only one of many possibilities that exist in the constantly shifting landscape that is the new economy.  Short-term priorities and putting out fires are the order of the day.  Your prospective client is too busy to speak with you.

4.  An unexpected loss of support

Second-guessing is practically an Olympic sport in organizations today.  I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t take much to pour cold water on a project and reverse a decision that once earned the favor of the decision-making team.  It could be that the heaviest heavyweight on the team, when all is said and done, does not feel that the project ROI is worth the investment of time, staff attention and money.  Your advocate and perhaps others may believe in the project and they’re scrambling to keep it alive and included on this year’s calendar.  Your project advocate is too embarrassed to talk; s/he feels humiliated and powerless.

5.  Project funding may not yet be officially awarded, or has been lost

Your project advocate and prospective client may have spoken too soon about the availability of an adequate budget for the project.  There could have been a last-minute decision to fund another project that is now perceived as more important by one or more of the decision-making team.  Maybe a project that was previously put on hold will now be given the green light?

Your advocate must now 1.) Confirm if there will be available money in this fiscal year, or the next, and 2.) Confirm the amount of money that will be earmarked for your project.  Your prospect is too frustrated to speak with you now; s/he has lost face.

6. Your proposal was used to get pricing info and to create a budget

Sometimes a Freelancer gets no respect and it’s a terrible thing.  Prospects who are not ready to commit may nevertheless wonder how much it would cost to get a certain job done and so they’ll seek out a Freelancer or two and request a proposal.  They ask Freelancers who they don’t know.  Avoid sending a proposal to an unknown “prospect” who mysteriously sends you a Request For a Proposal The Unexpected RFP .

7.  You were not awarded the project

Your proposal was not selected and the prospect who was not meant to be wants to avoid disappointing you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

When Freelancers and Employees Collaborate

External agile talent provided by Freelance consultants has a presence in a growing number of organizations in the country, from huge multinationals that hire dozens of external experts to solo consultancies, who may hire a Freelancer colleague to obtain  help with SEO, website design, or project subcontracting work.

Freelancers are brought in to ensure that a high-priority project will be successfully completed, on time and within budget. While it is the responsibility of the hiring manager to onboard the Freelancer and create the conditions for smart collaboration  and productivity, in fact, a good deal of that responsibility will be transferred to the Freelancer because s/he is temporary, an outsider, and is positioned to take the blame should things go wrong.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that Freelancers take the lead and do what is possible to establish a working relationship with in-house collaborators that is productive, pleasant and lays the groundwork for repeat business and referrals.

  1. Ask the hiring manager to onboard you, so that you will be able to “hit the ground running” and quickly get to work on producing the project deliverables.
  • Request an overview that explains why the project is important to the organization.
  • Have a contract for the project, signed by you and the hiring manager, that specifies your duties, in-house support that will be provided, the budget, project milestones, the deliverables and the deadline, your hourly rate or project fee and what you’ll charge for client requested change orders and additional services requested.
  • Request the names and titles of any in-house project collaborators.
  • Specify the details of the lines of reporting and authority, so that you and everyone else knows who you answer to, since the hiring manager may not be the internal project lead.
  • Determine where your work will be done—off-site, at the organization, or a combination. How many hours must you spend at the company office? Where will  your work space be located? Must you bring your own computer and phone?
  • Request an introduction and meeting with your in-house collaborator(s), so that you can understand the organization culture (“how things get done around here”) and understand what you can do, or request from the company, to make the experience pleasant and productive for all parties.

2. Anticipate employee anxiety around the presence of an external consultant and work to quell the discomfort. Show respect for your collaborator’s deep knowledge of the organization and the project. Solicit their opinions on how to efficiently get the work done and political situations that can help or hurt you. Copy your collaborator(s) on important emails. Uncomfortable subjects might include:

  • Why was a Freelance consultant hired to do the interesting, mission-critical project and not long-term, loyal employees?
  • How much money is s/he being paid—is it more than me?
  • Will the consultant’s expertise and opinion be more highly valued than mine?
  • Is a company lay-off on the horizon?

3. Communicate frequently with your in-house collaborator(s), to promote transparency, build trust and ensure maximum productivity.

  • Make use of email and write reports that keep collaborators and the hiring manager updated on your work.
  • If you hit a stumbling block, ask for help, in writing.
  • Suggest a weekly or bi-weekly conference call or meeting at the client’s office, to compare notes and confirm that milestones and expectations are being met.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Credible + Capable = Contract

Pitching to prospects is stressful and time-consuming, but there is such a thrill when we meet the right person and get invited to discuss a project. With much anticipation, valuable time and energy are directed to preparing for the meeting and if we are asked to do so, preparing as well a proposal that details how we would achieve the client’s goals.

It is unspeakably frustrating when a proposal is rejected or worse, when we never hear from that prospect again.  It is imperative that Freelancers practice appropriate risk management and take steps to improve our client acquisition rate and minimize negative outcomes.

Client endorsements

Recommendations by satisfied customers are trust-building votes of confidence for you.  A referral made by someone known and respected by the prospective client is the ideal endorsement. Word-of-mouth is always the best advertisement.

LinkedIn recommendations are lukewarm.  Testimonials that appear on your website are more powerful, especially those given by a prestige client.  Better still is to ask a client if s/he would be willing to speak with a prospect to give a reference for you and discuss the project you worked on.

Samples of your work

Create a portfolio of case studies or other samples of your work to provide some show and tell for prospective clients.  They deserve the opportunity to view and evaluate your work, so that they can envision the match-up between the results they must achieve and the solutions that you would deliver.  Curate your portfolio of work samples and case studies well,  by choosing projects that demonstrate your expertise and value.  A good portfolio will also help to justify your (premium) pricing structure.

Online presence

It is the 21st century and prospects expect all professionals to have an online presence.  Before deciding to contact a Freelancer or any other professional that one might hire, an online search is typically conducted.  Prospects want to get a sense of who you are and confirm that you are legitimate.

Overwhelmingly, Freelance consultants have a website, but there are those rare individuals who have been able to build a successful client list without this marketing tool. Whether or not you have a website, further cultivate your online presence through social media or post press releases online to announce  your speaking and teaching engagements, participation in charity events, or any awards you may have received. Writing a newsletter or blog, building a mailing list and sharing on social media platforms is also useful, as is guest blogging. Develop and maintain a positive online presence that is designed to win over prospects.

Communicate value-added

The ultimate reason that clients hire Freelance consultants is that they are convinced that these individuals will bring significant value to the project and will make the hiring manager look smart in front of his/her superiors and peers.  Merely describing your products and services is no longer sufficient to get yourself hired in this hyper-competitive marketplace, where in most cases there are numerous highly qualified professionals who are available and hungry for billable hours.

Communicating your unique value is the only way to get hired and that must be demonstrated in numerous ways.  Like a trial lawyer, layer on examples of the varied aspects of your value and let the preponderance of evidence in your favor pile up.  In clear and concise terms, present the case of how you will make the client’s job easier, save the organization money, position the organization to make money, or ensure that the organization achieves important goals.

Politely persistent

Once a prospect has expressed an interest to meet and  discuss doing business,  or to confirm whether or not you will be awarded a project after you have had a meeting, there are two possible actions:

1). Active pursuit, when you send one or more emails to either encourage setting up a meeting or to learn the outcome of a hiring decision.

2). Passively waiting for the prospect to contact you.

According to experts, neither approach is useful.  I’ll bet your own lived experience speaks to that fact.  Definitely, you don’t want to come across as pushy, since pressure tactics are  a big turn off.  Conversely, you cannot afford to allow assignments to fall through the cracks because you did not follow-up and help to shine a light on the pending project. You need a way to diplomatically keep your proposal on the front burner.

A useful tactic is to telephone or text the prospect three or four days after you’ve sent your proposal, to confirm that it has been received.  You may also ask when s/he would like to begin the project work.  Open the door a little wider and suggest that you would be happy to start work ASAP on some urgent action item, so that the deadline will be comfortably reached.

Freelance consultants have two jobs: finding projects and then completing those projects.  Our ability to survive financially is directly tied to this process.  As organizations continue to shrink  full-time workforces,  the number of Freelance consultants grows every day.  In order to compete successfully, a Freelancer must always be positioned to regularly sign clients and generate adequate revenue.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

Managing the Difficult Client

In your Freelance consulting venture you will work with dozens, if not hundreds, of clients.  Your experiences  with different clients will eventually allow you to recognize certain recurring personality types or working styles.  In your mission to retain clients over the long-term,  you will find it useful to understand the perspectives of the various personality types and learn to create successful,  or at least less fraught,  working relationships with them.

The attention craver

The onslaught of before or after office hours calls and voice mails will be your first clue that you have signed on with a high-maintenance,  controlling,  attention-craving client.  If you’re on a high-priority deadline project,  then the calls and emails may be part of what it takes to get the job done and impress the client with your work ethic,  business acumen and ability to guide the project to a successful completion.  But when the calls do not address an urgent matter…. hhhmmmm.

As noted with several of the difficult clients discussed in this and last week’s posts,  setting boundaries is recommended.  Answer the attention-craver’s calls or emails in a timely fashion.  If by your standards calls have been made during your personal time  (7:00 PM or after,  for example,  or on a weekend)  and the matter is not urgent,  politely state that while you appreciate updates,  you will be happy to address project matters by 8:00 AM on the next business day.  If you reach the client’s voice mail,  send an email to confirm your reply.

The analysis-paralysis specialist

The analysis-paralysis specialist is methodical,  prone to taking his/her time when evaluating matters and will likely respond well to credible data.  Getting a fast answer or decision may be a challenge.   S/he is afraid of doing the wrong thing by failing to consider the inevitable plusses and minuses of the choices presented.  Spreadsheets are favored.

If you have a recommended course of action,  compile statistics and case studies to support your opinion and invite other team members into a meeting with you to lend support.  It will be important to help this individual feel confident and ready to move forward.  Solid evidence and a consensus of opinions will be required.

The busy business owner

This overwhelmed CEO is most likely very happy to have you on board to manage an important project,  but s/he is perhaps unable to take full advantage of your expertise because s/he is too busy to adequately integrate you into the process,  or take the time to sit down and apprise you of the organization’s challenges, needs,  or opportunities and the services you can provide to address what is presented.

You can help the busy business owner and yourself by creating short reports that focus on key performance indicators that allow the busy one to access necessary information.  Concise progress reports,  documentation that milestones have been reached on time and other demonstrations of the results of your work will be appreciated. Try to schedule meetings when progress discussions should take place,  but keep them short and focused.  Send a list of questions when you schedule the meeting,  so that your busy client will be more likely to take the time to share project critical information.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Smart Questions for the Client Interview

A Freelance consultant’s first project specs meeting with a client or prospect is the time to start building the foundation for a successful working relationship.  A major element of a positive and productive relationship is your understanding of the client’s priorities,  which will allow you to assess what will be required to meet or exceed expectations.

Are you capable of doing the job alone, or must you subcontract some portion to a Freelance colleague ? Can you successfully complete the project within the client’s preferred time frame?  What will be your project fee or hourly rate?

Asking the right questions guarantees that you will receive the information that you’ll need.  As the meeting proceeds,  be sure to ask these three questions.  Your client will be happy that you did.

  1. What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?

Freelance consultants must hit the ground running. Unlike salaried employees,  there is no training or orientation period.  Often,  there are certain components of a project that organization leaders deem more critical than others. These components could be the most time-sensitive,  or simply the most urgent problems. If there are any front-burner issues,  you want to be prepared to take them on straight away.

     2.  What do you see as driving results for this project?

Getting your arms around these matters can make your project work easier and ensure that you achieve all milestones within the preferred time frame.

      3.  How does this project fit into the organization’s highest priorities?

Seeing the big picture is always helpful.  How important is your project to the company’s long-term strategy and mission-critical goals?  Your pricing will also be impacted by this knowledge. If the project is pivotal,  the smart Freelancer charges a premium.

Within 24 hours after the meeting,  send an email to confirm all major issues and agreements requested by the client and yourself  (think scope of duties,  milestones,  deadlines and your payment schedule). Your email can constitute the project contract and it has legal standing.

If your client would like you to perform additional tasks along the way, confirm that request, including the completion timetable, in writing and specify the additional fee and the payment due date.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The Best of Times!

There has never been a better time to live the self-employed life. Jacob Morgan, co-founder and principal of Chess Media Group and author of The Future of Work (2014), researches how market forces, demographics, political forces and advances in technology will likely impact the global workforce over the coming years and his research indicates that self-employment has significant momentum. “The picture for Freelancers is very good. It’s going to be a huge area going forward.”

Morgan points out what most traditionally and independently employed workers have learned over the past two decades: the steady paycheck is going the way of the dinosaurs. Those who are now age 50 or above started a career and expected to work steadily and at increasing pay for 25 or 30 years and then collect a pension as a reward for their contributions.  Employment at one company was considered an accomplishment and job-hopping was seen as instability, if not disloyalty. Morgan’s research shows that now, the average worker is employed at a place of business for an average of five years and Millennial Generation workers last an average of three years. “Nowadays, when a company is struggling, the first thing it tends to do is cut jobs.”

Because Freelance consultants typically have a list of active clients, we are somewhat insulated from the whims of business owners. We win some projects and lose others, but unlike the traditionally employed, we will not be laid off and abruptly lose all of our income. We do not qualify for unemployment benefits, but that benefit eventually runs out. The Freelance money is sometimes less than ideal, but finding project work is much easier than finding traditional employment that pays more than $20/hour, especially when the job seeker is 50 years or older. Freelancers are not at the mercy of a single employer. We have more opportunities to create options for ourselves.

As companies shed permanent workers, the demand for project-specific professional help continues to rise and for Freelancers, that is a good thing. Much depends upon one’s skill set and local economy, but the next three years and most likely more than that, look promising. Deciding which of your competencies are the most marketable and discovering how to connect with available projects forms the heart of the Freelance business model.

The uncertainties inherent in Freelance employment can also carry advantages, one of which is that you might earn a great deal of money. Traditional employment comes with income caps, unless you are employed in luxury real estate sales, high finance or big-ticket sales (fields that are overwhelmingly closed to most people).

The traditionally employed have been finding that getting a raise is harder than ever. Employers are keeping the money to themselves. The best anyone seems to get is 3%.  Bonuses and commissions for many sales reps have likewise been cut. Middle class wages have been stagnant to falling for 25 years. I’ve done adjunct teaching for 10 years and I’ve never received a raise, regardless of a decades’ worth of good evaluations from my students.

In 2010, Intuit predicted that the independently employed workforce in the US will rise to 60 million by 2020. There are already many associations and other resources, such as the Freelancer’s Union https://www.freelancersunion.org, that give relevant support to us in many practical ways, such as facilitating the purchase of affordable medical and dental insurance. Co-working spaces are available to those who need per diem meeting space at an affordable price or shared office space for those who would like to interact with a cohort of like-minded Freelancers.

Morgan recommends that those who have full-time employment consider taking on Freelance work as an experiment. “Now is an excellent time to do it, but I would do it in a smart way…do a little moonlighting and see how it goes. If it goes well, devote more effort to it. if not, you’ll have learned it’s not for you.”

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Proposal Writing Primer

Periodically,  a Freelance consultant must write a proposal.  Some organizations,  especially government entities,  will publicly announce that a project is available and request bids that must be submitted in proposal form.  Occasionally,  one may receive a direct request for a proposal  (RFP)  from an unknown party.  Experience will eventually teach you to not respond to a surprise RFP.  Invariably,  an unexpected RFP is sent by a phantom client who is either fishing for pricing information,  or seeking to obtain additional proposals when it has already been decided who will be hired for the project in question,  but company policy mandates that a certain number of proposals must be reviewed.

Submit proposals only after you’ve spoken with the decision-maker and received an invitation.  If you’ve set it up right,  the proposal will serve as a confirmation letter that spells out project details that have been previously discussed and agreed-upon.  See my March 26, 2013 post on unsolicited RFPs  https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/the-unexpected-rfp/.

A proper invitation to write a proposal is an opportunity for you to shine.  Showcase yourself,  your brand and your expertise and write a powerful document that reveals your analytic ability,  writing ability,  practicality and creativity.

Study the requirements

If there is a written RFP,  study the requirements and make note of the submission deadline.  Is the project a good fit for your organization?  Do you have time to write a worthy proposal? If you meet with the client to discuss the project,  take good notes and confirm that you understand the goals,  specifications and expectations involved.  Do you have the expertise and resources to do the job?  Can you achieve the goals within the time frame?  Can you do the job within the budget?  Must you subcontract work out and if so,  will you be able to make a profit on the project?

Confirm the desired outcomes

Interview the client and confirm the desired and expected outcomes of the project and assess what achieving the project goals means to the organization.

Evaluate your proposed solution

Make sure that your approach to producing the deliverables will please the client.  What is the primary criterion for the proposal?  Is it speed of completion,  price,  or something else?  Present a methodology that reflects what means most to the client.

Outshine competitors

Be advised that a proposal is a sales document.  Highlight your strengths in the context of project goals and address any potential reservations that might prevent your proposal from being accepted.

Proposal must-haves

Some proposals specify that a certain format must be followed.  If there is no such rule,  include the following elements:

  • Give an overview of the current situation that has given rise to the need for the project.
  • State the goals of the project,  expected outcomes or deliverables.
  • Describe why you and your organization are uniquely qualified to successfully complete the project.
  • Describe your proposed methodology for achieving the aims of the project.
  • Explain the timeline and cost  (the justification of your proposed fee).
  • Describe the benefits associated with achieving the project goals,  outcomes,  or deliverables.

Finally,  make sure that your proposal addresses all elements of the RFP or client needs.   Check your spelling and grammar.  Go on-line and view examples of proposals;  find a format that visually communicates you and your brand and make that your template .  If hard copy must be submitted,   print your document on good paper stock.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

 

 

The Less Than Zero Pricing Tactic

Psychology counts when pricing a product or service.  Take note that in every store,  the price of items always ends in .99,  .98,  or .95 and never .00.  Number psychology research has persuasively shown that buyers do not like zeros.  Stores do not sell items for $100.00,  they sell them for $99.95,  because customers associate zeros with premium prices that they’d rather not pay.

Furthermore,  the phenomenon called the left digit effect causes our brains to misinterpret that $99.95 as having a value closer to $99.00,  instead of $100.00.  Lindsay van Thoen,  columnist for The Freelancer’s Union,  says that our clients are like any other consumer and Freelance consultants should bear that in mind when pricing contract proposals.

When we are invited to submit a proposal,  we are all excited.  Here comes money!  The last thing we want to do is to wind up in a wrestling match with a client who wants to nickel and dime.  We take pains to itemize the major components of the project and provide the rationale for the total project fee.  Nevertheless,  haggling may ensue.  According to van Thoen,  Freelancers are wise to follow the lead of retailers,  cut the zeros from our proposals and make it easier for clients to agree to our price.  Resist the temptation to price your project at $5,000.00.  Instead,  price the project at $4825.00 or $5175.00.

Unfortunately,  clients sometimes feel that Freelance consultants pad price quotes,  even when an itemized accounting is provided.  A figure that does not appear to be rounded-off,  but appears to be specifically customized to the service requested and contains few zeros that may imply that we’ve  “rounded-up”  the fee,  can be more trust-inspiring and believable to certain clients.

Other ways to make it more palatable for clients to accept our proposals are to  1.) Ask the client for the project budget and work with them to provide services that you can afford to provide within that valuation and  2.) Provide three levels of service: good,  better and best,  so that clients can choose services according to needs and budget.

Pricing pundit Rafi Mohammed,  founder and CEO of the consulting firm Pricing for Profit in Cambridge, MA,  offers two valuable pieces of advice to keep in mind about pricing.  First,  prices must reflect the value that clients place on the service.  Second,  different clients place different value on a given service.  Offering  “good, better,  best”  options allows the client’s need for the service to be met in a way that is in line with the value placed.  A good pricing strategy is an important part of your marketing plan.  It sets the stage for building a profitable enterprise.  It is imperative to set prices that reflect the client’s value of what we sell and,  equally important,  to help the client perceive that listed prices are trustworthy.

Happy 4th of July!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

How to Delegate Successfully

Christmas season notwithstanding,  I am busy this December and it feels so good! Catch my act on Wednesday December 4 when Dalya Massachi of  “Writing Wednesdays” and I talk about the benefits derived when nonprofit leaders write a business plan for their organization.  3:00 PM EST,  2:00 PM CST,  1:00 PM MST,  12:00 PM PST FREE! Register at http://writingtomakeadifference.com/writing-wednesdays

Readers in the Boston area may want to direct clients who are leaders at nonprofit organizations to get essential how-to information on business plan writing at my popular workshop “Become Your Own Boss: Effective Business Plan Writing”.  We’ll meet on three consecutive Wednesdays,  December 4, 11 & 18  5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at Boston Center for Adult Education 122 Arlington Street Boston MA 02116.  Register at http://bit.ly/1bP4uw9 or call 617.267.4430 class ID #10190.

Busy people must learn how to delegate if they intend to get things done.   Often,  there are not enough hours in the day to allow one person to do everything.  Productive people come to know that delegating is necessary if we are to move forward.  Productive people also know what can and should be delegated and how to accomplish that effectively.  What is outsourcing but delegating to a skilled professional tasks that we ourselves cannot complete,   from website design to public relations to cleaning our homes to preparing the food for a cocktail party?

It can be good for business profitability and healthy for organizational development to share the workload.  When time and energy are scarce,  or when we ourselves do not possess the required expertise,  it makes sense from both a time management and quality control standpoint to delegate that project and remove it from our plate and focus on items that only we can do.  If we hoard all the important responsibilities,  it can lead to real or perceived controlling behavior and that is counter-productive.  How to delegate successfully is an important skill and it begins with setting priorities.

Delegate responsibilities and not just tasks  Rather than merely assigning work to someone,  which limits the sense of ownership,  promote buy-in to the project at hand and loyalty to you and delegate the responsibility for leading an element of the project.  Allow that person to shine and display creativity,  analytical ability,  systems and operations talents,  trouble-shooting prowess and whatever else it takes to successfully manage that portion of the project.  You keep an eye on the big picture and do what is necessary to give that person the required resources and authority to do his/her part.

Accept that your way is not the only way   This could lead to some pleasant surprises and a better end result than you envisioned.  Everyone has a unique way of viewing and tackling a responsibility and you are advised to respect those different perspectives and approaches and trust the person to whom you’ve delegated.  Often, there is more than one road to the right solution.  Focus on achieving the desired outcome within the desired time frame.  Never micromanage.

Give clear instructions and sufficient information   Explain the big picture of the project and how the delegated element fits in.  Provide project specifications for what will be delegated and confirm that the person understands.  Make sure that the person has the authority to do what is necessary,  along with the budget, whatever staffing or other resources.  Be clear about milestones and the project due date.  Be available for help,  if necessary.

Teach yourself how to recognize when to delegate a project or elements thereof by first setting goals and objectives for your business,  backed by strategies and action plans that will ensure their realization.  Be candid about your strengths,  weaknesses and the time line.   Outsource/ delegate those responsibilities that you cannot do and focus on the end result.  Build a solid team that is ready to help you achieve your goals.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

To Work For a Nonprofit Board

Not-for-profit organizations make up the majority of my client list.  Frequently,  it is the executive board and not the executive director who contracts for my services.  Getting hired by an executive board is nearly always a challenge.  Typically,  a dozen  (or perhaps nearly twice that number)  people must approve both the proposed project and the service provider (me!).

Boards are always political and they are frequently hotbeds of strife and rivalries.  I have first-hand knowledge of board dynamics because for the better part of the past 20 years,  I’ve served on boards.  Board service can be tremendously rewarding or maddeningly frustrating.  I’ve experienced some of my most exhilarating victories and most painful defeats while serving on boards.  Through boards,  I’ve made good friends with whom I remain in contact and unfortunately,  more than a couple of lifelong enemies.  I understand boards very well.  In fact,  board development is a service that I offer to clients.

The problem with working on a per-project basis is that organizations are chronically understaffed and over-loaded with work,  both essential and ridiculous-but-required.  It is very easy to put anything that is not immediately urgent on the back burner forever.  The best way to get a project approved is to gain the confidence of a champion,  a person with authority and a budget,  or someone who can influence the one with the authority and budget,  and convince that individual to shepherd your project through the decision-making process and protect it from the inevitable naysayers who will oppose the project for reasons either understandable or mystifying.

Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Suster of Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles has compiled a list of the usual suspects who impact group decisions.  In addition to the players listed,  there will also be neutral people,  who can go either way.

Champion

The project champion is its greatest supporter.  This individual has oftentimes conceived the project and has a big stake in seeing it realized.   The most effective project champion has authority,  persuasive power,  well-positioned allies and access to funding.  The champion takes an active role in pushing the project forward,  lobbying for support and outmaneuvering those in opposition.  Any initiative that involves a group decision will die in committee without the support of an influential and active champion who will run interference and speak up to defend it.

Expert

Decision-makers often have someone who acts as the  “expert witness”  when important matters are evaluated.  This person may have a background that allows him/her to know well the specific needs of a project,  which guides the choice of who is hired.  Alternatively,  the expert may be one who has excellent judgment or a gift for playing devil’s advocate that helps the decision-makers see obstacles or even other options that might otherwise be overlooked.  This person has influence,  not authority,  but their recommendation carries weight.

Influencer

The influencer probably does not possess the specific project knowledge of the expert,  but  he/she is a peer who has knowledge,   experience,  perspective and authority that the decision-makers respect.   He/she will be consulted or may volunteer an opinion when an important matter is up for discussion.

Sage

This person has significant tenure with the organization,  understands its core values and is generally respected by others.  He/she knows how things work and how to get things done.  The sage can be very helpful to you during the approval process.  He/she has valuable information that can be shared,  if you portray yourself as someone who cares about the organization and shows him/her some respect.  The sage can tell you who’s who on the decision team.  The sage usually cannot directly impact the decision process.

Enemy

This person hates you and aims to derail the project and get you off the premises.  He/she may be a rival of the champion.  He/she may be competing to scoop the funding for a project of his/her own.  The enemy may believe that the project is a waste of organization resources.   Sometimes the enemy doesn’t want you to do the project because he/she is angling to get a friend or relative hired.

Blocker

This person cannot approve the project,  but is happy to act as a spoiler.  He/she may not be able to prevent the project’s approval,  but will do whatever possible to delay the start date,  limit the scope and as a result,  impact your billable hours,  and/or generally catch the project up in red tape.  This person is not necessarily evil and may not actually hate you.

Thanks for reading,

Kim