Having worked for over twenty-five years in the fields of telecommunications and aviation, I have engaged with many major clients including Bloomberg L.P., Southwest Airlines, Lehman Brothers, MCI International and Republic Airways among others. As a result, I have been afforded countless opportunities to learn about what constitutes a successful project and a positive client-vendor relationship. Over time, these learning experiences have coalesced into a set of key guiding principles that ensure a successful outcome when supporting a client on an important initiative.
First, never lose sight of the fact that you are dealing with people and not just a company. Take the time to find out what the key drivers are for the people you are interacting with, and ensure that their needs are met to the fullest extent possible. A client’s success and your own should never be viewed as mutually exclusive. In fact, it is exactly the opposite – if client people succeed in their roles, then your firm will be successful as well.
Second, part of ascertaining your client counterparts’ key drivers, is being able to glean the business drivers behind a project rather than just focusing on its technical aspects. Regardless of the field or the individual, the higher you go in an organization the more you will find a businessperson rather than a technical subject matter expert. And the views of a businessperson on the degree of project success can be influenced by many non-technical factors.
For example, the timing of an air carrier’s certification package submittal may have huge ramifications on an upcoming stock offering; or may be highly influenced by the delivery date, and ensuing monthly financial obligations, for newly acquired aircraft. JDA has experienced both of these scenarios, and was successful not just because it delivered a high quality manual system but because it did so within the timeframes mandated by these business drivers. Make sure you understand and meet your client’s major timeline events.
Third, resist the temptation to say ‘yes’ to ‘anything and everything’ to win business and [temporarily] please a client. Instead, be realistic and honest with a client when setting expectations. It is far better to jointly figure out how best to achieve a project’s goals via the combined resources and capabilities of the two companies than to set unrealistic expectations that cannot be met and ultimately result in dissatisfaction and consternation.
Fourth, communicate frequently with your client – providing too many updates is far better than too few. Make sure that client management has a clear view of project status at all times. Most importantly, if issues arise, address them with the client immediately. Don’t shy away from the ‘tough’ conversations when they become necessary. You need to give client management advance warning of problems so that they have sufficient opportunity to solve them or mitigate their effects. Few things are worse than belatedly telling a client about a problem (e.g., a potential schedule slippage because their personnel missed deliverable dates) when they no longer have a window of opportunity to correct things.
Following these guiding principles for taking care of our clients at JDA has yielded consistently successful project results, and most importantly, has led to many positive personal working relationships that to me constitute ultimate project success.Share this article: