Monday, March 24, 2008

Honesty and Expectations

I've always had a problem with firms that used "and Associates" when there are no associates to be found.

Some consultants scramble to say, "Well, we bring on associates when we need them," but that doesn't remove the fact that you are holding yourself out as a larger operation when you aren't. It's deceptive and customers deserve better.

There are certain expectations that are reasonably assumed and we dash them at our peril. Clients will be less than pleased if they learn, after their project has been ardently and successfully courted by an experienced senior partner, that it has been handed off to a kid two weeks out of school.

Many a questionable practice has been rationalized as, "Everybody does that" or "They expect us to do that" when neither is true.

We make representations for a reason. It helps to revisit them periodically and ask why.


Jeff said...

Most clients expect that they are the only account the firm has - and behave accordingly. And as long as the client believes that, the firm does everything it can to make that perception reality.
In other words, there has to be some honesty on both sides of the fence.
As a mentor of mine once said when we were discussing what to say to the client over a particularly touchy issue - "You don't have to just depends on how much truth you want to tell."

Michael Wade said...


The "I'm your only client" attitude arises a lot. I think it is important to introduce some reality when discussing scheduling because that indirectly signals that there are other clients with needs and expectations.

I saw a transit director bring a bunch of advocacy groups down to earth once by listing their demands and then announcing, "I can do all of these. Just give me the money." That is, of course, harder to do with clients although saying, "This is the time frame in which we can do X" and sticking to that can help to determine if you are dealing with a reasonable person. Granted, sometimes you aren't.

Wally Bock said...

Great post, Michael. Honesty in representation is important. That said, sales calls are not a candor contest. You do not get more points for telling all. What's worked for me over the years is a regular touching base with clients and frequent mentions of my "work board" as in, "I'll put that on my work board as soon as you complete the project questionnaire."

When I was new in the business, I never pushed back on clients about deadlines. Now I work hard on agreement and reality-based goal setting every step of the way.