Last Chance for 2018 Pricing
First of all, happy New Year! I hope you all had an amazing New Year’s Eve, and aren’t feeling the pains of a late night too much this morning. And just a quick reminder, today, January 1, 2019 is the last day to receive last year’s price of $550 with this year’s bonus of 6 weeks of added follow up! To grab that deal before it’s gone, click here and enter the promo code 2018. It’s been a very popular deal so grab your spot now before they run out!
The First and Second Reasons Why Businesses are Inconsistent
Now, back to business. How to Be Annoyingly Consistent. Let’s start off by reviewing the first two reasons why companies often to fail to be consistent.
- A standards problem – If you don’t have extremely clear, written standards for yourself and your employees, inconsistency will be inevitable. How did we do this last time? What worked so well about that first meeting? What documents do I need to bring with me? How often should I update our client on this project’s progress? Write down what your standards are. What your procedures are. And things will get VASTLY more consistent. And your clients will also be VASTLY less stressed.
- A training problem – People only know how to do something your way, if you show them what “your way” is. If you don’t take the time to thoroughly train your employees on your software programs, your procedures, where to find things, who your vendors are, they’re not going to be able to do their job as well as they could have. To set yourself, your employee, and your business up for success, you need to take the time to properly train employees. Both when they’re first hired, and continually as their work progresses and evolves. And remember to share the reasons for why things are so particular. It helps to cement the memory, and helps them understand why these standards are so important.
Now, the third and fourth reasons for inconsistency, a hiring problem, and a consistency control problem.
Always Hire for Attitude First
Hiring is never easy. It can be an arduous process that at times seem taxing, confusing, and like you’re just winging it. You don’t know whose resume is embellished, who’s just telling you what you want to hear, and who the diamond in the rough is. So, what do you do?
Hire for attitude first. Skills, competencies, software abilities, design abilities, etc. are all of course extremely important. But no matter how gorgeous their designs are, or how much of an Excel whiz they are, if they’re unpleasant, or hard to manage, or offend every client and employee you have, those other skills aren’t worth a lot.
So, how do you hire for attitude? Well, there’s a lot of very technical ways to go about it. I just finished the book “WHO” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, and they give you a fantastic and very detailed step by step template for exactly how to handle hiring. The interview steps, the questions, the references, etc. And while it’s much too long to go into here, I do recommend it.
But, one of your main focuses when hiring is making sure a candidate fits in with your culture. Are they able, and more importantly willing, to follow your standards? Are they willing and able to work the hours you need them to work? And what about any travel? Share your standards, procedures, and the objectives for the position with them during the hiring process and ask them what they think. Have they had experience upholding such high standards? And what about the objectives, do they think they can deliver upon them? Ask them to be honest as you want to make sure that both they, and you, are getting the right match of personality to position.
Ask Your Other Employees What They Think
Also, if you have other employees, let them meet the candidates. And then later ask them what they think. Employees might see what you don’t. When I was working at the wealth management firm, an intern was hired to cover some of my tasks when I was on maternity leave. I met him when he was being interviewed and had been told he was a real rock star. I thought differently. But, I wasn’t asked for my opinion later so I didn’t feel it was my place to share it.
He was hired. I could tell something was a bit off when I met him during his interview process. He seemed disengaged and uninterested. There was no excitement, enthusiasm, or spark. He seemed unimpressed that he was being interviewed. And unfortunately that’s what happened when he worked there. He was never focused, engaged, or enthusiastic about his work. He saw it as something to do until he found a full time job in the finance world. Now why could I see what others didn’t? Because I’m some sort of psychological genius capable of unearthing someone’s true character in a way that no one else was able to?
While I would of course like to think that, it’s not true. What is true? Interviewees often show a different side to employees who aren’t interviewing them. They’ll let their guard down a little more. They might show off who they really are, for the good and the bad. Because they see them as equals they don’t put on a front like they do with the boss. And that’s critical information you need to know. If they’re consistently engaged, enthusiastic, and friendly to everyone, that’s one big box checked. If they’re a bit “bored” while talking to your employees or share gossip or some sort of unsavory information about their past position, that’s obviously a red flag.
So it’s important to ask employees their thoughts on all serious candidates. Ask, “How well do you think they’d work with clients? How well do you think they fit into our culture? How do you think they’d interact with the other employees? How well do you think they can uphold our standards?” And try to keep the questions open ended and leading with “how well.” Asking, should I hire them or not is a tough question for an employee to answer. Or, do you like them is just as tough. They don’t want to offend you for your pick or stomp on your parade if you like the candidate. So, they may not speak up. But, asking, how well do you think they’ll handle …. allows them to speak openly without offense. And isn’t just answered with a straight yes or no.
And don’t feel obligated of course to hire or not hire according to what your other employees think. But just let them know you’re trying to gather as much information as possible about the candidates and their feedback is valuable. Plus, they might be working with them just as much, if not more so, with them than you are. So their opinion does matter.
The Consistency Control Problem
Now, what’s the last and final reason for inconsistency, consistency control. You can’t make it too hard to maintain consistency. You have to make it as efficient, easy, and understandable as possible to make sure that employees follow protocol. Here’s what I mean. Back when Aaron was a teenager he worked at a sandwich shop, and while meats and cheese had clear “standards” two slices of cheese for a 6 inch, and 4 slices for a foot long. The toppings were less clear. They were to be measured in ounces. So many ounces of spinach, so many ounces of olives, etc.
How would anyone possibly know how many ounces of red onions they have in their hand? They don’t. And they obviously can’t get out a food scale and weigh each ingredient as it’s extremely inefficient. So, the consistency control is skipped and employees have to start eyeballing things. Consistency is key. But so is efficiency. And when you have a long line of people anxious to grab a quick sandwich and get back to work, efficiency has to win out.
Now what could they have done instead? Used pre-measured or pre-marked cups. Onions, olives, and jalapeños have a 1/4 cup placed in their bins. All greens, use 1 cup. Because it’s just as efficient and easy to see that a cup is full as it is to grab a hand full. So, controlling that consistency is easy. And will be likely carried out. But measuring in ounces? No way.
Consistency & Design
How does that relate at your design firm? Say you want your assistant to retrieve client files every Friday morning to update clients on their project’s progress. But, the file cabinet is in the back of the office. And she sits at the front of the office, where she also answers the phone and greets clients at the door. If you ask her to return every file as she finishes with it, she may not follow through. It’s not practical from the standpoint of her other duties, phones and door duty. So, instead, create a different system that makes it easy for her to uphold your standards. Give her a “file holding” basket on her desk that allows her to hold onto files until the end of the day. But also allows you to still maintain a consistent system.
Make controlling your consistency as easy as possible. Make it actually just as efficient, even more efficient, to be consistent. Checklists. Templates. Forms. Workflows. All written down and saved to make your life easier in the future. Instead of always having to explain your design process many times over to new clients, put it on your website. Create a visual workflow of your design process that you can share with, and give to, your clients at the first meeting.
Or, instead of having your assistant create a different version of the same email over and over again to set up meetings, prepare clients for the installation, etc. create templates for her to use for the different steps in your design process. And have her just plug in the “custom” information. Make consistency your default. You can create all of these documents once. Then use them over and over and over again. Because not only are you saving time in the future, but you’re also creating consistency that’s easy to implement.
Your Clients Should Never Notice a “Different” Experience
No matter who is working with your clients, their experience should be the same. Whether it’s you, a junior designer, or your assistant, the client shouldn’t get wildly different experiences from each person. Because the same standards and values should be upheld and carried out by everyone. Now of course not everyone will have the same knowledge, skills, personality, or authority. But the ability to deliver the same quality experience should be delivered by everyone. Because everyone should be fully trained on, and in agreement with, your overall mission, procedures, and preferred conduct.
The ability to deliver the same experience no matter what day, month, year, it is, what stage in the process you are, or what employee a client is dealing with, is not an easy task. But, it’s one of the fastest ways to obtaining, and maintaining, a stellar reputation. And if you make your standards clear (and write them down), train employees on them continually, hire the right people, and make sure your consistency standards are easy to maintain, magic can happen.
Because having even one employee who is rude to clients, or one part of your design process that always goes wrong, or one part of your year that’s always busy and things start slipping through the cracks, clients start to get irritated. And they may start to look elsewhere for their next project. So consistently work on your consistency. Don’t rely on memory, or luck, or that one great employee to deliver a great experience to every client every time.
And yes, it may be rather annoying to be this consistent. To you and your staff. Especially as creatives. It might feel like having so many processes and procedures is stifling. But it’s not. It’s actually the opposite. It actually frees up your mind to be as creative as you want because you longer have to worry about remembering the next step in your process. Or what you need to share with a client in a meeting. Or that schedule that you agreed upon with a client. Being annoyingly consistent may actually be the best thing you can do for your creativity. Your clients. And your bottom line.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Services page to find out more!