It's Our Policy

  • Posted on: 14 May 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

The saying, "you fail to plan or plan to fail" is so very true. You may hate McDonalds but the truth is they are the granddaddy of customer service. They worked it out. They have an entire system to serve billions. They push through billions of transactions for tiny amounts of money and turn that into a world empire. They've done that through customer service and to understanding the quid pro quo of policies and service delivery. That's why every Big Mac in Canada tastes the same.

Rules and processes are meant to put some order to a system. They're meant to build a system. All of the large organizations you see out there have systems in place. Something cannot scale without a system in place. It makes the processes reproducible, consistent and measurable.

A system is needed to make a short-hand for new employees without making the founder come downstairs and explain how things are done. Some places will push back against the establishment and the adherence to a system. Then, one of their staff will leave and they will say, "What are we to do?" Well-- invent a time machine and go back to establish a system. Or, accept that you are short-term screwed and that one can establish a system later. A decent system can outlive its operator or the operator's employment.

Inwardly, procedures and systems put everyone in an organization on the same page. Outwardly, polices are your language. Polices are made for customers to interact with in a way that is predictable, consistent and fair. If you do not have a system, nature abhors a vacuum. A system will be established for you.

Systems are a language-- a set of concepts: what is said, how it is said, what something means. If you juggle many clients with your own established system in place, then you have many types of relationship languages in play. Languages are meant to build a common framework and a means of communication. If there is no common language there is no communication. When explorers went to new lands, their first piece of interaction is to establish a common language-- one understands the other. Policies and procedures are that language when you are in a relationship with a new customer. Imagine how hard it would be to go to a new land and establish a relationship with a new people when your own language is not known to them. They could not learn your language and as a side effect they would use their language and impose it upon you.

Without these fixtures of established concepts, a web designer could be forced into becoming a system administrator. A programmer could be pushed to act as a graphic designer.
Policies and procedures are that language... with a new customer.
Your idea of being paid per hour could be pushed to being a fixed-price deliverable. Your ability to get payment on presentation for an invoice could become something wherein 90 days is the outer time frame for payment. Establish rules early and mark you territory. One way is to put those policies out there. As early as possible, lay those key policies out and see what they say. Very early out, (during the "I can build a web page for you" phase), bring up is there a minimum fee. Tell a prospective client that the minimum fee is $X. $2500? $500? It really depends on what that designer wants to see as a minimum interaction. It's what's the minimum interaction looks like. For example, what does it look like to have some move to the sales funnel and get to signing? How many bail part way through? How many mixers do you have to attend? How many tire-kicker phone calls do you have to take? Do that math. If you spend 10 hours of false starts and 4 hours to intake a warm body, then you're on the hook for 14 hours per live client before the work begins. Fourteen hours times your rate should be your minimum interaction. If that's 14 X $100/hr then say to them, "our project engagements start at $1400 and grow depending on the specifics." Most developers would pad this more (to $2500 or more) because $1400 on covers the printing of a contract, it doesn't cover actual work.

That would be an early litmus test. If a client cannot swallow that minimum without baulking, you don't want them. Give clients opportunities to push you in circumstances where they should not. If a client pushes against you before work begins, then they're going to push against you time and again. In my business, some things are not possible. You cannot get 3000-pixel wide resolution on a phone. You cannot make 4-pixel tall character readable. You cannot make password protected area without a password (yes, I've had that request). Pushing you because of absent policies can be frustrating and put your business under stress. That pushing can also come from clients that want to ignore reality. You're a whiz, not a wizard-- reality is not negotiable.

I have learned the hard way. I would prefer to be casual and amiable. I would prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Those mindsets are seldom rewarded because the client wants to exceed the boundaries. They do not respect boundaries laid down at the outset. Getting your policies and procedures in place so that everybody understands what's expected of each other is key. This has to be a two way street what you impose upon your clients has to come with a quid pro quo your clients have to be able to expect stuff of you and work inside of definitions you make it a one sided Street maybe you can succeed at that but the chance of success will be limited.

I am prepping a list of policies and procedures for my company Those DeWolfes Creative that will be out there in plain view. The beginning of those are linked from the footer of our website and from the bottom of every product and services page. We're going to make sure that prospective client understands and acknowledges what are policies and procedures are. They are going to be very clear, both in language in the ability to find them. No small print. There is so much double talk in design and marketing these areas that people don't get a good grasp of we're doing. There will be no double talk in our policies and procedures. I am hoping they also read to be clear and fair.

Small shops will ignore systems because they don't have the bandwidth for the exercise. If there are a set of policies to handle work, tasks, payments and communications conduct, they can be used and re-used with all clients. They can be assessed and measured. They can be evolved from the baseline to some ideal version. With no systems in place, every client will try to push their system into place. Whether or not you establish systems, systems come into play-- they may just be specific to a single business relationship.

That's what I can share. That's our policy.

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50