Experiences and Experiments in Programming

 Friday, July 21, 2006
One of the challenges often facing many smaller businesses is the decision to turn away clients or projects (and the revenue that goes with it) that can be counterproductive to the goals and success of the business. Sometimes it really is ok to just say no! Ultimately, you want to find engagements that allow you to help your client succeed as well as promote the success of your business. But what often happens is that compromises are made for the sake of revenue. And there is a difference between receiving revenue and long term success!

Not long ago I had a discussion with the CEO of a small development company. This CEO was telling me a little about their scenario and wanted my input/opinion. The company started out to provide custom software development for enterprise projects in the 1 - 10 million dollar range. They had a small but experienced staff. One of the projects they took on was a large enterprise system that was to be developed and integrated with an already existing business infrastructure. It was a large project and was going to span at least 1-1.5 years. All the resources of the company, including the CEO, except for the sales staff was dedicated to the project. Due to their level of expertise, the development company's staff were put in positions of leadership in the project, acting as senior level developers, and other team leads. All the members of the development company felt very strongly about the project and wanted to see it succeed.

This is where a change occurred. The desire to see the the project succeed became the top priority. Without even realizing it, they forgot their business goals and became dedicated to a project that ultimately was doomed to failure. Leadership in the client's company was not dedicated to the project and there was no true direction. Over that first year, the project became a ship being tossed around in a big ocean. Once the first series of work orders had expired, the client asked the development company to stay on and signed new work orders. Wanting to see the project succeed, they continued in this fashion for more than twice the original term of the project. Project Scope and direction continued to change and it had still not been moved into production.

Since all of the technical staff, as well as the company leaders, were occupied by the client's project, the development company's sales staff had no one to meet with clients that spoke the technical jargon. The business was not really being run; it was just running. The incredible frustration of the CEO finally cleared his head and he was able to realize what had been happening. Upon the next request by the client to extend their working arrangement and sign new work orders, the CEO had a tough decision to make: make a decision to put the client and the project first (even though the client continued to make poor decisions and have no direction), or make the decision that was the best for his company and employees and move on. The decision was made to not sign any additional work orders on the project. The decision was the right decision for the development company.

The development company had a couple of stressful months looking for the next project. But in that time, they were able to focus on strengthening and building the company. They had well defined short term and long term goals and a strategy to acheive them. It didn't take long before they were back on track and headed for success.

The point is that there is a fine line between wanting to help a client succeed and putting the client's success over your own. To be successful, I think you must put your company and your employees first. When trying to make decisions, a good question to ask is "is this the right decision for my company?". Who benefits from the decision you make? You obviously want your client to benefit from your services. That is why you are in business. But not at the expense of your own company.

Friday, July 21, 2006 10:29:46 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Who Am I - Todd Miranda
MVP Visual Developer - ASP/ASP.NET
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