Sunday, October 5, 2008

Things are looking up at work

We hit pay dirt on Friday at my job. Finally.

You’ll recall I’m helping a friend as he digs his business out of a hole. It has been about three months of re-tooling and re-schooling. We’ve been changing the focus from winning a contract and squeezing it for all it’s worth (taking no prisoners) to looking to build long term relationships with clients that will bear fruit again and again now and in the years to come.

We’ve developed a new suite of services that support clients over time moving forward. We’ve added a level of transparency to the bidding process that reassures the potential client that our price is based in reasonable reality – and not just a money grab. And most importantly we have been struggling to change the tone of my boss'es business style from a harsh trickster (whom many clients wish to never see again after he has completed the job) to a more friendly, service oriented ally who seeks to share his technical knowledge with clients to help them protect their investments (their building.)

There have been significant changes to the tone of written communications along with more use of the telephone and personal meetings – complete with careful coaching before making contact.

It’s a tough task to get this leopard to change his spots. When stress sets in he defaults to being no fun to be around. But we’re getting there.

We’ve been limping along for the past few months with small contracts (between R$4,000 – R$12,000). But using each one to practice new strategies. Teasing my boss and our engineer I put a sign up on the board that read: “We are standing in the middle of the desert waiting for our ship to come in!” (Apologies to Sheryl Crow.)

But we may have turned a corner on Friday. After a careful courtship under our new ground rules – we just closed a very profitable contract worth $170,000. Yes!

Now it’s on to phase two. Gotta stay a nice guy looking out for the client. No more grab the money and run.

I know there are significant cultural differences between how I’ve learned to do business in the States and how many Brazilians would run their shops (and I don't mean to cast everyone like my boss) – but somehow I gotta think that being nice to your client and honoring your word about quality and performance will translate just fine.

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