Taking 'no' one step further

On Planet Drupal, there have been a number of posts lately about the difficulty project leaders and developers have in  saying "no" while working on a project.  As much as Project leaders want to please both their client and their team members, real leaders understand the responsibilities they have in saying "no".  More specifically, I'm talking about Boris Mann's post, "Susan Mernit on the role of "no" in product development" as well as Laura Scott's own post You've got to know when to 'no' them.

This is all interesting to me because for some time I've wanted to talk about Aaron Mentele's post, Every once in a while you need to fire a client.  Aaron Mentele is a web designer and co-owns a web design company based in Sioux Falls, SD.

There comes a time when most project leaders have mastered the the ability to say "no" to certain requests.  But what happens if you find yourself not really saying "yes" to the client?  Do you have it in yourself to recognize that by having to answer "no" so often in a project you likely shouldn't have taken on the project in the first place?  What are you to do?

Mentele points out that first we have to recognize the criteria in accepting a project in the first place. 

We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule. For a service provider, it means that unless you work to correct it, 80% of your problems come from 20% of your clients. And there are points in everyone’s timeline where it feels more like a 90/10 rule.

So how do you correct the ratio? Well, to start, you don't buy business. If you can't answer "yes" to at least two of the following qualifying questions, don't even consider the project.

  • Will the project make you money?
  • Will you enjoy working on it?
  • Will it lead to more work?

So if you're about to start a project and you can't really say yes to two of those questions, decline the project.  However, Aaron Mentele says that even he will mistakenly think he had two "yes" answers before taking on the project, but later find that you're sitting on "no" for two of the questions.   What do you do?

Catering to long-term clients that don’t consistently provide you with two or more “yes” answers will hamstring your business. Fire them.

Now he doesn't give that advice for selfish reasons but because it makes good business sense.  If you're spending more time on those few clients than you should, you are more than likely stealing away time and resources needed to keep the majority of your clients happy.  Of course, that business relationship ending between you and the client isn't going to always be pretty, but sometimes those are the hard choices we have to make.