The personal side of a Web Project & Relationship

Website building is an endlessly fascinating endeavour because it marries up the functional with the aesthetic, site owners goals and hopes with professional opinion, conjecture and many paths to resolution and understanding & learning. Simplistically one of the biggest problems our industry faces is a lack of care and understanding from both sides of the fence – client & agency – about what one is asking and what the other is expecting.

There are 2 viewpoints which are greeted by any variation of the above:

Client has a problem, desire, goal or requirement to get a web system up and running
Agency has to interpret this input

Agency has a problem, desire, goal or requirement to get a web system up and running
Client has to interpret this output

As a consequence, aspects of how web agencies get chosen from the clients side reasonably fall loosely into the experience, expertise, metric/capacity or fiscal spheres of assessment:

Experience: How many projects have you done of a similar nature? What technology spread do you support (JSP, ASP, Java, PHP, Unix etc), What is the spread and makeup of your staff – junior, mid range, senior? How and where did you gain your experience?
Metric/Capacity: Do you have enough staff? Do you have different office locations to both defer risk and service national/international engagements? How many similar clients do you have in the industry (think FMCG, Manufacturing, Banking & Finance, Government etc)
Fiscal: Do you offer value for money? Are you too expensive? Are you too cheap? (not representing value and experience), How financially stable are you to maintain liquidity and viability in tough times?

However, I think the one that gets absolutely and totally underrated, misjudged and overlooked time and time again is the very basic question: Do they get along with you? Broken out this can include:

Personal: Do they like you? Do you get along with them? Are you their type of person?

The cold hard facts are thus: If they don’t like you, they most certainly don’t want to spend their companies money with you, because it is likely the decision in web agency that is being considered will be scrutineered at the highest levels of the business read: board, C-level, head of division etc. Liking you can encompass any number of measures: Appearance, mode of speaking, body language, race (even though they will never imply this), social upbringing & background, what sort of clothes you wear, what sort of car you drive, whether you are a Mac or PC user…. Unfortunately, it can even extend to your character and way you present things – it is such a personal and intangible aspect of new business engagements, it needs to be considered closely and kept in mind at all times.

A very basic metric I always put in front of someone when I first meet them and am considering working with them – “Would I have a beer with them outside of work?” If it’s a no, then I find, perhaps through pre-programmed predujice, we tend not to win the job. I adopt the position that if I don’t get along with them, then it isn’t very likely the team I represent will likely get along with them either. I consider my work colleagues with a deep level of respect and admiration for the work they do and subsequently I count them as friends because, I always have a position where I admire my friends and their achievments and value systems.

Why on earth then, would I want to afflict my work colleagues/friends with a client who I assess as someone I wouldn’t want to have a beer with?

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