Any kind of partnership means a bit of hard work.
To succeed, a client/vendor relationship has to be a mutual blend of communication and compromise on both parts. Even with a common goal in place, it can be a struggle if ideas and egos clash. There's certainly an art to a great business partnership and a successful project, but we’ve found that the best relationships always include mutual respect and honest communication.
What’s the best way to react when patience is at a premium and tempers are starting to fray? We have some recommendations and reminders for both clients and vendors to keep projects (and people) from reaching the boiling point.
Two riders, one horse, and a giraffe
When a project is underway, it proceeds from an initial plan. At this stage, it's common for both parties to be harmoniously in agreement. But as the project develops, things can change. Clients may have ideas their vendor disagrees with, while the vendor's expertise may be trumped in the client's eyes by their own opinion, or the notion that since it’s their money, the ‘customer is always right.’
- Exercise flexibility and adaptability. It's true that nobody knows better what the client wants than they do. It's also true that nobody can execute it better than a professional. The power of authentic listening has deep-rooted psychological effects, and all of them are positive. From increased mutual trust, boosted productivity, and cooling down tense situations, an open ear goes a long way.
- Demonstrate that everyone’s voice is valued. When we feel we’re being heard, we’re far more likely to value the contributions of others. A fascinating take on empathic communication is Marshall Rosenberg's Giraffe Model. It teaches non-aggressive forms of speech that cater to everyone's universal need to be heard, and has achieved success in business, parenting, healthcare, and psychotherapy.
The quiet client
When a client doesn't get back in touch, a vendor is often looking at one of three situations: the client's busy, they've forgotten, or there's a problem. If it's the latter, they may be dissatisfied for any number of reasons, none of which can be resolved without communication.
Not staying in touch regularly enough is an obvious faux pas for a vendor, but equally off-putting is needless over-communicating. It's important to keep everyone regularly informed as a project progresses, but too much contact without context can lead to information overload.
Unnecessarily frequent communications may seem like small interruptions, but can lead to frustration as inboxes fill up. It’s important to find a balance between keeping everyone in the loop and giving some breathing room.
When a client does makes contact, a vendor should reply promptly. Setting this kind of example has a positive two-fold effect. Firstly, the client knows they can reach out and receive a swift response. Secondly, displaying this kind of immediacy in reply goes some way to promoting it in return.
Revision number 16…
We acknowledged above that project alterations are par for the course, and client input is, of course, invaluable. But what if there are too many ideas? Too often, projects are stalled or derailed when clients start asking for too many revisions. At best, these are minor course corrections. At worst, they lead to confusion, missed deadlines, added expenses, and frustration all around.
Clearly defining the parameters for revisions at the beginning of a project and outlining the costs and risks associated with those changes is beneficial for both parties, as it prevents a power struggle and limits the possible setbacks from too many changes of mind.
Once again, quality communication throughout the project life cycle also helps tackle this problem before it arises. Effective contact is born from using the three skills above: attentive empathy, well-structured communications, and defined boundaries.
Day #2, Email #623
This is the opposite of the quiet client, and it can happen with the best of intentions. Even though a client may simply be looking for updates or wants to share thoughts, it can be a bit overwhelming for even the best of project managers to keep track of stream-of-consciousness communications.
Setting a schedule for regular progress reports and updates can go a long way. Twice a week, three times: whatever works best for the team and the project. If you don’t have a schedule in place when you start your project, put one in place as early as possible to give everyone more space to work.
Every project is going to have some hiccups – it’s par for the course. But above all, it pays off to make the word partnership the priority. Keeping lines of communication open, opinions respected, and boundaries clearly defined are the real tools for a successful project and relationship.
The Beachwood Custom team has been immersed in the hospitality industry since 1992 with a range of experience including design, purchasing, manufacturing and installation – the art of opening a hotel. If you'd like to get in touch with us about your next project, contact us today.