How to Deal with Client Demands that Mess Up Your Workflow

Your clients are the reason that your project management is flowing.

They are the bloodline of your business. But, more often than you want to, they get into your nerves. They demand stuff that is out of the contract, unreasonable, or simply out of this world!

Thankfully, you don’t have to lose your sanity to keep your clients. You don’t have to do all of their requests either. In the end, the client will thank you for not giving-in into their crazy requests. Just look at this design disaster which happened to a Japanese noodle company when the designer said yes to all of the client’s demands.

This was the designer’s first draft.

But apparently, the client pretends to be an expert in design so more demands are made.

Until the demands went out of control…

Presenting, the final product- this is how your project will turn out if you say yes to the client all the time even if they’re completely cracked.

You can get through these chaotic client requests with win-win solutions through effective project management. Here are some tips to keep you sane while addressing your beloved but not so likable clients.

1. Technically set yourself up
Make sure your ship is in tip-top shape before the storm hits! Do I hear an aye aye captain? You’re setting yourself up for a disaster if your company is already in chaos before more craziness comes in.

If you have all your systems in place, it’ll be easier to regain composure no matter how crazy the demand of your client will be. You have two things to set up; the system and the person.

Your system is like a conveyor belt, every step ensures that a perfect product will come out. The person you assign will serve as the account manager. Choose someone who can be calm (or pretend to be) even during surprise requests from clients. She or he has to be credible because every request will be funneled to him or her.

2. Categorize the request
You have to clarify if the request makes sense. Because, sometimes, we don’t know what kind of sorcery comes into clients’ minds that they make insane wishes. Just look at the advertisement of the cup noodle above!

Next, if you have decided that the request makes sense, ensure that it is part of your scope. This is one of the reasons why project managers lose profit. They end up doing stuff that they aren’t supposed to be doing in the first place!

If the request is not in your contract, you have to decide if you want to do it just because you want to impress your client. If not, talk to your client to modify the scope and adjust the budget accordingly.

3. Watch your timeline
Be realistic about your team’s capacity. Don’t forget that you only have twenty-four hours, and those hours are not made for work alone. You, your teammates, and your employees are not superheroes.
Be outright in telling your client if deadlines are unrealistic. Most deadlines are flexible, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

4. Speak straightforwardly
No need for sugar coating here honey. You’ve already gained your client, so stop the sweet talk. What you need is to be able to communicate honestly and effectively so that you can help your client reach their goals.

Some of the client’s request may not be helping them to reach their goals. Whatever their reason is for making outlandish wishes, it is your job to make them see the bigger picture. Insist on what you know. They hired you for your expertise because you know better. So hold your ground, they’ll thank you for it in the end.

Conclusion:
Clients are not always right. If they are, they wouldn’t need your help! Be kind but firm when a client tries to mess up with your project management workflow. Your client is not trying to make you crazy. He or she may just be misguided or overwhelmed. You both want the same thing, a successful project, so work together to make it happen.
 

The next time a client makes an out of this world request, remember the following:
Ø Technically set yourself up
Ø Categorize the request
Ø Watch your timeline
Ø Speak straightforwardly

Infographic: The Art & Science of Delegation

Ever feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin as a small-business owner? Our infographic explains how you can grow your company and avoid burnout by learning to delegate.

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You Can’t Project Manage Chaos

So, your business is ready to scale.

You have all your superheroes with you and you’re ready to win the battle. But you look around and all you see is chaos! Maybe you need one more hero, a process ninja disguised as a project management consultant.

Project management skill is often overlooked in startups. You wonder why things are falling through the cracks when you have squeezed all your creative juices into your company. Stop bathing in secret sauces, please, you already had enough. You just need to hack the system and stop chaos from ruining your business.

In this webinar, ScaleTime founder, Juliana Marulanda talks (and laughs) about project management. She shares the dramas she and her clients experienced with project management and how to deal with them.

Here are the key takeaways from the webinar:

Juliana compares project management to a conveyor belt. Along the line, different persons add up to a product until it comes out of the conveyor belt perfectly. Without someone supervising the process, things may get stocked or the product may come out with defects.

One of the signs of a glitchy project management is missed deadlines. These missed deadlines have detrimental side effects such as: 

  • Loss of profitability
  • Unhappy clients
  • Project delays
  • Account manager overwhelm
  • Poorly behaved clients
  • Complacent employees

If you meet your deadlines, there is a better client and employee retention. Of course, it also means more profit.

How to stop things falling through the cracks:

  1.       Have due dates

I know, they might seem so painfully simple, but due dates work! Your timeline will keep your progress smooth even if other stuff comes in. It’s hard to prioritize if you don’t have due dates.

  1.       Milestones for check-ins

Check in between before the whole project is complete. This way, corrections can be made before it’s too late.

  1.       New tasks quick check-in

If there are new tasks, check-in right away so you can course correct early.

  1.       Backlog management

Make sure all of your data are still relevant. Overflowing backlog results to a messy system. One client of Juliana still had data from the Renaissance area! Not really, but still, it was ages ago.

  1.       Status updates

Status updates ensure that everyone is working on their parts at the correct timeline.

How Super Scaletimers Handle PM:

  1.       Create repeatable workflows

A workflow is a checklist of tasks. You can create templates for this workflow to save time.

Workflows can either be project specific or recurring. Automate recurring workflows to maximize efficiency.

  1.       Assign People and Milestones

Create task ownership to ensure accountability. You should know what people are working on and how they’re performing. Accountability also prevents anyone from burning out.

  1.       Review

Without consistent reviews, things get stocked or products come out imperfect. Juliana gives away hacks to handle reviews even if you hate them. Because love them or hate them, they’re crucial for project management.

  1.       Re-prioritize

Your reviews allow you to re-prioritize. New clients and new business goals also mean that you have to alter your priorities.

Who is a super project manager?

Even if the conveyor belt is going smooth, if the supervisor isn’t doing his or her job, the product will still come out with flaws. You need a super project manager, the hero of heroes.

A super project manager is a taskmaster. In the webinar, Juliana mentions the qualities of a great taskmaster. If you think creativity is the number one quality, I hate to break it to you but it’s not.

As a project manager, one of your most important tools is your knowledge base. Your knowledge base will be the foundation for your instructions. You need to give “dummy-proof instructions” to make sure that a chicken will come out of the conveyor belt if you want chicken and not an egg, or a duck.

Clarity in giving instructions is another winner skill of a project manager. Every word you say must be understood and executed by your team. One unclear instruction can alter every part of the project.

Your ability to track the system is another quality you should practice. There are different online tools you can use to track progress depending on the size of your team. In the webinar, Juliana suggests different apps that are fit with the size and goals of your team.

The tools you use should be parallel to your profitability. You don’t need to spend on tools right away. Yes, some of the project management hacks don’t cost a single centavo!

Project Management Hacks

  1.       Condition responses and answer questions only in your tool.
  2.       Find your workarounds app extensions.
  3.       Client requests
  4.       Make your business a client with different divisions

The Q&A portion of the webinar is also gold. Someone says that he is having a difficulty letting go of a wonderful app but it’s only working for solopreneur, it’s not ideal for a team. Juliana answered, “You should never marry your systems”. It’s okay to be unfaithful when it comes to applications!

Conclusion:

This article is just the tip of the iceberg, dig deeper by watching the webinar here. Juggling hundreds of tasks indicates good news. It means your business is growing, but it doesn’t have to be chaotic. Work with a project management consultant at ScaleTime to decide on the right project management model for your specific business needs

What to do when a top employee takes leave

It’s going to happen one way or another.

Maybe it’s because she gets pregnant. Maybe it’s because she gets sick. Maybe he takes a sabbatical or finds a new job. Whatever the reason, one day your top employee is going to tell you they need extended time off.

And in that moment, if you don’t read this article, you’re totally screwed.

The good news is, you’re reading this article, so there’s hope for you yet, youngblood.

You see, here’s what most people do when their top employee leaves:

Freak out and have a nuclear meltdown.

Take on all the work themselves, pretending like everything is fine.

Dump it on some poor, helpless, unsuspecting employee.

Panic, hire someone random and hope they can figure it out.

No, no, no!

What you need to do is create a plan NOW, so that you’re prepared for this moment when it comes. When you prepare, you’ll be able to absorb the shock of the impact without much damage to the business. If you don’t prepare, well, see “freak out and have a meltdown.”

Today I want to share three ways you can prepare for the inevitable loss of your top employee, whether it’s temporary or permanent.

Step #1: Find the docs

One of the biggest challenges owners face when an employee leaves is figuring out where everything the employee was working on is. Is it on their desktop in some folder? Some dungeon drive that hasn’t seen the light of day in years? Even worse, is it in their head, physically inaccessible to anyone besides your employee (at least until Elon Musk creates his brain linking company)?

Before it’s too late, build a clear structure for documentation that all of your employees understand and follow, and create a consistent naming structure so that documents are easily searchable.

Step #2: Track progress

Ah yes, the age-old question: Is my employee almost done with that client deliverable or have they yet to start?

If you don’t have clear insight into your employee’s progress on client work, you might as well be working alone. As the owner of your business, you need to be steering the ship in the right direction, but the only way you can do that is if your employees are rowing.

To solve this issue, implement a project management system with clear workflows, so you always know where any project is. This allows you to easily handoff work to different employees when another one has delays or roadblocks.

Do this and you’ve suddenly got a ship full of vikings, all rowing together towards Valhalla ($$$).

Step 3: Handoffs

Oh damn! Did I just say handoffs?

Why yes, yes I did.

When you’re employee says they’re going to take leave, who is going to handle their workload? Plan this out BEFORE they leave.

Can you shift their workload to one or two other people on the team? If this is your plan, do those employees have the capacity? You don’t want to shift the workload to people who can’t handle it.

Will you hire a temporary employee who will fill the gap while they’re gone? If so, how will you get them up to speed?

Will you promote another employee to take on the workload and then hire a new employee to fill that employee’s space?

Or will you hire someone new who will continue working with you when your #1 returns? If so, where will you find them?

These are all critical questions to ask before they’re necessary to answer.

So there you have it…

When you’re adequately prepared for your employees to leave, you can actually mean it when you congratulate your #1 employee when she tells she’s pregnant. 

ScaleTime Tips:

  1. Make sure everyone on the team has access to documents and client progress
  2. Make sure you have access to progress
  3. Make sure you can easily hand off their work

Have you ever lost your top employee before? If so, how did you handle it? 

Performance Evaluations

What type of student were you back in the day?

When it was time for report cards, were you rushing to show your parents your grades?

Or were you rushing to trash the report card before they could ever see them?

Great entrepreneurs are cut from both cloths.

But one thing few entrepreneurs realize is that report cards are a crucial part of growing your business.

The only difference is that they’re not called report cards, they’re called performance evaluations.

A lot of people recoil at this idea, but it’s not as cringeworthy as you think…

… and it could be the key you’ve been looking for to retain and develop good talent.

Think about it.

When you knew you had a killer report card, how did you feel? Were you nervous, or ashamed? No! You were on top of the world and you wanted everyone to know.

A lot of business owners feel weird “grading” their employees. But from your perspective, nothing could make more sense than a regular performance review.

First of all, it pushes you to keep track of your employee’s performance. Your money is going into their pockets, so I’d say it’s pretty damn important to know if that investment is paying off. You want to see if they’re delivering on expectations you set when they started off, or if they’re over or under delivering.

By doing it regularly, you get the chance to quickly course correct if things are going off the rails and address the cause of the issue.

If you’ve got an employee who’s crushing it, they’re going to be excited to get the evaluation, and you’re going to be happy to deliver it. It gives you a structured way to provide positive feedback, while providing an easy environment to deliver constructive feedback.

If you have an employee who isn’t performing no matter what, the evaluations are a way to let them know there’s an issue, and even let them go, in a way that is fair and objective.

In addition, performance evaluations are perfect times to set new goals with your employees. These goals should be a mix of goals for the business, but also development goals that are personally important to your employees. By helping your employees develop where they want to grow, you’re not only empowering them and building a deeper connection to the business, but you are also creating more skilled employees.

I understand the gut reaction against performance evaluations, but if you’re running a business, you know what needs to be done is rarely easy.

As Tim Ferriss says, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

If you’re ready to get started with performance evaluations for your employees, then you should check out my free template that gives you everything you need to get started.

Check out the performance evaluation template here.

Try it out and let me know how it goes. It may feel awkward the first few times you do it, but it will become easier with each one, and your business will be better off.

This hiring hack can save you 20+ hours

Putting a job posting up on a job site like Indeed is like throwing a grenade on top of a mountain and waiting for it to explode.

If you’ve created the right posting, you’re about to get an avalanche of resumes (one posting on Indeed can easily generate over 100 applications).

Few business owners have any reliable way for sorting through them.

Maybe you’re one of those people who spends 15 minutes on every single one, throwing away days in the process.

Or maybe you only review a certain number of resumes, and ignore the rest, potentially passing over the best candidate.

Either ways, after just a few reviews all resumes start to look the same.

Then you start second-guessing yourself.

And then the overwhelm takes over.

There’s a much, much better way.

After hiring hundreds employees of my own, and helping hundreds of clients do the same, I’ve developed a streamlined process that helps you quickly review the resumes you receive, while maintaining high standards to make sure you get the right candidate.

The process involves sorting employees into different buckets as quickly as possible. The Yes’s, maybes, hell nos, and people that might be good for something else. Each resume should take 30 seconds to review.

There are 4 key points you want to look for when you’re sorting through resumes.

        1.  Basic standards

There are a few questions we want to ask before we move on to the content of the resume:

  1. Is the person real? Yes, you might get spam resumes
  2. Is this resume formatted with any degree of professionalism?
  3. Are they based in a suitable location for the job?

       2.  Dependability

Here we’re looking to see if they’ve kept down a job for a year or longer, or if they have any big gaps in their resume. Although this doesn’t tell the full story, if a resume is filled with 3 and 6 month jobs, that’s a big red flag. Another red flag is if there are gaps in employment of more than a few months. Sure they could explain these issues, but we don’t have time to get everyone’s story here.

        3.  Experience

Looking at their job titles, do they have experience doing what you’ll need them to do? When we do this scan, we aren’t looking for someone with a perfect experience match (although that would be nice). What we’re looking for are job positions that are related to what we’re asking them to do, or ones that require similar skill sets.

        4.  Specific requirements

Are there any deal breakers or standards they must meet? Now is when you look for them. Certificates, degrees, or anything else that they must have.

At first this may take a minute or two, but believe me, after looking through a few resumes, you’ll be a pro.

Having too many resumes to review is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Following this process is an easy way to save time and money, while increasing your chances of finding the perfect hire for your company.

The Real Cost Of A New Team Member

Hiring an employee is one hell of an experience for entrepreneurs.

So many emotions bundled up into one decision.

One of the biggest challenges is figuring out how much an employee is going to cost.

I’m sure the first time you hired, you significantly underestimated how much it was going to cost.

Everyone does.

In fact, I find that most business owners often underestimate costs by 25%.

I’m gonna be real – that’s unacceptable, but it’s not too late.

Today I’ve got a few tips on how to budget for hiring, plus a handy hiring cost calculator that will help you get an accurate idea of how much it will actually cost.

To get started, there are few questions you need to ask yourself.

Once those are answered, head on over to the ScaleTime Hiring Calculator to get a clear budget prepared.

Pitfall#1 – Hiring a full time employee when all you need is a VA or freelancer

A lot of business owners who feel overwhelmed look to hire someone full time, so that they can “really focus on what’s important.” The challenge is sometimes the amount of overwhelm you feel is not directly correlated to how much work you have. Offloading a few tasks to a VA or freelancer will often clear enough off your plate, or the plate of your employees, to put you back in the driver’s seat.

Pitfall#2 Hiring (an expensive) senior team member because you don’t want to handhold

I see this all the time. In some cases, a business owner wants to find a team member who has experience doing exactly what you need them to do. In other cases, an employee is begging you to hire someone more experienced to handle tasks they aren’t equipped for.

Either way, your goal is to get someone who can hit the ground running. You don’t want to have to spend time training someone, hand-holding them through every aspect of their job.

It makes complete sense, but for most biz owners, it doesn’t work out. And the reason is because they don’t have the proper systems, documents, or training in place to help a new hire get up to speed. Without them, you could hire a college intern for 1/10th the price, and they’d only be slightly less effective. Even the most qualified employees still need to learn the ins and outs of your business before they’re ready to hit the ground running. Implementing proper hiring systems, and then hiring junior employees is often much easier and effective (you can mold them to your business because they haven’t had time to develop too many bad habits yet).

Pitfall#3 Underestimating costs

A lot of my clients say they want to hire someone worth 30K or 50K a year, and then go out looking for that person. The thing they don’t think about is that salary is just one part of the equation. Many other costs go into hiring, including:

  • Your time spent searching for candidates
  • Onboarding costs
  • Tax and benefits

The good news is – if you can avoid the first two pitfalls on your own, I can help you avoid the third. My Hiring Calculator helps you quickly estimate the true cost of that new hire. While most biz owners stick their finger in the air and hope things work out, you’ll begin the process bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Access the calculator here

Try it out and let me know what you think. If you were planning on hiring, how good were your estimates on how much it would cost vs. what you found using this calculator?