“They gave us world class, but all we needed was the basics.”
Last week I was speaking with a VP of Quality at a small medical device company at which point he politely complained to me about a recent experience he had with a consultant their company brought onboard. The company was implementing a new online quality management system (QMS) and was utilizing this consultant to get it up and running.
The VP shared with me his irritation about how the consultant came in and took on the project as an expert in the field. The consultant had done many QMS implementations prior and came with good recommendations of his work. As the conversation went on the VP share further irritation about his experience working with the consultant. He brought in an expert to do a job that was rather straight forward yet that’s not what the company got in the end. Unfortunately, the consultant failed to understand one of the most important aspects of his job – understand the needs of the customer and implement accordingly.
“We’re a small company, we don’t need all the bells and whistles right now [from a QMS system]. We just need a system that keeps us in compliance while making things easier from a process flow standpoint.”
The VP was sharing with me a painful experience he was having as a result of someone doing work for him and not understanding what was actually needed in the moment to be successful on that project.
Sometimes what’s needed is the basics, not world class. The key is knowing when each of these is appropriate.
All to often we show up to a project or work with the idea we’re going to dress up the proverbial pig ready for a fancy night out on the town. This pig of ours is going to look amazing, amazing because of the work we did to get it there. However, we end up missing the mark because we don’t bother to ask the right questions along the way. If we had bothered to ask the right questions to understand what was truly needed by the company and the key stakeholders we may find out the ‘pig’ just needs a new pair of shoes, not a whole wardrobe change.
Here’s how this played out in the scenario above with my client and VP…
Here’s the rub on the situation.
If the consultant had bothered to ask the vital question of their client upfront “What does ‘success’ looks like at the end of the project?” he would have found out the client needed a practical QMS which met the basic needs of their product and regulatory requirements yet did not need a lot of the fancy bells and whistles larger companies utilize with their QMS.
Basically, this small medical device company needed a QMS that was straightforward, basic yet allowed them to upgrade their company to meet the regulatory requirements for their product. The client wanted a no frills, basic system yet what they got was a world class system they’ll probably never fully utilize.
Don’t assume your work or project requires you to put forth world class service. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is all that’s needed. Knowing the different between ‘good enough’ and world class work outputs is a vital skill to develop and implement in your career.
Before you begin your next project at work think to yourself “what’s really needed here? The basics or something more?”. Then actually go ask the key stakeholder in charge. Doing this shows an ability to think big picture with an appreciation for what’s best for the company, not what’s best to make you look good as a result of the work you can do.
Like many things in life there is often more than one way to accomplish a task. This is especially true for those of us who fall in the creative space. One persons’ approach in the creative development process (drawing, painting, product design, coding, graphical design, underwater basket weaving, etc.) could be quite different from the person sitting next to them yet it’s possible for both people to arrive at the same destination.
Or so we think.
I recently sat down with a good friend of mine, Tim Humphrey, who I’ve had the pleasure working with for several years teaming up to facilitate a variety of product design and drafting projects in the medical device arena. During our discussion I shared with Tim a frustration I had, and still have, having to do with inconsistencies in people’s design approach. I see this often in product development where the approach one person takes to design a product may on the surface get them to the desired finish line but as a result of their approach it leads to a plethora of unnecessary challenges down the road.
As Tim laughed at me lightheartedly, we found ourselves diving deep into a discussion where in one conversation I found myself both highly intrigued while equally confused and somewhat baffled at the same time.
Here’s the issue as I see it specific to designing in a product development scenario.
Issue: someone is tasked with designing either a product, sub-assembly or component of a new or existing product. As such, their design approach gets the company to a conclusion where the design is technically complete allowing the person facilitating the work to check their proverbial work box and move on to the next assignment. While the work may have technically been completed, it often is done in a fashion which causes all sort of problems down the road for the company, including other employees working on the same project within the same organization as well as their external suppliers.
How is it someone can complete a design project satisfactory on the surface yet problems arise down the road with that very same design which had been previously approved?
Answer: the devil is in the details, or lack thereof, to be more specific.
Tim and I both agreed on the following. The reason why companies and or their respective employees experience this is because they aren’t following a formal and documented ‘gold standard’ for their design practices. Simply put, they lack discipline with design fundamentals. They don’t have GOLD! There is also something to be said about training. If your company lacks proper training to ensure the standards are being followed that too can produce similar unwanted results.
As a result of a lack of design standards and training employees are left to decide for themselves how to complete a task which may get them to the finish line but the approach, process and details along the way can have wild variances and interpretations.
While this may be common place and old news to many of you reading this article, the reality is the actual practice of designing a product with repeatable ‘gold standards’ is anything but common sense or consistent in the workplace. When our approach to design is fast and loose we experience the following:
When these issues show up it causes companies to reinvest dollars and resources into their work in order to move the project forward to get it to a point of where it can be properly advanced along the product development life cycle. This reinvestment is unnecessary and a huge time suck.
For these reasons its vital companies implement a gold standard which their employees and suppliers follow to ensure the work each party is facilitating makes it to the finish line in the same format, intent and approach. This unification of process increases the likelihood design work is done correctly while also ensuring future usage of said designs doesn’t require additional unnecessary iterations or complete redesigns.
Does your company need to implement a ‘gold standard’ for your design and product development practices?
Implementing a gold standard includes:
If you and or your company lacks a gold standard for your product design efforts you are inevitably wasting time and resources. This also has a direct correlation to a suppliers’ ability to help with outsourced work causing the overall project to be more challenging and lengthy than necessary (prototyping, manufacturing, etc.)
Got GOLD? Start right away implementing your gold standards starting with develop a best practice plan. From there setup a review plan to provide feedback on all work performed. Once infrastructure of your new gold standard system is established you’ll want to asses the skills of your team and develop a training program which can be offered to both new and existing employees.
In this weeks Monday Quickie Recap we talk about our article ‘How to be Successful in the Start-Up World’ and the importance of working outside of the box and your respective job description, as well as the impact good/ bad leadership can have on small companies.
Think back to the last time you experience a moment where during a conversation an elongated pause or silence occurred between you and the other person, inevitably leading you to think in the moment “this is awkward”.
Perhaps you were in a social setting, on a date, in a debate, or even at work. Whatever the situation may have been it’s highly likely you did or thought about saying something in moment just to end the awkwardness of the deafening silence between you and the other person. If in fact you acted and said something in order to break the uncomfortableness of the silence know that you just failed one of the basic lessons taught to many professionals about the art of negotiations.
Don’t feel bad, it happens to all of us. Here’s why…
While the situation you were just thinking about may not have had anything to do with a negotiation, the action you took and therefore the outcome is all too reminiscent of a typical negotiation setting.
Did you know many people in a professional ‘buying’ role are trained on how to deal and negotiate with a seller? Meaning, they’ve been taught a ‘buyers strategy’ on how to negotiate with sellers in order to get an outcome which is more favorable to them as the buyer.
I know this because I’ve been through the class. Many companies train their key people in decision making positions, such as leadership, buyers, purchasing, contract managers, etc. to use an interesting tactic in negotiations which is the ‘pause’. It’s a devilish and fairly simple tactic that works like a charm with sellers, especially those who aren’t particularly skilled with negotiations. Here’s how the ‘pause’ from a buyer works:
Seller: Well Tom, we can certainly provide you with 10k units of ABS molded tubing at $3.85 per meter.
Buyer: Doesn’t say anything in response to the sellers pricing comment; buyer just sits there with a smug look on his face starring at the seller creating an uncomfortable and certainly awkward silence.
Seller (20 seconds into the awkward silence): Actually, you know what Tom, we can probably get that number down to $3.40 per meter if you’re able to sign off on a PO today.
And there you have it.
The art of negotiation at times is nothing more than a pause; flat out no response at all, no reaction. When an inexperienced seller is confronted with a pause in a negotiation they squirm in their seat to the point where they feel compelled to say something in an effort to get out of the awkwardness and hopefully move the discussion closer towards the sale. They then break the number one rule of negotiations, “whoever responds 1st loses”, and blurts out another offer.
The buyer may have had every intention to buy the sellers product, they were just trained better in the art of negotiations to know that sometimes patience and not responding to the first offer can get you a better deal.
It happens all the time.
If you’re a consultant the art of negotiation is very much the same. Many times a client early in a conversation will put a consultant on the spot by asking “what is your rate?”. Most people and or consultants hate that question, especially if it’s early in the discussion as they haven’t been able to ask enough questions to better understand the client or buyers needs. As a result, the consultant throws out a figure with limited information which further puts him or her in a back peddling position defending their rate and or service with the client.
If you find yourself in a conversation where the rate question comes out early in the discussion the best way to address it is, yep, you guessed it – use the ‘pause’.
Pauses also work on the sellers side too.
Utilizing a pause, a momentary stalling in discussion, allows you to adjust and think before blurting out an answer. Peter Bregman’s book ‘4 Seconds’ talks about the power of pause and how even a 4 second pause before responding can dramatically improve your outcomes.
“What’s your rate?”, the buyer asks.
“My rates are based on the work I’m performing, length and difficulty of the project. For this reason I don’t use a standard rate for my work and would need to understand more details of your project before I can ensure I’m the right person for the job.”
Basically, you’re saying ‘I’m not a commodity, so don’t treat me that way’. You also didn’t rush into giving them a price which may or may not be reflective of the work the client needs completed. You ‘paused’ as the seller and backed up in order to reframe the conversation in a way that helps both you and the client learn more about one another’s capabilities.
Key Take Away:
If you’re in a negotiation don’t rush to fill silence with a comment that might work against you down the road. Stew in the pause, in the silence. You may find the person on the other side of the table cracks before you do.
Read the book by Peter Bregman called ‘4 Seconds’. It’s a quick read and provides great insight and perspective on how utilizing a pause, even 4 seconds, can dramatically change the outcome of your conversations, actions and even relationships.
The demand for consulting is up, way up!
The US consulting marketplace has grown consistently over the past decade. In the last three years, 2015-2018, consulting services have increased upwards of 25% bringing it to an estimated $68.5 billion U.S. dollars.
Demand is up and so is the desire from the US workforce to provide the service.
Whether you’re new to consulting hoping to dive in to get a piece of the current demand for consulting services, or you’ve been consulting for years, you’ve inevitably been challenged with the thought…
“How should I charge for my services?”
Here we’ll give into a quick and straightforward guide for establishing your consulting fees and the things which need to be taken into consideration before settling on your pricing approach.
#1: Research the local marketplace – it is imperative you understand what the marketplace yields for the consulting services you plan to offer this way you have an understanding of how you fit in with your competitors and their respective offerings. Best way to obtain this information is to ask others in the business, attend events and get quotes from others in similar lines of work. While you always want to make sure you’re getting paid for what you’re worth, you also need to be cognizant of pricing yourself out of the game.
For example, in Irvine, CA there is a large supply of people offering mechanical engineering design services. Baring any unique or niche expertise the average mechanical engineer consultant charges anywhere from $50-80/hr. If you’re charging $125/hr for similar services you may find yourself missing out on projects with potential clients because the end user, or client, has too many other reliable and capable consultant options to choose from at rates cheaper than your offering.
#2: Fixed cost vs. time & materials – you’ll need to decide up front what type of pricing strategy you’re going to use. Fixed cost is when you charge a flat fee or a ‘not to exceed’ fee for work you’re performing regardless of the amount of hours it takes you to get the job done. Time & materials pricing structures price based on the amount of hours it takes to complete the job. Read more HERE.
#3: Long game mindset – your pricing should reflect both your experience, capabilities but also your willingness to get repeat business from your clients. If your rate is higher than the average marketplace rate for similar service you may still be able to get work, however you may find the client doesn’t pick you for additional work or longer projects. Remember, the higher your rate the higher the clients expectations will be on your performance and the further scrutiny you will receive on your work output.
#4: Know your profit margin – it’s important you understand what potential profit you stand to make for each project. Profit is what keeps you growing and stable long term. If you’re constantly breaking even you leave yourself at risk for unexpected downturns and other things out of your control. Establish an ideal profit margin per project you want to achieve and incorporate that into your pricing. Learn how to establish a profit margin HERE.
#5: Flexibility is key – clients like working with consultants that are flexible; if you’re too rigid with your pricing you may find you’ll lose out on opportunities in the long run. Try pricing your work based on the difficulty of completing the task. Perhaps you have a minimum threshold you’re going to charge per hour (say $100/hr) and then based on the work you’re potentially taking on you will scale your price upwards by 25%. It’s not uncommon for consultants to have a pricing menu based on the range of their capabilities and difficulty to perform the work at hand. We suggest not using a ‘one size fits all approach’ for pricing your services.
#6: Know what you need – while you should never price your consulting practice based on your personal lifestyle (clients don’t care how big your house is, what car you drive or what your bills are so they certainly aren’t going to pay you more just because your lifestyle requires it) it is important to know what you need to be charging in order to meet your personal financial obligations. Once you know this number go back to step #1 in this article to see if your pricing number is in line with the general market. Don’t charge more just because you need more to live. Clients can smell that from a mile away and it’s a big turn off.
Pricing should be based solely on the value you provide. Your consulting price should have flexibility built into it while keeping in mind the difficulty of the work being performed. Ensure you know how the marketplace is operating and what others are charging for similar services so you can be competitive with your offering.
Meet 3-5 people in the consulting space which is similar in nature to yours. Learn about their offerings, how they go about pricing their service and what challenges they’ve had with clients specific to pricing. The more you can learn from them ahead of your own efforts the better off you’ll be when it comes time to present your price in front of a potential customer.
This week we discuss the reasons behind why so many of us wait to lead, how we can recognize our abilities to lead by addressing our fears and how to transition successfully into a leader without the need for a management job title
Check out our Monday Quickie recap as Trisha Aure and Travis N. Smith discuss this weeks article, 'You're Doing It Wrong'; we cover ways to address miscommunication and how to ensure successful project/ work completion between employees, consultants and suppliers.
To view the article: https://lnkd.in/gyFJmcE
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.