“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates
One of the hardest things to do as a consultant is to admit I screwed up. After all, I’m brought in to solve problems that the client could not or would not address. I’m paid a lot of money (compared to employees, not hedgies). I have a reputation to uphold–that’s how I sell myself.
But, of course, I’m human, and make mistakes. One of the greatest gifts a client can give me is honest feedback on how I erred. It’s a gift because
- I learn something
- it takes the client’s time
- it takes the client’s emotional energy
- it would be so much easier for the client to just say nothing and not use me again
Did you catch that? Instead of the usual transaction which is trading my knowledge and time to the client for money, the client is giving me knowledge.
But don’t think it’s easy!
I screwed up recently and was given the gift of negative feedback. My first instinct was to reach for the requirements, or review emails, or figure out some other way to prove to the client that I was not in the wrong.
But the simple fact is that, if the client isn’t satisfied, a consultant is not in the right (I’m leaving aside clients that you should fire). It’s easy for me to think I’m selling hours and knowledge, but what I’m really selling is satisfaction. I don’t want to take a red cent from someone who isn’t satisfied with my work.
So, I had to sit and breath, walk and think, and just generally process this gift. After having done so, I communicated with my client, re-iterated my goal of his satisfaction, and proposed a compromise on my invoice. He was happy with that and we went on to do another project. I’m hoping he’ll consider me for more work in the future, but even if he doesn’t, the lessons I learned were well worth the cost of the compromise.