Monday, February 16, 2009

Make fees, expectations clear from the outset

In the midst of watching the recent wrangling for and against the stimulus bill on Capitol Hill, I was reminded of how disagreements can inadvertently mushroom when expectations aren't managed by clear communication.

When I am engaged as a vendor for a client, I always make the expectations clear with a signed letter of agreement.

But when I engaged a photographer recently, I didn't keep my steadfast rule of managing my vendor's expectations.

Recently, I received a blistering e-mail from the photographer, which served as a great reminder that whether you engage a vendor or you are the vendor, expectations must be made clear to avoid misunderstanding.

It seems that as schedules changed, I interrupted the photographer's schedule for which I apologized at the time. He assured me that the schedule change was not an inconvenience for him. He also believed that the work we discussed was a greater priority for me than it was.

As other issues took priority, as they always do, he didn't remind me diplomatically that the project was at a standstill.

His resentment built over the passing weeks, while not letting me know that he "was uncomfortable" with the ongoing relationship.

If only he had said those magic words as I do when a vendor expects more than I can deliver for the fee they want to pay, we could have cleared up the misunderstanding.

I often find that a project with a client can linger. It is not incumbent on the client to facilitate the project for the convenience of the vendor. It is inherent in the course of being a vendor that projects get stalled or die slow deaths and time spent educating the client or making changes as they occur is simply the cost of doing business.

If specific fees and expectations aren't made clear at the outset, the vendor may feel short-changed.

Because so many of us are independent business owners, a good rule of thumb to remember is if you are the vendor, insist on written "rules of the road."

That way, you don't lose a client or your good standing as a professional.

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