As a proven, reliable and successful software developer for the past 25 years, I have met many, many clients. You can tell a lot from a company by how you are treated when visiting their office. One of the things I always ask myself when I walk into a client's office...
"Is this company well run? Do they have effective leadership?"
This past week, being an unusually busy time of year for me, I had 2 on-site meetings with clients. Client A in New Port Richie, FL and Client B in Jacksonville, FL.
The two experiences this week could not have been more different.
Let me explain....
Client A Meeting in New Port Richie, FL
On Thursday of last week, I got up early and drove to New Port Richie. About 140 miles as the crow flies, which takes me about 3 hours with breaks.
I arrive at approximately 9:15 am for a 10 am meeting start time. I ring the door bell and an employee lets me in the front door. I approach the conference room where their Vice President is sitting at her computer. She doesn't get up to greet me, barely a "Hello, how are you, how was the drive...?" No offer of a cup of coffee or water. I sit in silence as 10 am approaches and more employees begin to enter the conference room. One of them, the Sales Manager introduces himself to me, again. I said, "Hello, I'm Craig. We've meet twice before..." He makes a face clearly struggling to remember meeting me before. Twice.
None of the other employees say, "Hello" or "Good Morning, Craig."
One of the other meeting participants is running late. I sit through a Sales Meeting and listen to their call. Clearly, this Company is busy working and closing deals.
These are deals to sell the "service" that the software I have developed for them provides. I manage and run this system for a ridiculous ROI. In fact, when I met Client A, their monthly burn rate for their broken product was more than $10k, now it's around $300, for a 100% working product. You can calculate the savings.
The Sales Meeting is wrapping up when the Principal shows up and finally enters the conference room. She half smiles at me and sits down.
The final meeting participant arrives, another consultant who brought me into this Project, puts his stuff down and sits next to me on the right.
Meeting commences. The Google Doc meeting outline is now the "agenda" for their World HQ meeting. I smile, ask questions and participate in the meeting and act like a professional.
Next, we break for lunch. We walk to a diner across the street. Lunch is nice. I want to discuss the many issues and communication problems I have working with them but eventually hold back and decide to say nothing.
We return from lunch and discuss the remaining outlined items as the VP is taking notes in Google Docs. The meeting wraps and everyone filters out. I stay behind to answer a couple of questions and demonstrate a few SQL queries for a Manager who works on reporting.
As I get myself together to leave, I see the Principal's door is closed. OK.
I walk away saying goodbye to no one.
As I drive home, I replay the day's events in my head.
Clearly, Client A does not respect me, my work or the value I bring to their Company and this Project. The total lack of respect is eventually going to make me walk away from this project, unfortunately.
Client B Meeting in Jacksonville, FL
On Tuesday of this week, I head out at 8 am for a 10 am meeting at a client's office in Jacksonville. Traffic is not too bad and I arrive at 9:30 am. I walk in the front door and the 2 Principals are in the lobby.
As soon as they see my face, they immediately walk towards me and extend a friendly hand, shake and say, "Good Morning, Craig, and thank you for coming in today." Almost in unison.
Their bookkeeper is also present and she comes over and says, "Hi Craig, so nice to see you, thanks for coming in so early today."
I respond with pleasantries and we have a quick sideline chat.
I'm asked to put my things down in the conference room and I am taken on a tour of their office in which I am personally introduced to each employee. The Principals explain that I am directly responsible for their recent growth and how happy they are with the system I have developed. They also explain that today's meeting and agenda allows for 10 minutes with each employee to discuss how to best improve their workflow and processes. Everyone has been super nice. These folks have it together.
I walk back towards the conference room to prepare for the meeting when I am stopped in the lobby by the Office Manager. She presents me with a company logo polo shirt and a gift certificate to an awesome steak joint in Jacksonville. Several of the people standing near or in the lobby clap and thank me for being helpful and "making their lives easier..."
I'm totally feeling the appreciation. These people really know how to treat their Developers.
I walk back to the conference room to set up my laptop and notice a nice spread of coffee, donuts, bagels and other refreshments. I grab a coffee and a water.
We have a very productive 5 hour meeting with a nice lunch catered by Firehouse Subs (it is Jacksonville, you know...).
Everyone is talking about the "energy" in the office and how fast they are growing. How exciting it is to be part of the team and how well the product works.
The new HR Manager comes in late and introduces herself to me. One of the Principals immediately turns in her direction and asks, "How many people did you hire so far today?" A smile and some laughter as she quickly runs off for another interview.
For the final 2 hours, I have 10 individual meetings with Key Employees to discuss minor issues and things that will improve their user experience. I take a lot of notes.
The meeting officially wraps. Everyone is high-fiving each other. Both Principals walk me out of the office and shake my hand. They thank me once again for coming to Jacksonville. The Owner hands me an envelope and says, "we really appreciate your help making our idea a reality..." Nice.
We plan to meet next week by phone for follow up.
This interaction reminded me that Jobs are created by Entrepreneurs. The right leadership starts with the right people; people who can recognize the contribution of others, have the right type of personality to lead and motivate individuals to create a company culture that rewards hard work and promotes a real sense of ownership.
Client B are truly appreciative of me, my work, my contribution to their goals and my participation in this project. They put effort into the meeting, took it seriously and were thoughtful enough to kindly thank me for my own efforts.
This is exactly how Client/Developer relations should and can work. When both parties are fully on-board and have leaders who "get it."
Otherwise, inevitable resentment and failure creeps in to your once successful project.
Please take a moment to think about how you treat your Developers.
We are human beings.
We deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
Company locations changed to mask identity. Individual names withheld for privacy reasons, of course...