I recently got a note from a young man who wanted to know how I chose which entrepreneurs and businesses to work with. So, I figured I would share my criteria with you as it may clarify how you can go about setting your own criteria for working with clients or even give you insights on hiring a service provider yourself.
1- Can I help them and am I the best person to help them?
My number one goal is always to be helpful. There are certain types of work that are within my core competencies and certain issues or challenges where I may not be well suited to work with them. For example, in our customer loyalty programs, we focus on companies that already have an installed base of customers or fans that we can monetize, not getting the installed base of fans to begin with. In our merger and acquisitions work, we focus on companies that have $2 million of EBITDA and at least $1 million, unless there is an unusual scenario (as there are always exceptions). If I am not the best person or my firm isn’t the most ideal firm to do outstanding work, I refer it to someone in my network or I turn the opportunity down. I always like to under-promise and over-deliver and my reputation precedes me on that front.
We also take into account bandwidth and if we cannot give the client the proper attention at that time, then we are not the best people to help them.
If something is outside of your core competency, be upfront about it, find a collaborator or just plain turn it down. Always hold your client’s interests in the highest regard and don’t be all things to all people.
2-Can they (and will they) compensate me?
I do plenty of pro-bono work (for example, I share my knowledge through this blog consistently), but being in business means charging for what I do. I know that everyone who works with me will get a return out of that investment, so I feel that I am providing tremendous value. That means that if I am going to take on a client, they have to be able to pay me. In many cases, they also have to pay upfront (at least in part) and be deemed a credible payer, because I, unfortunately, have had clients who could pay and did not.
I am willing to get creative; I have bartered, taken stock and done other interesting payment options when the scenario warranted it, but willingness and ability to pay is a paramount criterion for me.
3-Are they willing to be helped and will we get along?
You know that good old saying, “You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”, well, I don’t like horses that won’t drink. So, if you are going to pay well for my services and you don’t implement the advice or strategies, then I am going to be frustrated and you won’t get a return on your investment. I hate that. So, I have to believe that you will take action and not make excuses.
Also, our personalities have to jive. I have found that there are some early stage entrepreneurs with certain personality traits who are very naïve and emotional about their businesses and it is hard for me to make headway. I am very straightforward, so someone who wants a “yes-man” (or woman, I guess) isn’t going to make for a successful collaborative effort, if you know what I mean.
As another approach to find out more about your potential clients, you can, for example, check companies at Duedil for more data on their general performance, size and other variables that might be of interest to you.
So, those are my fairly straightforward criteria. I hope that it will inspire you to think about how you choose which clients to work with and also how you choose who you hire.