A couple years ago I came to a shocking realization about business in general. Whatever you are passionate about, wherever your career takes you, it all hinges on one single thing. One skill can single-handedly take you where you want to go. It is true in every field of expertise that I know of, especially in developing websites. Your business succeeds based on relationships.
This principle is not profound, but it is proven. We can all stand to be reminded that everything we do revolves around our interaction with others. The science of mastering those relationships creates success in whatever form we choose.
Those of us in the web development field can easily lose touch of this key principle while tucked away in front of a screen for 14 hours per day answering emails and writing code until our fingers cramp up. While email and instant messaging makes our lives infinitely easier, it is not the answer to how we master our relationships with clients and team members. Being a closet introvert myself, I would much rather send a mindless email than go out of my way to be nice to someone, or heaven forbid leave my office and meet them for coffee. That kind of attitude is a great way to tread water for the next five years and never grow your business. Find a way to communicate better.
Clients and customers that you work with just so happen to be your biggest marketing tool. So find a reason to pick up the phone and call your client to discuss the project you are working on or work out a support issue with them if they need help. Find time to meet people you are working with and just bounce ideas off each other. Whatever it is, find excuses every day NOT to send email.
I also find that miscommunication often occurs through an email or instant messages. So if nothing else, give your clients absolute clarity by calling to give them an update. People are often times unintentionally rude and create a great deal of tension in a working relationship through an email. I find that the things people would say in an email (or on a blog), they would most likely not have the nerve to say to anyone's face. In those situations, have the integrity to call them up and walk through whatever is going on. 9 times out of 10 you will both leave the conversation feeling better about where you stand.
Lastly, not everyone works like we do. We love technology and email because it enables us to get things done, but many of our clients don't care as much about it. Taking the time to call and give your undivided attention to a client will make a world of difference. In the end it just creates future business for your company.
I would like to challenge you to try and make five work-related verbal connections per day. Just five. Whether it is calling a potential client to talk with them about their new website, or meeting a co-worker for pizza to discuss your current projects and the web application idea you have, these five connections will help you to create the business you always dreamed of.
This very article has inspired me to meet early with a client tomorrow for coffee, and then to fly to New York for the weekend and hang out with someone I have worked with for two years and never met before. I hope that it inspires similar action in your own business.