My Take-Aways from Clients for Life

By Mike Maddaloni on Sunday, July 29, 2007 at 10:24 AM with 0 comments

Once during an annual performance appraisal I was told I was a generalist, and as they supposedly could not sell me as an expert, I was not going to receive a raise or bonus. This came almost a month after I received a “client service” award from the same person. What was my reaction? I smiled, and thanked my reviewer as I considered it a compliment to be called a generalist, and then pointed out how the 1.5 year project I just completed needed a generalist. A month later I quit that company.

For some reason there is a perception being a generalist is bad. You see this more in medicine, as doctors want to be a specialist and not a general practitioner. I see this often in the IT world, as people want to be solely a programmer or designer or database administrator and only focus on those areas, and see the others as places on the other side of a thick wall. For those of us who consider ourselves generalists or those who don’t understand us, the book Clients for Life is a must read.

This book was written in 2000 so some of the company examples may no longer be in business, but the themes and messages ring true today. It takes a perspective beyond being solely a generalist and focuses on being an unselfish, independent, deep generalist advisor to your clients. Rather than offering specific advice or a service and focusing on a one-time deal with the hope of more business, the authors take the viewpoint that by being there, readily available to advice clients on a wide variety of topics and areas and being able to guide them to specific resources or services is equally rewarding and profitable. This can be summed up as the difference between a transaction and a relationship.

As this is how my career interests have come to form over the years, my primary take away was an affirmation of my goals. It also promotes the sense of long-term relationships in building a client base and as a result revenue. Anyone can tell you that the best source of business is repeat business from existing clients and referrals to others from them.

The book is a good read – at times it seems like it is repeating itself to make its point though. Some of the examples of people who were deep generalists had sometimes tragic or dramatic ends to their lives. Even if you don’t believe in this philosophy 100%, I would recommend reading it as it may help form some of your own thoughts on client development.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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