These are notes I took about tough conversations with the team working on the site. I have left them mostly as is, not correcting grammar or spelling, because I think that partially reflects my mood at the time. If you are going to launch a website, it’s likely you need to learn WordPress……

Sometimes You Have to Have a Tough Conversations:

This week I had tough conversations with the team working on the website. We are quite late in getting it out there, and well, it was hard.

I rehearsed what I wanted to say over and over. Julianne and I talked about it the day before, and she reminded me of the times she took a loss on a project when there were issues and delays (nearly all of which were vendor issues, but from her perspective, they were her issues and the customer doesn’t care if it is her or a vendor). She was very encouraging of me, and well, that helped a lot.

The conversation somehow started out even worse than I imagined. It’s not easy to have a conversation about delivery and quality of work, with a 2 person company. Everything they do, they do. They don’t outsource any of it. Of course, I expected them to be defensive, but, well, it went a bit beyond that at first.

Eventually we agreed on a long list of items that needed to be completed, and that they would offer additional services beyond the original contract. We all agreed that the terms of our first contract were not particularly detailed, so we agreed these two lists would be much more specific.

By the end of the meeting, it appeared we would be maintaining our relationship. In the next day or two, I got both lists, and I am still noodling how I feel about the added value list. It’s all about delivery, though, at this point. Once that looks good, we can discuss the other part in more detail.

Looking back, I’d add this on reflection on that day:

I almost didn’t post this update. It’s a bit controversial, maybe, and I’m not sure my partners will love it. But I think people learn and grow from their mistakes, and the mistakes here were made by me……

Before I get into what I learned, I want to be clear: I stuck with the team, and I really like the work they did on the site.

So, what did I learn from this delay and subsequent renegotiation?

When entering into a contract with a vendor/supplier/contractor, make sure everyone understands deliverables and timelines, and get that in writing.

This is the key learning for me. If you don’t define deliverables well, you’ll end up having tough conversations later. Now, I KNEW that from my work in big companies, but for some reason, I didn’t worry about that as much as I should have. I think it is partly because I like the two people I worked with. It’s also because I felt, “hey, they’re small, I’ll have their attention and we can just figure that out as we go”……which, in retrospect, is silly. I take full responsibility for not doing a better job of getting my expectations in writing. Also, as we worked together, I was pretty passive in my demands, especially the timing aspects of the work. I also was slow in getting them some of my work.

Really, part of the delay was my fault, and part theirs. But the issue isn’t “fault”, its that I did not do a good job of getting my expectations in writing. I also don’t think I did a good job of just managing the work as we did it. Sometimes I’m to “pantsy” and not enough “outliner/planner” for my own good.

I’m taking this lesson into our home remodeling work. Several vendors that have given us quotes have said stuff like “we can figure that out after you hire us”. No chance I’m hiring them with that attitude. I want to have very clear expectations, in writing, when I’m hiring someone. Likewise, if/when I start building simple websites for people, or doing copywriting, I’ll make sure we have expectations really well documented.

So, just because you are friends, or like someone, or they are a small company…..don’t make assumptions about deliverables and timelines. Make sure you get things in writing up front, or as you go. In other words, make sure both sides of any agreement know what their responsibilities are or you’ll have to have tough conversations.

Let me know your thoughts, by posting in the comments, or by emailing us at ideas@laidoffbetteroff.com.

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