How I Almost Lost My Biggest Client
by Tanya Ganian
I’ve got to be honest with you. Making mistakes, stumbling and falling often feels like it’s my second job. I think it would be safe for me to assume that nearly everything I’ve ever learned has been through making mistakes.
Not every mistake is equal. Not every mistake is an opportunity to learn. Some mistakes are just plain slipups. But thankfully, that doesn’t apply to most of my blunders.
I say thankfully because I know that once I make a mistake, it will be the last time I make that mistake. I always give myself time for introspection and to reformulate my plan.
As entrepreneurs and the self-employed, unless we invest in a mentor or online courses, we tend to learn the tricks of the trade as we fly solo.
I’m no exception.
One day, early on in my career as a freelance web designer, when I received a call from a big name retailer. I mean international BIG. I mean OMG BIG – call your friends, call your family, call everyone who told you not to go down the entrepreneurial path and shove it in their face – BIG.
And at this point it was just a call. I hadn’t even landed anything. The manager who called could’ve called the wrong number for all I knew.
They saw my portfolio and they loved my vibe. They wanted to completely re-haul their online shop. They wanted to meet me, they wanted a proposal and a preliminary design.
I’d love to say that this was the first step down the path to my bullet gray 2-door Bentley Continental.
After the initial – in your face blast of joy subsided – I froze from fear.
I decided I didn’t want the contract from my OMG BIG client with my dream project and I came up with a list of valid “REASONS” why I couldn’t take it.
I’m too small
I’m still a one-man show
I’ve never done this before
I’m not sure I can handle such a big project
I don’t have the resources,
I don’t have the experience…
I shouldn’t be in this business anyway
Let’s check what’s happening on Facebook.
I wonder what’s trending on Netflix.
I completely zoned out.
But my ego was too big to accept any of the reasons. And my life rule #234 is to make a conscious effort to recognize when a REASON is just an EXCUSE in costume.
So, instead of turning them down, I met them. I came up with a design and a proposal. But to ensure I didn’t GET them, I quote the project at 6X the regular price I thought it should be.
It was perfect. They would obviously reject it and my ego would stay intact since I am not the one who actually turned them down.
When the CEO saw the price for the project. He was upset. He said I was the highest bidder and the price was not what he expected and he’d have to conference in the board of directors and we’ll let you know.
In business, “ we’ll let you know” is one of the 50 ways of saying “ thanks, no thanks, you’ll never hear from us again.”
Don’t call me during my Netflix marathon again.
A few days later they called.
The OMG BIG board of directors accepted my offer.
I nearly asked the manager on the other end: WHY? Why would you even entertain my proposal at that crazy price from little local me.
I didn’t jump for joy. I didn’t call anyone. I turned to my husband and told him to make sure all our legal disclaimers were filed and in place because “we’re going to get OMG sued in 6 months.”
Let’s fast-forward 6 months into the project. I didn’t get sued and the project didn’t fail. As a matter of fact, I over-delivered solely from the fear of under-delivering and the last time I checked, our custom-built online shop was still online and evergreen.
The project went smoothly for the client. But it came at multiple costs to me.
Many life and business lessons were learned during the course of my contract with my OMG BIG client and I’ll save those for another day. But here are some that made the biggest impact.
Lesson #1: Clients will judge your value based on your price.
This may be obvious to most but to me, it had to be learned. A $20.00 pair of jeans may be made in the same factory as a $200.00 pair of jeans and possibly even by the same person who made the $2000.00 pair of jeans. The products may be equivalent but the perceived value in the marketplace is not. People will assume that the $2000.00 product is superior, better quality, and more valuable than the $20.00 product.
Believe in your worth and price it accordingly
Lesson #2: Sometimes reasons are not excuses. They really are valid reasons that need to be addressed.
One great way to know the difference is people will tend to come up with multiple excuses but will have only one valid reason.
For example: If I don’t feel like going out tonight, my reasons will be plentiful – I’m tired, it’s cold out, I have to wake up early, I slept late, etc. The more “reasons” I have, the more obvious it’s a bunch of excuses.
On the other hand, if I say I can’t go out tonight because I have an early meeting in the morning – that’s a reason.
If you’ve got multiple reasons, chances are you’re dealing with excuses.
Lesson #3: In your most challenging times – your true self, your truest character will come through.
My life rule #245 is to place a high value on integrity. So I felt as though I had a moral obligation to meet The OMG BIG client’s expectation and to deliver at whatever cost to me. And maannn! did it cost me – in time, in money, and in resources. But I couldn’t go back on my word. I couldn’t disappoint my client or myself.
If you want to know what someone is really made of, don’t judge them when they’re sitting on a pedestal on top of the world. Judge them when they are broken and in the trenches.