Since I started my business I have been determined to follow a process of constant communication with the customer. Interdependent consulting is the method we settled on at Zewski Corp years ago. Remembering back when I worked at big companies like Medtronic and VMI (Ricon), we had various opportunities to hire outside firms, in which case we would spend a short time with their team and off they would go. Many times, by the time they returned, they had completed dozens of hours of work, and there was little time for us to add our thoughts before they presented these ideas along with a large bill.
I believe after years of studying these businesses it’s as if design firms have decided the more you talk to the customer, the more changes you will have, and the less money you will make. As a result, firms have resorted to fixed pricing based on a set of parameters at the beginning. The upside to this is as long as the parameters are met the firm gets paid in full. The problem is that as the project progresses, and customers start to understand how one idea often leads to further innovation, they often want to change the parameters, which puts a fixed price project into a tailspin.
Calling a customer and asking their opinion in the middle is many times like asking to be run off budget and course. But we have found a solution to that. We only work hourly. We don’t want extensive changes more than any other design firm, but we also don’t want a customer feeling as if they are not an integral part of their own project. By offering a thorough brainstorm session at the beginning as well as updates every 5-10 hours, we have learned we can be more efficient and ulitmately help our customers achieve their objectives. Although we typically don’t charge for the follow-up calls – or many times even the initial meeting – in the end, we have customers that are very clear on where their money is going and why. In 14 years of business and about 60,000 consulting hours, I can count on one hand the number of times a customer has asked me about an invoice.
If there is one thing I have taken from all this, it is that inventors and engineers want their ideas explored first. With our Interdependent Consulting Method, no customer idea goes unexplored.