I had a great lunch this week with a new friend who owns a marketing/media/PR agency. His business is about 4 years old, run virtually out of his home, and similar in so many ways to Content Rules years ago. It was really interesting to hear my friend talk about his business. We spent some time discussing running a virtual organization, hiring 1099s,when and why to incorporate, and more. We also discussed how to juggle multiple clients, particularly when each one wants to be your only love. In this post, I want to talk about how to do the juggle. Perhaps in other posts I’ll discuss my thoughts on incorporating, hiring 1099s, and some of the other topics.
Back in 2002, I was asked to work on a full-time contract for one of my larger customers. I was responsible for managing the documentation rollout for a very large, complicated, and important new piece of hardware. The documentation team was 50% Content Rules contractors and 50% full-time writers employed by my customer. The project was all-encompassing, 40 hours/week. And it went on for 2 years.
During this time, I doubled the size of Content Rules each year. That is, 100% growth from 2002 – 2003 and 100% growth from 2003 – 2004. It was before I had a lot of people on my staff to help me – there were only 4 of us running the company – so I had to do a lot of the “company work” myself.
And work I did. Basically 40 hours/week for my customer and another 40 hours/week for my company. But it was well worth it. The revenue I was able to generate from my own project was critical to supplementing the rest of the company revenue. It allowed me to grow in ways that are only possible with some type of infusion of cash.
The secret to the juggle (pay attention – this is the important part) was to be incredibly, extremely accessible and visible. Yes, that’s right. incredibly, extremely accessible and visible. In other words, I communicated in every way available at that time (this was pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter and even pre-texting explosion). I was always online on instant messenger. I checked my email religiously and responded immediately. I kept everyone in the loop all the time. And everyone kept me in the loop all the time, too.
So, my customer really got the best of my attention. And my company really got the best of my attention. No one suffered. Everyone flourished. It was never an “either/or”. I had to maintain “both” all the time, 100%, without fail. I never missed a deadline. I never missed a commitment. Everyone who worked with me knew exactly what I was doing and also knew what they were supposed to be doing.
Bottom line – the key to juggling multiple customers, multiple projects, multiple people pulling at you from every end is to treat each one as if they are your only love. You only have eyes, time, emails and phone calls for them. And the key to accomplishing this feat is to be constantly in touch with everyone, all the time, 24/7.
Not everyone can accomplish this. Some people are the one-love-at-a-time type. And this is fine. No judgements. But if you want to be successful in growing your business, you need to find a way to juggle a lot. Otherwise, you’re best off working for someone else or being satisfied with limited growth.