A lot of newbie entrepreneurs with client-based businesses can jeopardize their start without a clear plan to provide services. There can be an assumption that once a contract is signed, it is enough to deliver a completed project. Unfortunately, that is the tip of the iceberg, and without a consistent process to maximize the contract and all parties involved, an array of problems is inevitable.
Every service-based business should aim to create a positive client experience from day one! The best way to do that is through onboarding. After a contract is signed, a kickoff meeting should be scheduled to translate the project’s goals and demystify the journey to accomplish each task. It is also an excellent time to explain any limitations or restrictions of the contract. For example, is there a revision limit or payment terms that must be met quarterly? These days, with hybrid work schedules, it’s easy for clients and their representatives to lose sight of what is expected or required for a project. Also, sometimes the person who greenlights the contract may not be the person you are reporting to.
During the kickoff meeting, your aim is to familiarize clients with your team and procedures. Start by restating project goals, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Often, from the time a contract is signed to the first meeting, new information could have changed project deliverables or expectations. Also, if someone is taking over a project that was assigned to them, they may be just getting up to speed. It ensures that everyone is on the same page about their role. A brief 5- to 7-minute presentation of the project is a great way to build anticipation but also ensure that nothing has changed. If it has changed substantially, you should adjust the contract terms and pricing accordingly.
Next, a calendar of pivotal dates and deadlines should be provided. That way, if anything is delayed, it is easy to identify who may have been at fault or why. Also, reviewing the calendar as a team gives you a chance to identify company holidays, retreats, or other deadlines that may impact the project. For example, some states observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while others do not. If you are working with a client who does not, they may not understand why your company is closed for business that day.
Also, in that kickoff calendar, you should build in weekly half-hour calls. Scheduling calls early means that, as you work with this client, this project is a priority built into their schedule. Plus, weekly calls help reduce ambiguity and get you information quickly and efficiently. Weekly calls do not mean that you shouldn’t engage with your client regularly throughout the week, but perhaps you are working with certain individuals much more frequently than others. This call gives you all the chance to check in with each other. Once dates are set, a revised calendar should be sent with sign-off from the client and business.
In addition, payment methods, invoicing periods, and any financial terms should be addressed. Every company has different accounting methods and processing services. If you are expected to be paid on the 15th, one company may require you to invoice 30 days in advance. You may also have to register to be an approved vendor before you can even request payment. Another factor could be that your company may provide services and use your financial resources. If that is the case, any fees or interest rates for the service you provide should also be addressed.
Lastly, show gratitude. Whenever you are working with a client, celebrate their decision to choose your company. Providing snacks or thank-you cards with gift cards is a great way to kick off what could be the beginning of fruitful and productive relationships.
While these may seem a bit excessive for onboarding, working out the growing pains early will mean a smoother project. It will also create a standard that, when your company does business, you are transparent and inclusive.