4 Wins in Project Management
A Case Study

Written by Audrey Charles, Create by CBS

A company I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago billed themselves as a "full services marketing company". The CEO was a business associate and friend of mine who was also a part of the kick-bottom women's entrepreneur club and occasionally came to me for advice. On one such occasion, she admitted she was in a pickle. It turns out her full service marketing company had also been offering full service design services and she was in over her head. So I strapped on my superhero cape and hopped on in. And here are 4 main areas of victory I won for her company.

1. The Staff Win
Remote staff are a precarious beast and most who have partaken in remote hiring either love it (as I do) or hate it. This is because finding quality remote workers is not as easy as finding someone to do it fast and cheap. My first step was to create an assessment that would both test her remote worker's skills and timeliness. I did this in the form of a survey. The survey asked just enough so I could understand their level of skill and gave them a reasonable but strict deadline to complete the survey by. Every single worker failed the test. And worse, didn't have the skills for the jobs they had been given. Her designer was best at photo editing and "Wordpress Design" (adding a pre-made/pre-purchased theme to Wordpress and changing some colors) but he was being asked to do full graphic design and custom web development. Her programmer was a software developer with very little web development experience. This meant he was too busy with his full time job (which accounted for his disappearing act) and didn't fully understand how to develop a website (which accounted for his slowness). With my own team of awesome designers and developers on hand, I subbed them in for a short time to allow me the time to find better alternatives.

2. The Project Win
Now this one's a biggie and one of my proudest achievements working with this particular company. That's partly because of 1) the happiness we brought to the end client (which still exists today), and 2) that my entire team got to feel its halo effect. The original burning need that spurred the CEO to reach out to me was because a particular project had gone awry. Here's how the story went:

Previously, she had been doing some Wordpress websites with the help of her designer. These were relatively easy websites to churn out and she was making some insane profit with her designer's fees only a mere drop in the revenue bucket. On various occasions she would recommend me to her designer saying my designers were too expensive. This experience made her understand the difference.

A client came came to her with a website request that was larger than the typical 5-6 page introduction website. It was to be a community website that joined people who wanted to partner for a sport activity (specific details have been deleted to ensure privacy). With the CEO's inexperience in design she wasn't able to adequately discern his request and assumed a simple Wordpress website would do. She sent it to her designer who immediately told her he didn't know how to do this website and didn't understand the scope of the work. So the CEO returned to her client for clarification and found a remote worker to do some programming work (the software developer I mentioned). As she still didn't fully understand what her client needed, she simply forwarded the text the client provided to the programmer who threw a guess as to what might be required. The CEO was elated. This was going to be her first big job and she could charge a premium fee for it. She took a 50% deposit and assumed her workers had it covered. Yeah, her programmer was a bit hard to get ahold of, but he said he would do the work and she believed him.

Four full months passed until she finally got in touch with her programmer only to discover he hadn't yet done anything and, lo and behold, couldn't decipher what the client wanted and what the scope of work was. The CEO began panicking and asked them provide something, ANYTHING so she had something to show the client. His deposit had already been spent and she had assumed they had it in the bag. An additional two weeks passed and still nothing had been completed. With the deadline looming a mere month and a half in the future, I entered the scene. After my assessment of the staff as mentioned in #1, I knew her team wouldn't be able to save her. But here's what I did to secure the win:

1) I met with the client. I told him I was new and just wanted to touch base to hear his wants and needs. Four months had passed and things could have changed, after all.
2) I assessed the client's needs. Client's often have a basic understanding of what they need and it's my job to read between the lines, read their mind, decipher jibberish and psycho-analyze the results. I took his vision of a "basic website that allowed people to find a partner for a sport activity (again, details deleted)" to "a social media website that allowed people to match with the right partner by skill and preference that is monetized by providing specific features and perks to businesses". The client left that meeting with a huge smile on his face that SOMEONE was getting his vision and gave him some awesome ideas to stew on, and the CEO left that meeting dazzled that she had completely misunderstood his request.
3) I assessed the budget and the time limit. I officially had one month and one week left until the original deadline. The client had given me the ok to extend it but I was determined to make him a happy camper who thought we went above and beyond. And because his deposit had already gone into the ether, I had just the remaining 50% of the budget to work with.
4) I called on the help of internet friends. As a developer, I'm a part of some kick-bum worldwide development communities. We help each other out in a pinch and work on code projects for fun. So I polled them for a social networking script with matching components like in a dating website. One developer stepped up and said they had something that might do. It didn't have date matching capabilities but it had enough of the Facebook-like qualities that it was a darn good start.
5) I secured an inexpensive perpetual license agreement for the script. With a small fee and a signature, 50% of the project's work was done. 6) I sent out the bat signal. A few years ago, I created a custom project management system. My worker bees are alerted by text and email when there is work for them. It tells them the entire scope of the work, provides any specific notes from the client, contains examples, how many hours it should take and when it should be done by. They clock in and I know they are working on it without a shadow of a doubt.
7) I provided the client with some of the steps he could review immediately. While programming takes place, my designers are working on design. By giving the client some concepts to review, he's a part of the process and feels connected to his website.
8) I reviewed the script. Because I stand by everything I deliver, I review everything thoroughly. And I test it to make sure it works. If I'm not happy, my client won't be. And you better believe I'm a picky beaver on my client's behalf.
9) I provided a working example of the website, on time, for him to review. One month and one day to the letter, he had a link in his email inbox. Built into my project management system is a website review tool where he can make little notes as to things he has questions about or doesn't like right in the browser as he reviews the website. Those items get compiled into a list and sent for me to review and assign to my team. This was the client's favorite feature.
10) We finished the website and provided detailed documentation. After a week of review and a week of adjustments, the website was ready. We transferred it to its forever server home and provided the client a large super easy to follow document on using and administrating his new website.

3. The Legal Win
Part of my duties in the project management role is to assess work that was done prior to my arrival. I reviewed work that was provided to previous clients and what I found was staggering. The CEO had trusted her employees to deliver since design was not her expertise. And the legal ramifications of this particular incident could have been monumental. Here's what happened:

1) A client would ask for a logo design for their company
2) The CEO would send it off to her designer
3) The designer would design it incorrectly (because he didn't know better) and send it for approval
4) The client (who also doesn't know better) would approve it and maybe even fall in love with it and go on their merry way

Now to clarify the "design it incorrectly" I'll have to give you a bit of background. When you designed your logo for your business, you no doubt were looking for something unique that portrayed your company and product perfectly. It's your brand, after all. Now what would you do if you found out your logo was copied from someone else, contained imagery you weren't allowed to use and could only be used on small items or your website? If you'd built your entire company brand around that logo you might feel inclined to take up legal action with your design company, who you pay to know better. But what if they didn't? And therein lies the issue.

I provided a list of what issues were present in each design file and warned the CEO, who was understandably horrified, to be proactive about dealing with it. I'd even help to find adequate resolution for all the clients who were affected by providing redrawn logos that were slightly altered and expandable.

This turned out to be spectacular timing with one of her clients contacting her the very next week having been alerted to issues by a printing company when they went to get signage printed.

4. The Company Win
After #1-3 were completed, I sat down with the CEO to offer some honest to goodness mentoring. She is ah-maaaazing at marketing but the design work was making her feel like crap. And no one should feel that way about their business. So I suggested that she focus on what she loves and charge accordingly (and highly) for it. And that's exactly what she did. Today she runs a successful marketing company and she has been able to pass on her experience to others. She's in love with her business and her clients and I'm extremely happy that was able to help her create a business from her passion. :)

If you find that you're struggling with your own project, contact us. Whether it's coaching, mentoring, project management or doing the work for you, we're here to help.