Week 31: You win some, you lose some.
Omg, so productive! We have a crazy busy week, blasting past our goals, but also deal with a setback. Full story inside! 💥
Well, if you came here following a direct link, then you already are inside, so in that case never mind the intro. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Anyhow, welcome! We shall get started in just a second, but let me quickly introduce myself as Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital — soon to be six people working on digital things in Berlin.
In case you are new to this series of blog posts: Each week we write about our progress as a young company and this is issue 31. Let’s get going!
The challenges of making first contact with new clients …
[Uuh, Medium has a new sub headline style. Nice! I never liked the light-grey ones, much better now! 🙃]
The week started with a bit of a setback because a potential client we had been chasing for two weeks announced to go with a different agency, deciding against us. Obviously this is part of the game — you win some, you lose some. But it was still disheartening because it was the first time that we really tried to win a project and despite our efforts we weren’t able to convince the client. New situation with great potential to learn from and grow! But before we get to the learnings, here’s a timeline of how this went down from the beginning:
- I get a call from a longtime friend asking if we want to meet his employer (a German tech company) about a redesign of their website and potentially branding.
- Shortly after we receive an email with a lot of material about the project, so there’s a rather thorough briefing from the client.
- Two days later we sit in a meeting room in their office and talk to four people from their side about the scope, challenges and goals of the project. The meeting is a bit chaotic, but we feel that’s only natural given how spontaneous we got together and that we all didn’t know each other an hour before (the longtime friend wasn’t in the meeting).
- We now have a rough idea of what the project is about, coming up with a plan and a timeline to get going. We estimate three iterations of two weeks each, with 2–2.5 people to launch something within six weeks. The client responds positively, but wants to know specifically what they’ll get in that timeframe and for that budget.
- We feel that’s a fair question, but it’s hard to answer because we still know relatively little about their challenges and we voice that concern. It just feels wrong to make promises regarding scope at this point. Therefore we suggest a quick workshop in which we get together again, identify packages of work, prioritize them and figure out how much of that is achievable in the three iterations we suggested.
- A bit reluctantly the client agrees to the workshop (it is paid, because we refuse to work for free), but can’t dedicate half a day or a full day to it, so we only meet for two hours. I wrote most of the emails up to this point, but I leave it to Lorenz and Max to prepare the workshop and conduct it, because an ongoing project needs my attention. This switch of people is a common thing to do for us, because as a small team we are nimble, have little overhead and it’s easy for someone else to take over in hectic situations. We see this flexibility as an advantage.
- The workshop goes well, although it could have yielded more insights. We see the short duration as the main reason and anyhow, these happenings always serve two purposes: having tangible results, but also simply getting to know each other a bit better, developing a feeling of what it would be like to work together. #chemistry
- We summarize the results in a presentation, create a more accurate timeline + scope based on the new insights and send all that over as a PDF.
That was Friday last week. We generally had a good feeling, thinking we conveyed our approach to these challenges, postponing important decisions instead of writing a meaningless “concept” up-front. Having demonstrated that we work with an agile mindset, and that we are a small but effective team.
And then, last Tuesday, the client tells us that they really liked what we did but ultimately decided to go with somebody else. Damn.
So what happened?
Making first contact with new clients is always tricky because there is no defined plan to follow, it’s all about improvisation. After the first moment of disappointment we figured we could learn a lot from how this went down and specifically asked the client for feedback and what made them turn to somebody else. Usually people are shy to give honest feedback, but in this case we got a very exhaustive list back, outlining what influenced their decision, in great detail. We couldn’t be more thankful for the honesty as that gives us the chance to learn and grow. After having summarized our perspective above, here’s a the other side of the coin:
- They felt we went into the first meeting a bit unprepared, not having studied the briefing in detail and also not bringing a short presentation of who we are and what we do.
- They understood that it’s hard to make specific claims about scope and timeline with little knowledge, but we could have at least tried, conveying optimism that we got this. Even if some of the decisions would obviously change later on. It was all too vague.
- They found it irritating that all emails were exchanged with me, but that I wasn’t in the workshop. While it’s natural for us to switch people around, it isn’t for them, given that we all didn’t know each other before and the established level of trust is rather fragile in these early stages.
- They didn’t feel the workshop yielded enough results to justify even having it. Most insights could have been already developed in the first meeting.
And after we received that email and read about their perspective it all made a lot of sense. If we go into a meeting, we need to be well prepared and we need to own the opportunity to show who we are and how we tick. We need to be more empathic and reliable about who is handling a project. And in general we can’t approach these situations half-hearted. It must be full-on or not at all.
Now all this is easier said than done for a small team, dealing with the daily hustle and multiple ongoing projects. It’s completely understandable how things unfolded, but we should strive to do better and we will be. While we’re obviously sad not to be working on the project, we’re very thankful for the learnings. And we wish them all the best for their project, obviously. 💪
In order to make the most out of these insights we scheduled two days of retreat for the end of August, in which we will work on our homepage, presentations and who we are (+ want to be) as a company. Hopefully that’ll give us a better foundation for these kinds of situations in the future.
Still here? Cool! Other news and tidbits!
Luckily the rest of the week was utterly fantastic and crazy productive. Lorenz and I made great advances with our type-related project, building interactive web font testers and fleshing out the digital downloads features required to purchase typefaces in an online shop, solving way more problems than we imagined possible. 👻
Also, our collaboration with häberlein & mauerer on one of their projects is bearing fruit and with Nicolás on it we’re making rapid progress, aiming to launch in early September. It’s a project for one of their clients and they wrote the concept, but we then teamed up for design and development. I’m quite happy to see this going so well, after sharing an office with them for more than half a year. About time we worked together! 😇
So while Lorenz, Nicolás and I were busy writing code, Lars was working on a project by himself and doing accounting, while Max wrote a concept for another website we’ll build later this year. Both things turned out quite well, Max sending over the presentation on Friday and Lars doing a workshop in Oldenburg. I still find it amazing that we manage to tackle so many different things at once. 🙌
In general we had good team dynamics this week, achieving a lot and at some point Lars mumbled “founding this company was one of the best decisions ever”. True dat. I find all this still surreal somehow, but in a good way.
Friday afternoon Nicolás stated he had a super productive week and that he’s having fun working with us, which makes me very happy to hear. The good mood was rather infectious after we overcame the initial disappointment from Tuesday. 😅
Mandatory side note: Instagram Stories launched this week, a blatant copy of Snapchat’s photo and video editing mechanics. We’ll take it for a good spin next week, so if you’re curious to go behind the scenes you could follow us now (same goes for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat). If you’d rather wait for the next blog post, you could be notified by subscribing to this publication. And as always, we’d appreciate any feedback you might have. Whatever it is, we can probably take it! 🙃
And that’s it for this week. We hope you could take something away from this post and with everything that happened this week, we’re glad to get two days of rest now. Still, I’m already looking forward to what awaits us next week. 👀
Take care, enjoy the weekend and see you around! 👹