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What Catering Can Teach Web Project Decision Makers

It's Wednesday, and I just added a monkey to the menagerie living on my back. I have volunteered to help with the catering for the upcoming Plone Conference 2011. The event is in a mere 2 weeks and I'd better get hustling.

Respectful Purchasing is a win-win for both vendor and client.Instead of playing the game of negotiating prices down from their official menu, I have decided to follow a strategy that has always worked for me: Respectful Purchasing. I called the catering company of choice and just laid it all out for them to see: my budget, my requirements, my constraints, my deadlines. I didn't hold back. Then I hung up and waited for them to come back to me. This strategy paid off nicely and I was amazed: I got everything I wanted, and some, for the budget I had.

Back to the office, it dawns on me that Respectful Purchasing also works in our web development industry as this is at the foundation of most of my successful client relationships. Here are the 3 major points of Respectful Purchasing:

1 - Work with your vendor. Ask for everything you want but expect to compromise. Give a high level overview of your needs and let the experts provide recommendations. They have done it more than once. Give your vendor time to research options that could work for you. In my experience, vendors are always trying to please their clients and I am often surprised with my vendors' generosity. In this specific catering case, I would never have been able to afford the vendor's official service prices, but they were able and willing to work with my budget. Respect goes a long way.

2 - Be honest about your budget. Don't set your vendor up for failure. Too often clients won't tell me what their budget is. As a result, we all waste time with unrealistic expectations of what will fit in the budget. Instead, if the budget is too small, I will point the client to other vendors and/or other technologies and send them off their way without any time waste so they can make their deadlines. Honesty is the best policy.

3 - Be realistic in your expectations. You can't get filet mignon for $10 per person. But you could get sirloin tips. It's still steak, just in a different shape. Or can you compromise and trade a sit-down dinner for a buffet? In our industry, that means focusing on your project's goals and leaving the implementation details up to us. Don't insist on a specific add-on when we may have already done something similar using a different product. Let us make recommendations regarding the user interface as we may be able to save costs by simplifying a few elements.

Respectful Purchasing does work, whether in catering or web development. I dare you to try it. Just give me a call!

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