I live in Cleveland, so I swim around in a giant aquarium of businesses that potentially need my services. Nearly every business I visit struggles with some aspect of information processing that is messy or repetitive. Armed with Filemaker Pro, I mentally design the interface and structure of the database that would solve their problems. If my life’s quest was for creating order, my weapon of choice is Filemaker Pro.
There’s plenty of business out there (I’m never caught up), but not every business is a potential client. Knowing that can save you thousands of hours and dollars in marketing efforts.
First, and perhaps most obviously, some personalities are not a good fit. Early days I allowed myself to be hired by a couple of guys who sensed my uncertainty as a fairly new developer. They mowed over my advice, made extreme demands, instructed me to do what I knew not to do, and generally made me miserable and less confidant. I got confidant enough to bow out of those business relationships. As always, wisdom isn’t bought cheaply, so I count those hours as well spent. Now a fifteen minute phone call is enough to tell me whether I want to gently direct that client in a different direction. If they definitely want me, I know to negotiate to avoid those potential problems before they occur.
Less obviously, Filemaker Pro isn’t necessarily the best tool for every client’s immediate needs. If you know me, you know how I adore Filemaker — both what it does and the opportunities it has provided me personally. But to give your clients the best value, you have to offer them the best tool for the best job. A 5 HP 10 inch table saw with a 52 inch table is a thing of glory to behold, a spectactular tool . . . but it’s not the tool you need if you’re clipping your toenails. As good as it might be, it could lead to regrets.
I love hearing from potential clients, but I can often eliminate them as my potential clients with the first phone call or email. Here are some examples:
- They want me to work for free. Not at all uncommon, I’m afraid, and sometimes it’s for a very good cause. If you’re seeing success in your business, I believe you should be giving back. But you do also have to pay your bills. I’ve got my causes and I work hard to do a good job for them. My pro bono dance card is full.
- They want an awesome database and have budgeted $1000 for it. See above. I usually advise them to look within their organization for someone tech savvy, who might be able to start with a Starter Solution and develop by the seat of her pants. Isn’t that how a lot of us started?
- They want a Filemaker Pro accounting system. That’s fine if you’re an accountant, but I’m not. Bluntly, if you don’t have a thorough understanding of professional accounting, you have no business trying to build an accounting system. You’re robbing your client if you try. Buy a boxed program and connect it to FM using a plug-in from Data Buzz or another developer.
- They want me now, and I’m booked up. I’m planning on writing more about the whole “job martyr” ethic that thrives in the tech world, but for now I’ll just say, I’m fifty years old. One of my daughters is grown and one has one foot out the door. I love my work but I also love my family, my life, art, taking bike rides, seeing shows, traveling and reading. I’m learning, late it life, to like sleep, or at least show respect for the need of sleep. If my work load is already meeting or exceeding my allocated work hours, and they won’t wait or work with one of my contractors, I’ll turn them down.
- Filemaker Pro isn’t the right tool for the job. Because FM Pro is so flexible and customizable, it’s possible that every organization really can benefit from having an FM Pro solution. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. But that doesn’t mean that FM Pro is right for every job within every organization.
Whether your target market is b2b or individual customers, it’s easy to fall into that mindset that there are no bad customers — especially if times are lean. It’s worth sitting down and really sorting out who your best potential clients are. Save yourself and them the time and hardship of trying to please everyone.