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Don't Tell Me It's the Nail

By George Bryant, Vice President, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

Before reading this article, please connect to the following link and watch the video.  When you get done smiling come on back and read my thoughts.

My wife was the first person to show me this video. I had just gotten home from a long day at work and she let me know she had a video she thought I would enjoy. We both laughed out loud as we watched ourselves being played by people we did not even know. I must admit, I could be that guy in the video. I assumed this video represented the differences in gender that we all encounter on a daily basis. That is, until I showed a friend and she said that in her marital relationship, she would be the guy.

Being the cerebral guy that I am, I started to ponder what business lessons could be learned from the video. Do my clients just want me to listen more, or do they want me to fix the problem? Is it everyone else in the room that has a nail stuck in their head, or am I the one with the nail and don’t realize it? Better yet, with how many clients am I at my wits end, trying to tell them what they do not want to hear?
I especially related to the amount of effort that the guy exerted when he tried to tell his wife what was wrong, and secondly how irritated he was when she did not want to hear it. Everyone who watches the video knows that these two still have another conversation to be had, and both parties will have to do some listening. For this discussion I think of myself as the male in the video and a prospective client as the female, as she is the individual who needs the technical solution in the story.

George with a nail in his headLet’s be honest, as a principal in an engineering firm I would not have clients if there were not problems to be solved. My way of thinking is that the first meeting with a client is to discover the needs they have and see if my firm can help. I always start off listening well, but as more facts become evident I want to start planning my attack or offer previous solutions to similar problems. The older I get the more I give credit to the saying “the older you are the wiser you are.” Twenty years ago, I could not wait to hear a problem and offer a solution before my client was finished telling me their story. I wanted to remove the nail for them as fast I possibly could. What do you think would happen to the woman in the video if the guy just reached up and yanked the nail out of her head? Would that really help? Just like the removal of the nail will require an in depth evaluation of the circumstances, our clients’ solutions will usually require more research and thought. I am still learning just how long I should listen before I begin to offer solutions. Today, I can honestly say that I give my clients more time to tell me their story.

Let’s have some more fun. Lets talk about the client who has told you their story; you have offered your solution, and they just do not want to hear it. They just want to keep telling you their story, ignore your help, and ask you to keep listening. From a business perspective, if the client is paying hourly and you have the patience, this may not be a bad deal.
Unfortunately a large portion of the work my firm performs is not on an hourly basis. Several solutions may exist to deal with the situation. Maybe the fee needs to be higher to allow for the extra time a client needs. A different perspective by a fellow employee may break the log jam, or maybe the tension just has to escalate before a solution can be found. The couple in the video had an existing relationship, they were trying to make it work, and both seem to want the relationship to flourish. I believe that is the right attitude and approach when treating clients.
A little self evaluation at this point is called for. My memory is not good enough to decipher whether I would be considered a good client or a real handful. Looking forward, I am going to try to do a better job of being a client. Once I have had the chance to tell my story, I hope to be more open minded about other people’s solutions and respect the time they give me. If a nail is sticking out of my head, I hope to have the common sense to listen to the advice of others.