Saying 'no' early not only helps your customer, but it helps you. If you're over extended, it ends up affecting the current relationship and your others as well.
"A true measure of a man is how you handle victory and how you handle defeat." - Nice post.
One very important thing to learn is that you're eager to learn when you make a mistake. That's a big plus in the character department, and it counts for a lot in the long run.
Another possible lesson: If you find yourself spread too thin, raise your prices until you are no longer spread too thin. That sends people a signal that your services are valuable and in demand. It also helps by focusing your energy on the people who will benefit most from your services (as expressed by their willingness to pay your higher fees).
Another: Every time you say yes, you necessarily say no to something else. So whenever you are about to say yes, take a moment to identify what you would be saying no to. Then check whether you're happy making that tradeoff.
Bravo Roy. Great piece. Appreciate your candor and honesty.
Hey, us ego maniacs have to stick together. I'm not sure any consultant can entirely avoid screwing up and upsetting a client now and again. My tendancy is to communicate too much. Perhaps my ego thinks I'm being paid by the word or perhaps I just like exlaining myself and technology too much and... Damn it. I'm doing it again...
Accepting the mistakes and learning from it is a big plus. Openness to accept it in public is another one :)
Thanks for sharing
I think your client overreacted (based on your text) unless this is true:
until you have an agreement in word or email, your client shouldn't EXPECT you to go through with it. However if you said: "Ok, it's a deal, let me finish the paperwork and we'll finalize the dates" (or something like that), it IS a deal, and bailing out is then a bit bad from your side.
However even with a deal without a paper signed, you can still bail out of it and the customer has to expect that or calculate that risk: what if a detail in the contract you have to sign blocks you from signing it and negociations have to start over again about that detail? These things happen.
What you did wrong is that you used email. Despite the modern age of internet, email lacks one thing that face-to-face or even phone calls have: emotional expressions. In the past I've made this mistake as well: when using email, the text can be interpreted in a variety of ways and because there are no emotional descriptions there (expression on the face as in face-to-face talks, or expressions in the voice) so the reader has to add them himself and WILL add these.
Another big thing email lacks is that it's one-way. When doing these kind of things face-to-face, the client can immediately ask "Why?" and you can talk about it. Things can get rough there a bit perhaps, but in general you can talk things through. With an email it's much more harsh: it's like getting dumped via a postcard or textmessage ;)
Btw, good luck with the final month! Congrats! :)
Roy, first off congrats on the baby (ours is due in June). I know the horrors of overcommitting and watching the calander sift away, feeling like you've accomplished nothing. I think it's good you posted it here as we're all human and prone to mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and think twice next time the same situation arises. I think you handled it well and hopefully trust and communication with the client will grow back again (it'll take time).
Your ownership of the problem says alot for your integrity! well done :-) from mistakes great things will grow
Roy--This is a great post. Your points about "saying nothing" and somethings you have to say "no" really hit home for me.
It's easy being a nerd and seeing all things through the black and white view of algorithms. Your post will help remind me that all things, not just the algorithms, need to work!
Having been an independent consultant for over 2 years now, knowing when to say "no" has been, without a doubt, the single best thing I've learned. Once you know how and when to say no, you and your clients will be much better off.
You make a mistake, you learn, you make the same mistake again, you are stupid. Better keep with the learning :-)
You are a great & smart guy, and the post was surreal.
Also, you played the guitar very well in the developer conference in Spain (I think). I heard it on .NET Rocks.
But, Roy, remember this:
What is the difference between a smart and a dumb person?
The dumb person learns from his own mistakes, and the smart person learns from the mistakes of others.
Although it was difficult to turn them down at the eleventh hour, you saved your client alot more hardship than had you proceeded at the project flopped. Whether or not your client interpereted that you led them on, I think you made the right decision. It's easy in the face of a large amt of cash to just follow along, not so easy to put the breaks on.
I read this post not long after it was first published and it caught my eye. Not many people will admit to their mistakes, especially in such a public and revealing manner.
In a field where reputation is very important I am wondering what long-term effect this had.
How did it effect your relationship with your clients? Do you still think it was a good idea?