I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Those Crazy Kids

I found out about a project which pairs up local businesses with students doing their degrees in IT at about the same time I needed some IT work done.  The basic idea is that the kids involved get some real life experience, and the business gets an inexpensive (eg free other than time) product which hopefully they can get some use out of. They are very careful at the start of the partnership to let you know that NOTHING may come of it at all, that these are after all students, and that it's not a matter of getting free labour as much as it is a potentially beneficial activity. There are no guarantees that you'll end up with anything at all but of course the hope is that you will.

On Monday morning I went to my group's final presentation of the system they designed for the business. They designed a cloud based customer database (or if we're fancy, CRM system- Customer Relationship Management system), which among other things can keep track of our clients and their orders and payments, produce a bunch of reports, auto-send a bunch of reminder emails (to various templates), generate invoices, track income, and a bunch of other pretty cool features. The final presentation was just fabulous - my band of merry nerds had gotten all dressed up (as had I), they gave a really great presentation and everyone was suitably impressed with them. So they should be, those kids worked incredibly hard and produced a great piece of work which I believe I'll be able to get a lot of use out of. It's not entirely done - it's about 90% there - but I've hired these same kids to finish the job for me, so I will get it working for us probably by the end of the year.

So here's the thing I found most amazing - literally every time I had a meeting with these kids and their supervisors, and today at the presentation, a bunch of people THANKED ME for being an outstanding client. It actually got kinda embarrassing there for a few minutes with all the gushing and photo taking and carrying on. Literally, the kids themselves, their teachers, a bunch of local Council representatives, and other academics kept telling me what an amazing client I am, how seriously I took it all, how much the kids appreciated my professionalism, and so on. So either I'm really that fabulous, or they've had pretty bad client experiences before, or maybe both of those...but the part which really bothers me is, SURELY these kids *deserved* to be treated with kindness, respect and professionalism. OF COURSE they did. OF COURSE. That anyone - and anyone in small business - would think or behave otherwise is just, to me, appalling.

From the minute I started this project, I basically treated it no differently to any other business relationship where I need a product or service and another company is providing it to me. That I was dealing with a group of pizza-eating, Coke-swilling, messy jeans and t-shirt wearing young men made NO difference to me at all. For their part, my group was professional, organised, pleasant ...and unless I knew I was dealing with 19 year olds, I'd have assumed I was dealing with adults working for a normal, professional consulting firm. In a word, they were totally awesome and worked damn hard for me (added bonus, they practically orgasmed every time I walked into a meeting with a box of cupcakes for them.)

That they needed to thank me so much for simply behaving like a grown up...well, that just proves that maturity clearly is not related to age or experience.

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