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Product Dig #5: Dealing with a visionary client by making a dream happen

April 2020 3 min read

A guide for delivering smoothly against highest expectations.

You just got a client it was relatively easy to find… actually he found you as a high reputable implementer. Also he’s OK with paying premium to start working with you right now. The client is ready to give you all the power to define both strategy and implementation. It’s like a dream come true. What your gut, feel tells you, that something bad should happen.

Your client has a lot of ideas from the day one. In fact he has a big dream. You have a clue how it may come true, but they are too many unknowns at this point. You are brave, skilled and have a proven methodology. It was done before so it’s just another job to be done. You’re onboarding quickly, finding out as much as possible about what is expected and building a logical and efficient path to deliver up to these expectations.

Dream doesn’t have constraints, while you have

After first three months you make your first delivery. Then second delivery in six months. What you know for sure at this point is that your client is never happy with the job, despite your best efforts. You’re getting into analysis: maybe I missed something critical? Priorities were wrong? What if I didn’t understood a market ecology well?

After all these reflections you come to a conclusion - tangible results you produce are always compared to a dream. Dream is always better, it evolves constantly, it’s pure perfection. Dream doesn’t have constraints, while you have. In fact you have a lot of them. Moreover you never have enough time, because the impossible should be delivered as fast as possible.

Though it can be a great opportunity. What you need is to know the rules of this game. Knowing and adjusting to them make lose/lose become win/win. Here are some advice to start with.

Build prototype, MVP or proof-of-concept

It is crucial to test the idea early. It wouldn’t go easy, the resistance will be based on the notion that the basic product doesn’t include the complete idea therefore the test can’t be viable. Knowing that the whole idea is the dream that one can chase but not achieve.

Findings from this early test will be priceless as they will lay the ground for evolution of the dream. Early in the process you will divert the dream to the direction that has much more chances to be achieved.

Strong project management skills mean a lot here

Define scope in details. List risks and strategies how to deal with them. Develop a long-term plan split it into projects. Manage knowledge carefully by listing ideas, put decisions on the paper and rationale behind most important of them.

Communicate often

Narrowly defined scope wouldn’t save you on its own. It’s a journey, anything may happen. Communicating often, you will align steps taken now to the overall vision, to be able to adjust on the go.

Agree and deliver in projects

Don’t go too far before delivering something tangible. Be sure that none of what you deliver satisfy the customer right away. The trick is that your current delivery will be the basis for the dream in future and will be a non-discussable advancement after several increments. In order for this technique to work each project should deliver actual value and used by a target auditory.

Concentrate on positive

After all is a well paying client that cares. Your work is necessary for him. Emotional concentration should be on the long-term achievements not on the short term rumblings. It wouldn’t be the most pleasant experience but you will learn and try a lot, as a result becoming a better professional.

Summary

Working with visionaries is both a great opportunity and a perfect chance for disaster. Having a right strategy, using relevant techniques, having positive frame of mind and willingness to achieve impossible could make you both win against the odds.