The Perfect Client


Some would say that that is an oxymoron. Not for us. We’ve had many of them, and we are hoping for more. Time will tell.

We have also had some of the other type of client, too.

Building a great client relationship takes time and practice and experience. Clients come in all sizes and in all industries. Budget size at the start of the relationship predicts nothing. Chemistry predicts nothing. Bad clients are adept at conviviality almost without fail. One thing is predictive however: does the new client have the capacity to listen and to learn, or are they dismissive of others and arrogant, always putting themselves and their opinions first? One meeting should do it. I have left the polished mahogany boardroom of a multi-billion dollar bank relieved to depart without the new business. I have left the garage-office of a one person shop so excited about the prospects of working with that individual that I was back on the phone even as I was driving home.

The two most important criteria are: courage and confidence. In the former category I am speaking of moral courage and not the animal variety. And in the latter category I am speaking of competence, really.

Competence and Confidence

In a study of competence and confidence in The New York Times published a few years ago it was noted that in all of the case studies, and commensurate statistical compilations, competence and confidence had a counter-intuitive, inverse relationship. When the “confidence” level was exhibited at its highest level, competence was at the lowest level. And, as you would expect, when competence was exhibited at the highest levels, confidence, expressed and proclaimed, was at its lowest, in fact it was often denied entirely. Think about that for a minute. The more you actually know about a topic the more you are inclined to deny any level of real confidence, even though your performance is at the highest levels. Why is that? The more you actually know about a subject, the more you know how much there is to know; how much you don’t know. As you competence rises, your confidence in your own omniscience, gracefully and respectfully deminishes.

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.
– Benjamin Disraeli

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.
– Benjamin Franklin

Stupidity is without anxiety.
– Johann von Goethe

A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.
– Benjamin Franklin

Working with truly competent people is really fun. They always recognize talent when they see it. They always love honesty and truth. They are tireless in discovery. They are loyal in every way. And their prospects for success are unlimited, so finding them at the beginning, middle, or at the end of their careers does not matter in the least. Finding them is all that matters.

Sad to say, truly competent people are as rare as true leaders. By the way, competent people are natural leaders, too, but you have to talk them into it.