Saturday, November 6, 2010

Grandpa as a Client

A couple weeks ago I landed a new PR client. As most of you know, I'm a Work-at-Home Working Girl as well as a PR Working Girl. So anyway, this is my most unusual client yet. For one thing, my point of contact for this new client, the CEO/Founder, is 72 years old. He's a sweet, old man. Can I add maybe a little crazy/cooky, too? Sigh.

Over the last couple weeks, I've been struggling to work with him. It's always hard to combine two personalities in a new work partnership so that things work smoothly. Sometimes there are clients who are easier to click with, but others, it takes going over a few bumps and humps, a misunderstanding here and there, to get to where you're like, "OK! I think we've got this figured out!"

I think the main reason for difficulty with this new client is the age difference. I'm 28 years old, he has a daughter who is 30. Yeah, so automatically, he thinks he's a little smarter than me because he can't help but think of being and acting fatherly when speaking with me. And with that age difference comes the hardest part, how we communicate. In our world of email, text messaging, IM, etc. I had no idea I was confusing this guy from the get-go. For example, I had sent him within an email a link to a video I wanted him to watch, and he didn't realize that that blue underlined text was something to click on. He didn't know what a link was! Oh, my. And then, he was annoying me with all his phone calls that seemed to drag on ... oh, his life stories, just what I need to hear. Should I bill him for this time? haha.

Before we made our work partnership official, there were several phone calls. Not a problem, this is normal, except each call lasted 45 mins. or so. OK, old man likes to talk. A lot. I made it a point to clearly spell out my preferred method of communication in my proposal to him: email. I hoped this would lessen the number of phone calls. Nope.

Anyways, sorry to ramble, but I've learned that instead of throwing in the towel like I had wanted to after the first three calls in the first 24 hours of him being my client, I needed to learn a few things. I can't always work with people who are like me. I need to work with people who are unlike me and learn from the experience. So my preferred work style is to communicate via email and his is via phone, why can't we compromise? Of course I could accomodate him, I mean, look at this guy. He's 72 and hiring a young PR girl to help him re-introduce his product to consumers. How cool of him. And this new business for me is coming from a referreal who is helping him build even further exposure through social media. Would your everyday 72 year old man even know what social media is? It's impressive and admirable.

Do you ladies ever struggle with communicating with someone you work with, someone who seems to be on a completely different planet from you? How did you overcome it? This has been such a huge learning experience for me, I can't wait to hear your stories.


Type and curse said...

It is VERY admirable and I like how you re-assessed the whole situation. Good job!

Lindsey said...

I do it every day unfortunately. I run an office with 12 employees and I swear to you the biggest challenge is not the business itself, but learning how to handle all 12 personalities when something needs to be done. It's a headache but requires a lot of patience.

Cassiopeia said...

This is a great post. I work in public sector HR, dealing every day with people from completely different backgrounds from me, and it's often hard graft to create consensus and understanding. Workplaces and business partnerships need different points of view, but agreement in such situations is hard to find. But empathy and stepping outside the box for a moment is essential. Your patience and understanding is to be saluted. Xxxc

MonsteRawr said...

I work with a new client everyday! I'm the Lighting Director at a roadhouse theatre that gets a new tour in everyday. So at the beginning of every day, I have to meet a new client, and quickly try to read them. How much do they know, how controlling are they, do they want me to take the lead or do they want to take charge? All things I have to figure out within the first 15 minutes of meeting a new road crew. Sometimes I get it wrong, and it leads to a bumpy start, but sometimes I get it right, and it makes the day go much smoother!

Chrissy said...

That sounds sweet, and yes sometimes it's hard to understand the people in life don't like to communicate in the same ways. For example, I'm not big on Facebook, I think it will take over my life and I resist it, whereas others love it. That maybe annoys people, I dunno, no one's ever told me, but anyway, I prefer texting.

Corporate Chickee said...

Yes, yes, yes!! I struggle with this constantly... I have loads of clients who refuse to use email for the simplest of tasks. A large part of my job entails scheduling corporate events for my clients. I will email them with the date/time that we can do and ask them to respond via email to confirm the date & time. Or, let me know if they have a different preferred date and time.

Inevitably, there are the ones who will always respond with an email that says, "Please call me to discuss this." Ugh... there is nothing to discuss. It's a yes or no question. Plus - if the date doesn't work, there about 12 people I need to check with to see if we can do your preferred date, so discussing it on the phone only serves to waste time - on both ends.

I also have many clients who just simply prefer phone contact rather than email... which is incredibly annoying, but I do it because they are the customer. But I have learned - always follow up with an email to recap the conversation to minimize the miscommunication and errors that arise with phone calls! (Or to prove that you both agreed on something, or to prove that you did what the client asked for, etc.) Email is a great CYA tool :)

Mel-Rox said...

My Director is lost. He really doesn't understand technology that well. And it's a must where we are. He asks me the most basic questions about Word, Excel and various other things and cannot format a document to save his life. It's hard because he refuses to learn, he just uses his "Director" status to ask others to do it for him.

PR Working Girl said...

Great comments! I'm glad to hear there are others dealing with the same thing I'm going through. Definitely agree with Corporate Chickee about the importance of the follow-up. Since I still prefer email (it helps so much to be able to refer back to emails, plus, it helps me organize my thoughts), I always follow-up any lengthy email with a phone call in addition to following any lengthy phone calls with an email summarizing what was just discussed. Extra communication, never hurts!

Marie said...

I experienced a similar communications gap with someone we had contracted with on an annual project. I learned a lot from the experience but felt like I was beating my head against a wall the whole time. I went out of my way to find someone with the qualities I DID want when the project came around again the following year. Our new contractor is amazing and everything I was looking for.

My situation is a little different because this was someone we hired, not a client who hired us. I would recommend you weigh the good points and bad points of working with a client like this in the future - seems like those lengthy phone calls could quickly drain time away from other client work. :-/ Just something to keep in mind.