When you are building a portfolio executive workstyle, your client will want to be clear about the value and quality you bring. Demonstrating that clarity will be beneficial for you too and will help you keep the relationship going for as long you want.
In this article I share some of the ways that you can demonstrate the benefits and value you bring and why you need to keep doing it.
So why focus on the value you bring? Because, after a while it’s easy for you to become a silent service, and once people start to take you for granted then any hiccups in the road or challenges around delivery can become magnified and supersede the ongoing value that you provide.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you continually set expectations with your client CEO (and other key stakeholders) about what success looks like. You must keep demonstrating that you are delivering that success.
Define what really matters to your client
Often in the early days of a relationship, success is about reducing costs and reducing risks. Perhaps the business has got some kind of problem, i.e. risk, that you are trying to solve. Maybe the sales or finance function is not delivering, and you are coming to solve that problem. As you fix that pressing need, you need to demonstrate a ladder of continuous improvement and show how this is providing real value to the person who is paying your bills.
How do you do that? I suggest that on a regular basis you agree with your client three or four quality criteria. These are the things that really matter to them at the moment. These will vary depending upon the situation of the client and the expertise that you bring.
A practical example
Suppose you are an HR executive. You have come into a business which was struggling to retain staff and your immediate task is to fix that problem. You put in processes that meant the rewards are reviewed, proper staff assessments and career planning exercises, regular salary reviews, career paths established and better employee engagement. All sensible things that improve the retention of staff.
At the beginning of that process you need to set some kind of goal, a value for that outcome. It could be in terms of the cost of recruitment or the loss of key skills or knowledge, or industry benchmarks that suggest that on average when you lose someone it costs between a third and a half of a year’s salary to replace them. When that job is done, you need to continually demonstrate that you are maintaining the target level of retention and you need to keep reminding your client that, by retaining that target level of retention, you are creating value.
Finding the next area of value
Keeping with the example of an HR executive, you are going to need to find the next area where you can demonstrate that you are creating value.
You have solved the retention problem so perhaps the next area is recruitment. You will need to demonstrate that you can reduce the costs of recruitment in absolute spend, management time and failed recruitment (i.e. people who are appointed but do not survive their probation period).
So, you will create specific success criteria and you want to regularly remind your stakeholders, perhaps the finance director or the CEO of how you are maintaining that value. Each time you embed a new successful process in that business, it becomes more difficult to demonstrate that you are delivering new value. You need to bring them back to the accrued benefits that you have maintained over time.
Other measures of client satisfaction
Alongside the direct benefits you demonstrate, there are other measures of client satisfaction and you need to agree these with your client. It may be related to quality, responsiveness or consistency. It may be about how much you are bringing innovation or new ideas. Identify those things that are really important to the CEO and other stakeholders of the business. Set them out with stories that will demonstrate value they recognise. You can continue to demonstrate you are delivering.
The key to maintaining a long client relationship
Once you have built a long-term relationship with a client then it is very easy to take them for granted. You need to create regular definitions of success and regularly demonstrate that you are achieving that success to maintain your position as trusted advisor in that relationship. You need to be continually raising the bar for what that success looks like and keep challenging yourself and your client to ask for more from you.
As a Portfolio Executive, your clients are looking to you to help solve their problems, problems that are often only solved by an external perspective. But, when those problems disappear it can be easy for you to disappear with them. There may well be other issues for you to solve, so you need to keep demonstrating the value you bring – which will suggest there’s more benefit to come in retaining your services.
If you follow the tactics in this article, you can maintain a relationship for not just two or three years but for as long as you want to. That’s the key to building a Portfolio Executive workstyle that is going to sustain you into your later years.
Why not find out more about the Portfolio Executive programme?