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Right Fit Relationships: Partners, Vendors,  Employees and Clients 

Great Partners Make All The Difference.

When you work alongside people who “get” you, there’s no doubt that your quality of life improves. The best partners, be they inside or outside your company, are people committed to creating a positive result, people who understand your vision and are willing to apply their passions, talents, and resources to help you realize it. In an ideal partnership, working together will create an opportunity for each of you to grow and progress toward your respective goals. This is what we call a Right-Fit relationship.

Not Just Anyone Will Do.

A lot of entrepreneurs chalk this up to luck: Sometimes they find great people to work with, and sometimes they get into relationships with people they later wish they’d never met.

Entrepreneurs often lament that they can’t find the right person, whether it’s a great assistant, a reliable vendor, a ghost-writer who understands them, a strategic IT manager, or someone to fill any one of the countless other roles they may need to delegate. Experience will tell you that relationships on which you will spend a lot of time, resources, and money are too important to leave up to chance.

Yet without a system for creating consistently good results, hiring or taking on a new vendor or strategic partner can often feel like a crapshoot. You know what they’ve promised and how they’ve packaged themselves upfront, but you can only hope that they’ll actually deliver. Crossing your fingers each time you take on someone new makes the experience more stressful than many of us would like. Eventually, seeing high hopes result in bad experiences too many times can even deter you from seeking out the help and additional capabilities you need to grow most effectively.

One way to greatly improve the odds of finding a Right-Fit relationship is to create and articulate your own criteria for success in the role you’re trying to fill. A short list of seven to ten criteria will help you clearly see what the most important qualities of the relationship are from your perspective. Though this may seem like an obvious step, very few people actually take the time to do it. What you’re creating is not a job description or a request for proposal, but rather a filter to help you communicate what you’re looking for and understand when you’ve found it. A Right-Fit profile can act as that filter.

Consistently Spotting The Good Ones.

So how do you identify these criteria and determine which are the most important? In most cases, the wisdom you need is contained in your past relationships — both the good ones and the bad ones. Creating a Right-Fit profile involves drawing from examples of your best relationships and asking what made them such ideal situations, getting as specific as possible, then taking a look at your worst relationships and asking what, specifically, made these people or organizations such a bad fit. From this reflection, it is usually possible to distil some key standards that must be met in order to have a great relationship experience.

To illustrate, here’s how we’ve articulated one of our profiles, a Right-Fit Vendor for The Strategic Coach®:
Delivers top-quality results consistently; best value for money.
Fully understands and addresses our dangers, opportunities, and strengths, and looks at things from our perspective.
Is proactive and reliable, and provides clear and timely communication.
Provides above-and-beyond customer service; Back Stage brilliance.
Has a professional Front Stage.
Is a Unique Ability® specialist with expertise and a proven track record with entrepreneurs.
Is aligned with our core values and philosophy.
Is transparent, open, and honest.
Is accountable for results; takes responsibility.
Handles obstacles with grace and ease; protects us and helps us avoid problems.

You can see how this list helps us communicate what’s most important in the relationships we have with vendors. Our measures and expectations for a successful outcome are all articulated up front. Behind each of these criteria is a plethora of stories of both good and bad experiences that support our conviction that this is a vital quality. If someone is unwilling to be the person or company described in this profile, we know in advance that it isn’t a Right-Fit for us or for them. By the same token, it tells vendors exactly what will make us a very happy customer, taking the guesswork out of their job — because there’s nothing worse than a client with shifting expectations.

The Right-Fit Client

Our definition of an entrepreneur — the kind of person we work best with — is very specific. For our purposes, “successful entrepreneurs” are people who:
Determine their own hours; they are free to work or not work when they choose
Work for themselves (and have done so for at least three years)
Are free to choose whom they work with.

That last point is crucial.

The people around you — the team within your organization, and the clients, customers, and prospects you interact with — have an enormous influence on the quality of your working life.

Think about one of your best clients. This is someone who helps your business grow, someone who refers others to you, someone with whom doing business is enjoyable.

Wouldn’t it be great if all your clients were like that?

“Rooting and Grubbing.”

Of course, most entrepreneurs start out so concerned about bringing in enough cheques that picking and choosing their clients seems like an unaffordable luxury. In the earliest days of The Strategic Coach®, Babs would jokingly tell Dan that it was time to go “rooting and grubbing” — rooting for new business and grubbing for cheques.

But the classic “80/20” rule illustrates that the clients who take up 80 percent of your time only provide about 20 percent of your revenue, and, conversely, the top 20 percent of your clients provide the other 80 percent of your revenue. What this indicates is that not every relationship is an equally good use of your time and energy. Some relationships are naturally a better fit than others. Too many wrong-fit situations can create a serious drain on your resources and greatly reduce how much you enjoy being an entrepreneur.

X-ray Specs For New Business.

How can you know beforehand whom to invite into your business life? This is an important question in every entrepreneurial business, so we’ve created a way of looking into new relationships with a kind of X-ray vision. We call it “The Right-Fit Client.”

A Right-Fit Client has two qualities. This is the kind of person who:
Creates the best result for you
Gets the most out of what you have to offer

The raw material for your Right-Fit criteria comes from your experience of your best relationships and your worst relationships in terms of the results and rewards they’ve created on both sides, and the amount of effort required to maintain them.

As an illustration, we discovered that the Right-Fit Client for The Strategic Coach® Program:
Is qualified — they’re experienced, successful, and have no “boss” or “job”
Is committed to personal growth and transformation
Wants a balanced life
Is coachable — open to new concepts and tools
Has a desire to participate and share
Understands that the Program is a process, not a quick fix
Decides on their own to join the Program and pays for themselves

Putting This Insight To Work.

Once you know who you’re looking for, it becomes much easier to attract the right relationships and avoid wrong-fit situations. For instance, having identified the kind of person who stays in The Strategic Coach Program and gets the most out of it, our sales team is able to evaluate every prospect to see if they are a Right-Fit.

This benefits both us and the prospect because it clarifies upfront whether the relationship is likely to be successful and deliver on both sides over the long term. Including your Right-Fit criteria in marketing communications will also help prospective clients or customers self-select based on whether they think you’re a fit for their needs. The more they identify with the criteria, the more excited and confident they’ll be about doing business with you, even before you’ve had any personal contact.

Having a definition of your Right-Fit Client takes you beyond instinct and guesswork, and provides you with a template for creating only good relationships. Concern about turning away business may tempt you to consider breaking these rules, but once you have this insight, you’ll always know better than to give in. If a relationship doesn’t work out for you, it probably ran afoul of your own spoken or unspoken standards. But when you surround yourself with Right-Fit relationships, your whole future opens up: Relationships that previously left you stressed and stagnant are transformed into those that support growth and progress, connecting you with the people you want to be around every day.

Putting It To The Test.

Your Right-Fit profile is a living document that you can keep amending as you learn more about who your best partners are. The sooner you start applying this approach, using whatever criteria you have, the sooner you’ll experience an increase in confidence — knowing that you can deliberately and consistently create the kinds of working relationships you value and enjoy most.

© 2007 The Strategic Coach
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