Who would you prefer your clients remember: you or your firm?

I remember my good friend and ThoughtWorks colleague, Luke Barrett, saying: “If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” We shared numerous consulting assignments together and in all cases, he left his mark on our clients as someone who did top-notch work to the point that most of them remembered him, when anyone spoke about our firm. He set the bar.

You see, I don’t just mean that he left them with a great outcome. He did, as did so many of our consultants. What they really remembered was him, and it was due to the small stuff: the qualitative aspects of how he executed on the day to day pieces of his work. These special flourishes made him a great partner, collaborator and a professional.

Here are some of the ways that Luke did it:

  • His mockups were flawless.
  • He never left home without his essential tools. That extra projector dongle, a couple of sharpies, a stack of blank index cards — these allowed him to jump into action and turn a conversation into a design session.
  • When writing a simple brief to summarize a meeting or workshop he would spend a substantial amount of time in order to sort his template out: fonts, margins, colors, you name it. Once that was in place, he could generate content effortlessly without the worry that it would not be presented well. It wasn’t that form outweighed function but that they were equal partners.
  • Luke would walk our workshop spaces before we conducted a session to anticipate what types of supplies would be most useful for taking notes over multiple days. Have to change rooms? Bring the big post-its to lodge all of the small stickies on, and travel them to the next room.

I often think of this when someone asks if me if I can ‘throw together a few slides’ on something. Usually this is because they’ve seen me do a good piece of work and assume because I did it once, it was easy and repeatable on a whim. Like most of you, I probably need to work at making content clean and digestible. I can’t simply crank it out and expect it to be flawless.

The easiest route to neglecting the quality you know you are capable of is being too busy to care.

In my field, companies hired top-tier consulting firms for a few reasons, and quality was not one of them. It was that despite being expensive and slow, they were predictable. That said, the clients typically don’t remember their consultants names.

If you leave a mark of technical quality on everything you do, you will be the reason that clients want to hire your company.

So I would ask you: Who would you prefer your clients remember: you or your company?