As the final moments of the year tick down, you cast your gaze ’round the revelers gathered nearby (or perhaps at the intrepid-yet-nuts throngs televised from Times Square). Wide-eyed, overtired children and adults in various states of inebriation mumble the words to Auld Lang Syne, a song no one actually knows or understands.
The end of the year is not a good model for how you should end your consulting projects.
Yet many consultants stumble through a project’s finish as if they’re the sloshed uncle on New Year’s Eve who fell asleep at 10:00 and woke to find the year is over, the party’s ended, and his mouth tastes like a combination of fermented cocktail shrimp and plywood sawdust.
Don’t be the drunk uncle. Finish your projects strong. How you conclude your projects can be just as important as how you start them.
11-Point End-of-Project Checklist
1. Start with the End. At the outset of your project (i.e, in the proposal) define a clear end. Both you and the client deserve to know when your obligations under the contract are complete.
2. Extend Early. Long before the project wraps up, bring up opportunities for follow-on and pull through projects.
3. Lock In Follow-On Work. Shortly before the end, discuss continuation.
4. Don’t Drift! Stay focused on quality all the way ‘til the end. Don’t succumb to the tendency to slip into lackluster while your mind moves onto the next engagement.
5. Make the Value Endure. Ensure the client has all the materials they need to succeed after you’re gone.
6. Step Out Boldly. When the project is complete, make it clear to your client that the project is concluded. Do that in person if you’re ending the project with a meeting (as often happens when there’s a large, final deliverable). Otherwise, a simple email works, particularly if you use it to set up a “wrap up” call.
7. Kudos All Around. Congratulate your client on the project and thank them for their cooperation.
8. Solicit Feedback. During your wrap up call, ask your client for feedback. I use a very specific order. In some cases I ask permission to film or record the conversation, which makes it easier to capture their comments verbatim.
- Name, company and project
- What went well
- What didn’t
- What was of highest value
- Would they recommend to others?
I use that order because it appears fair and unbiased (I’m asking what didn’t go well), yet they end their evaluation thinking of the value then cementing it in place by imagining themselves recommending me to someone else.
9. Convert Feedback to Testimonial. Ask whether you can use some of what they told you as a testimonial. Since you’re using their words, it’s easy to type it up and obtain their approval.
10. Who’s Next? The penultimate step is to ask for introductions.
11. Schedule Time. Finally, if there’s no immediate follow-on project, fix a time on the calendar to talk with your client again. Staying in touch is the best way to be rewarded with more business.
What else is on your end-of-project checklist?
Text and images are © 2016 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.