Get On Board With Client Onboarding

Last week, I had several conversations with a number of solo professionals about how to run their businesses more efficiently. That’s a common topic, since all of us are looking for more time in our already crammed days.

Each of them has been in business for at least five years (one person for 20!), so they’re not newbies. Even so, I was surprised to learn that not one of them had a new client onboarding process.

Don’t get me wrong – they have contracts in place, they get paid regularly, and they are running successful businesses. Still, they had no “official” approach to new clients – no formalized series of actions and information given when work is begun.

As you’ve probably guessed, I think that’s a big missed opportunity. “Onboarding,” as it’s called, sets the tone with new clients, some of whom will be around (hopefully) for years to come.

Here a peek at how I onboard my new clients:

  1. I send a welcome email. Mine is filled with information about when I’m at my desk, how to get in touch with me, how to get on my calendar for meetings, and more. It’s sort of a RocketGirl User’s Manual.It also serves as a warm welcome, letting my new client know how much I’m looking forward to working with them. I send the email immediately – demonstrating that I’m ready to go.
  2. I add their name, physical address and email address to my contact management system. I also tag them as a client in that system. That way, when I want to send an email to all of all my clients, I can do so with just a few mouse clicks.
  3. Insert them into my key processes. I create a DropBox folder; I add them to Toggl (my time tracking software); I create a project in Teamwork (for tracking my work with them); I add them to my revenue-tracking spreadsheet.
  4. I get connected to them. I send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn; I add them to my newsletter subscription list; I send a welcome gift to their office. If we were introduced by a mutual friend/client/colleague (as is nearly always the case) I also make sure to send a referral gift right away to that person.

Four steps, easy-peasey. Are these the four steps that everyone should follow? No, those are the right ones for me, my clients, and my business. Yours will undoubtedly be different.

But whatever you decide to do, you need to write the steps down and make them a standard, repeatable part of your work. It will save you time, improve communications and, if my experience is any indication, delight your clients!

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Things I Can’t Live Without: Blue Apron

I have always wanted to learn how to cook. But in the years I have tried, I’ve never managed to figure out how to put a great meal on the dinner table, night after night. And then, at the suggestion of a friend, I tried Blue Apron.

Each week I visit the Blue Apron website and choose meals for the following week. Every Tuesday, a box arrives at our house with all the ingredients and recipes for three meals, complete with illustrations and great step-by-step instructions.

Their website is packed with supporting information – like videos on how to remove corn from the cob and how to peal a tomatillo. I feel like a success every time I bring these meals to the dinner table!

P.S. One added benefit of my Blue Apron account is that I can send an invitation to five people who are interested in receiving three fabulous meals for two people for free. Please hit reply and let me know if you’d like to be one of the five. But be careful… you might get hooked like I did!

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Are You Reaching 100%?

Last week, Emily packed her trunk to go to Pony Farm Camp as a Counselor in Training (CIT). Similar to when she attended as a camper in previous years, there was an extensive list of things to take for her month-long adventure.

My job was to get everything through the laundry. Her job was to gather everything on the ping pong table in the family room so we could review it together and make sure she had what she needed.

But the afternoon before we left, there were still many items on the list that were missing. When I asked Emily about them, she said she still needed to use them before the trip – things like her cell phone charger and toothbrush.

I have to say, this caused my brain to lock up a bit – it meant that I was going to have to help her remember several last minute and important items the morning we were leaving. A morning, I don’t mind telling you, that was already filled with things like picking up the rental car, feeding the pets, and trying to get out the door on time.

So I made a decision – for the final 12 hours at home, the ping pong table would become Emily’s “base of operations.”

We moved her cell phone charger there. We moved her cosmetics bag there. We moved everything we would be taking there. In other words, Emily lived as if she had already left for camp … even before she actually did!

I use the same approach with clients when helping them move to a new way of doing things: Everything moves, 100%, as soon as possible. The alternative is bedlam.

Can you imagine, for example, trying to move to an electronic calendar when you’re still writing in your paper version? You don’t know which calendar is up to date so you have to keep checking and cross-referencing both.

Or how about a new billing system? Keeping some customers in one and some customers in the other as you slowly transition is a recipe for disaster.

The point is, even if you’ve put in the effort to get the new system 90% of the way there, you can’t have confidence that it’s accurate – because it’s not. And this is why so many efforts to change how we work fail. You have to be 100% in, as soon as possible.

With that in mind, and whether it’s a new calendar system, contact management software, project management tool, or something else, here’s how to make your move a success:

  1. Commit. Make the decision that this is the right thing for your business and don’t look back. Second guessing is a waste of time and hinders progress.
  2. Make the time to make the move. Set aside an entire day. I know that sounds like a lot. But I guarantee that you’ll waste far more than that with all the back and forth and after the fact fixes if you don’t.
  3. Be thorough. If you’re moving your calendar, move every appointment, every birthday and every event that you have in your paper calendar. Don’t say “I’ll do the birthdays later.” We both know that won’t happen!
  4. Get the support you need. Make sure you have someone with experience to answer your quick questions while you’re making the move. There’s nothing more frustrating than wondering if you’re doing it “right” while you’re in the middle of doing it.

Making changes in the way you run you business can be daunting. Still, they need not be frustrating and painful. Prepare before you move and then get to 100% as fast as you can!

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Things I Can’t Live Without: Our New Bird Feeder

After dropping Emily off at camp, Greg and I visited Antique Alley in New Hampshire. We came across a delightful store called The Copper House and this round, copper-plated bird feeder. We brought it home and hung it outside. And … Continue reading

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Hiding In Plain Sight

I take a four-mile walk each morning through Waveny Park, a beautiful spot just a few minutes from my house. Yesterday, right there in the middle of the path, I came upon an unusual sight: Four vines were laid out … Continue reading

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Things I Can’t Live Without: Our Hawks

We have two hawks living in our backyard. Every time I see them I’m completely amazed. Depending on their mood, they fly onto the railing of our deck, sit on our chimney, or just hang out in the trees. The … Continue reading

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You and Your Work Schedule…Who’s Controlling Who?

I was taking my daily walk yesterday and speaking with one of my favorite friends, Eve, as I cruised through the woods at Waveny Park in New Canaan. Among other things, we talked about how we run full-time businesses, have … Continue reading

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