Putting Trust in the Bank: Start with the Calendar
Think of trust between you and your client as money in the bank. Each time you win a little trust from your client you put some more money in the trust bank. The more trust you win, the more you have to spend. You can earn trust on a lot of little things like: clear, transparent pricing or being upfront about challenges based on budget instead of promising the world. You can spend this trust on things like getting your way creatively, or being let off the hook when you or someone on your team drops the ball. This article is dedicated to a trust win that many don’t think of: owning the project schedule. This is a simple, but very powerful trust earner that too many overlook.
A major part of winning client trust is never, ever being late for anything. Everyone in our industry knows this, and typically we’re all really good at showing up for the shoot on time. We’ve had being on time for shoots drilled into us since we were peon PA’s on free music video shoots. But, what we forget as we roll in to running our own production companies is that this rule carries on to every last expectation the client has for us from the first meeting, to final delivery. The minute you start to slide on the schedule, is the minute you start to lose trust dollars from your bank. It’s something that gets broken off bit by bit, slowly over time. But, in the end, being late, or unpredictable in your timing will drain your trust bank dry, and will ruin your relationship with your client.
Here are some quick, easy ways to put money in the trust bank with the schedule.
Be On Time for Your First Meeting
I’ve seen film people stroll in late to the original client meeting. This is unforgivable. I think the thinking is that that will show the client that you’re not TOO hungry, and that you yourself need to be wooed a bit to work with them. This is idiotic. Let’s face it, you probably need the work, and it sets the tone immediately that this is about you, and not the client or their product. Big mistake. Make it ALL about them. Be on time, or be early. Doing this allows you to setup your projector, or get the right table at the cafe. Right from the beginning, before a word is spoken, you’ve secretly taken the helm. When they sit down, you’re already in control. Remember: in control is where you want to be to make the films you want to make. Set the tone from the first meeting. Put a buck in the bank.
Make Sure It’s You Who Controls The Schedule
Whether it’s you or your producer, be sure that it’s your team that’s asking all of the questions about the schedule, deliveries, etc. and that it is your team that is sharing the schedule with them. Make sure you send out regular updates whenever the schedule changes. Make sure that you check in repeatedly about them knowing the schedule so there is no confusion. The client’s failure to accurately read the schedule will always be YOUR fault. Be sure to ask them about it in your meetings, to double check and put them on the spot that they know the schedule, and the importance of sticking to that schedule.
Obviously the schedule changes a lot during the course of production. Be sure to always send along an update after it has change and request that they confirm the changes. On shoot day, when you often have multiple higher-ups showing up for interviews and the like, it’s particularly important to be sure each person being interviewed knows the deal. Often, you’re not the one coordinating this, but be sure you’ve given their team really clear day-run schedules early on for them to share with their team. This is really important the higher up the ladder you work with. Dollars in the bank come in higher denominations from the c-suite!
On the Shoot Day, Be Flexible, But Be Ahead of the Game
It doesn’t do anyone good on the shoot day to not let some things run over, to make up time other places, and to be willing to move things around. You’re going to have to go over and above here, nearly every time. Just make sure you, or better yet a producer on your team, is constantly looking down the day run schedule as things start to roll southward so that you’re already planning on how the day can be repaired to still get everything in for the client, and still get your team home on time. It’s up to you to come up with the alternative shoot plans on the spot. CEOs and the like whom you’re often interviewing like to be on-time (guess how they got so successful?), and only have so much time to spend. When you’re ready for the boss on time, their underlings shine, and you get dollars in the bank.
Once You Get to Post, Don’t Start Slipping
I cannot tell you how many times I watched a great pre-production and production relationship start going to shit because we let things start to slip during the post process. I think the mental math here is, “Well, we really crushed it in production. We’ve got dough in the trust bank. We can spend a bit.” And, you can. It’s just SO easy to give that editor a few more days. To let the VFX team have another night. The client will say, “sure…no problem”. But, what they’re thinking is, “Those guys don’t have their shit together.” And you’ve spent some trust money. You need that for later if you’re ever going to get off the treadmill.
What you want to do is save that money for a rainy day. And, when something really does go wrong in the post process, you’re VFX person calls super sick or something else beyond your control, now you can spend a bit of that trust money and still be the boss of the production without looking too bad.
Also, the client is usually IMPOSSIBLE to keep on schedule. That’s fine. That’s not your fault. Every time they go late, as long as you’re clear with them about it, you’re not losing any ground. It can even work further in your favor. I’ve seen the higher ups of some of our favorite companies start to like us better than their own people because they could clearly see that we were constantly coming in on time but their team was not. Again, this bought us some of the big trust bucks from the top.
Save the Big Trust Money for Spending on the NEXT Project
Do the things above and you will have earned a LOT of trust with your client. Save that money in the bank, and then the time to really spend it is during the meeting where you’re planning the next project. That trust on the calendar side will spill over on the next project to the creative side. They’ll believe you when you say you can do your really cool idea on time and on budget. You might think it’s a small thing, but for many people on the client side, the schedule is everything. Own the schedule, and you own the process.
Look for future posts where we cover OTHER ways to put money in the trust bank.
And Just So You Know, Pipeline’s Got You Covered
Pipeline’s schedule and calendaring features are:
- Drag and drop task scheduling from templates
- Drag and drop shoot day planning
- Google Calendar-style multi-project, multi-account visual management
- Dependencies for the entire project or just for deliverables so you can easily move groups of tasks around when things change
- Google Calendar integration for your team so that their tasks immediately update on the personal calendars they use most throughout their day
- A client share calendar that creates a simple link for your client to visit that show them all of the task updates in real-time that you wish to share with them
If you’d like to be a beta, and help us get this calendar just right, drop us a line!