Service Minded

Debra Helwig on Marketing & Leadership in Professional Services


Posted by debrahelwig on March 13, 2009

Spring fever is in the air. In my hometown, the trees are budding. Flowers are blooming. The weather is gorgeous.

And the ducks are amorous.

Last night during my family picnic at the park, two ducks waddled up to our table, squawking and flapping, and — well — proceeded to make more baby ducks. Right under the nose of my loudly curious five year old.


How awkward. There are just some things in life meant to be enjoyed without lots and lots of extra details. Baby ducks are one of them.

Sausage is another. Most of my life I’ve heard the phrase “It’s like making sausage; enjoy the results but you don’t wanna know how it’s made.” There’s a reason for that one too.

Then there’s you and your firm.

You may be talking too much. About you. Too Much Information.


Now, hang with me here – I am not trying to confuse issues of honesty and disclosure. Always tell the truth. Say the stuff that has to be said. That makes you more valuable, not less.

But there’s a bunch of stuff going on with you that really doesn’t need to be said. The “behind the curtain” part of things. The “I’m stressed out and overworked and it’s busy season and aren’t you sorry for me?” part of things.

It’s just about one month out from the end of tax season. The economy stinks. I know you’re under tons of pressure. The stress is mounting. You ARE under the gun. That’s real.

Your clients don’t need to hear about it.

They don’t need to know how time crunched you are. Or that you’ve worked every Saturday since the dawn of time and some Sundays too. Or that Bill dropped his coffee all over your laptop. Or that three people on your team have stomach flu. Or that your blood pressure is starting to spike.

It’s become a badge of honor in this country to respond to the question, “How are you?” with the answer “I’m soooooo BUSY,” with the word “busy” punctuated by a gust-of-wind-style heavy sigh.

But it doesn’t sound so great when you’re the one who has to listen to it.

Remember, your clients are under a heck of a lot of pressure too. The “Where are my customers?” kind of pressure. The “I could lose my business” kind of pressure. The “I had to lay people off” kind of pressure. All they want to know from you is that they’re a valued client and their needs are being met. They don’t want to know about your problems, or heaven forfend, infer that they are the cause of your anxiety. That’s a relationship killer.

In these stressful economic times, it’s up to you to be their calm in the storm, not an additional cause for concern.

Show them the baby ducks. Help them welcome Spring.

But, for goodness sake, don’t tell them how you got them there.


2 Responses to “TMI”

  1. There is a saying in the military – officers don’t run – because it panics the troops. It’s worth remembering this in professional services too. Nobody likes seeing their adviser in a flap.

  2. Wow, what an awesome post. You are so right, Debra. Thanks for your effective storytelling (damn ducks) and the “officers don’t run” comment is powerful too.

    I’m delighted you started blogging…you’ve had all this great stuff bottled up for too long. Must share. With world.

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