The Magic of That First Client Engagement

Gran Canaria - El Monje (The Monk)A little while ago I mentioned over here how I would be starting to work out loud more often, through making extensive use of Google Plus, to share additional thoughts and insights on what it is like being an independent trusted advisor on Social Business & Digital Transformation, specially, with the induced massive learning curve, now that the so-called transition period was almost over and I was about to get down to business, i.e. doing client work. Well, I guess G+ is not going to be the only place where I will be working out loud, since I know I will be using this blog as well to pause and reflect on what is going on, and although the frequency may well be rather different, I am excited about the opportunity to perhaps share lengthier reflections on what I learn along the way. Like, for instance, a couple of months ago, when I (re-)discovered the thrill of that first client engagement.

Yes, that is right, if you, too, are an independent freelancer, I am sure you know very well what I am referring to. When 6 months ago I decided to go solo, after having worked at IBM for 17 years, one couldn’t help wonder about what would be happening next. Both the uncertainty and the excitement have been present all along trying to figure out whether the world would have a space out there for someone called Luis Suarez (Remember, the one who doesn’t bite!) vs. that other Luis Suarez who happened to work for IBM as a Social Computing Evangelist and then Lead Social Business Enabler for a good while (Remember, still, that one who doesn’t bite either!). An opportunity to validate not only what you know, but also who you are, and perhaps a confirmation of whether the decision made was a good one. Or not.

Earlier on during the late spring, while I embarked on a short business trip to Madrid, I had the opportunity to meet up, face to face, with my first client for the first time. And what a thrilling experience it was. I am not going to deny I was a bit apprehensive at best at the beginning, since I didn’t know whether I’d be able to sustain a 2 hour meeting with them (as planned and scheduled) to kick things off around their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys. 4.5 hours later I came out of the meeting excited and validated. Magic had just started to happen.

You know that moment when you engage in a conversation face to face with your first client and you are nervous, almost on the edge, because you really want things to work out just right and get on with the flow and all of a sudden there is that instant connection where you get carried away with thought after thought in a very passionate exchange, conversation after conversation, one step at a time, on the huge potential of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise and things just click? Yes, I know! Well, I had one of those moments back then! :)

And it felt great and for a good number of reasons. Perhaps the main one being the realisation of what role I may well be playing out there as an independent freelancer: helping enable other people to become better and more effective at what they already do by making the most of their own social business journey(s). Then it hit me why, right from the beginning, I decided to have that so-called title of a People Enabler. Right in front of me I was witnessing, first hand, what I wanted to do from there onwards: helping other fellow practitioners out there become more comfortable, knowledgeable, passionate and overall more interested and engaged in making extensive use of these social technologies to help them get their work done much more effectively and help them re-engage back to the workplace they once built and were very proud of. 

It was magic. Exciting, thrilling and altogether energising. There is probably nothing more comforting than realising you are connecting with your client on a common mission you are both very passionate about and that it is just about to unleash. Right there, all of the remaining fears I may have had with me still just vanished into thin air. You know, after 17 long years working in big corporate world, then deciding to build you own business, is one of those giant leaps you are not really certain about till you bump into experiences like the one I had earlier on in the spring, when I met my first client. You are probably never sure whether your skills, expertise, know-how, etc. could be helpful to others working in another organisation and while I have been working with hundreds of clients over the years, while at IBM, I guess it is a whole lot different when it is just you AND your client in the same room. It surely puts things into perspective… In fact, a really good friend of mine mentioned to me, on a Skype conversation, shortly after I moved on from IBM, how, now that I am an independent freelancer, there is only one boss you would need to attend to and be accountable for: your client(s)! And forget about everything and everyone else. It all just takes a secondary role. Boy, was he right! [Thanks ever so much, David!] 

I never realised I would get this silly just thinking about the excitement of being validated oneself when a client decides to finally work with you on their own Adaptation & Enablement journey around Social Business. But the reality is that I was. I still am! As a first time experience, it’s helped me understand the role of persevering, of resilience, or being patient enough to continue constantly working on the pipeline of potential prospects understanding that magic will eventually happen and that the only thing you would need to worry about is being ready for it. Be there. Be yourself, authentic, honest, trustworthy on what you could deliver and help with and then from there onwards let the client start building their own journey with a final destination that neither them, nor myself, know just yet, but that we both know will be worth while the time, effort and energy well spent on.

Yes, a few weeks have gone by and I am still feeling like a kid at a candy store, specially, after all the joint work we executed on over the course of time not knowing exactly where it would take us all, but understanding it’s a needed step forward in terms of attempting to redefine the workplace of the future for them in this Social Era. It’s kind of an interesting challenge, I suppose, to try to summarise in just a few weeks 15 years of big corporate experience to help a client with their own digital transformation, but that is the main reason why I am certain working out loud is going to become rather helpful, not only to the client, but to myself, in not only understanding where we may be going, but also how as a result of that work together we may be able to help others, who may be on the brink of starting off their own journey(s). 

Do you still remember your first client engagement and how it made you feel? I bet you do. I know for myself it’s going to take me a long while to forget… Remember when I mentioned in previous blog entries how excitement would be trumping uncertainty time and time again? Well, this is just one example of what’s to come and while I have totally embraced the notion of the unknown, as mentioned on yesterday’s blog entry, and adjusted to it accordingly, it’s client work like the one I continue to do nowadays on a daily basis that keeps me going. I guess that was also the whole point behind being a Chief Emergineer in the first place, don’t you think?

Let’s do it! Let’s get down to business then and let the working out loud journey continue!

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.

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