Rich Tozzoli detours on his Continuing Adventures In Software to ponder the right way to put one over on clients.
Putting it bluntly, the thing that keeps us all in this business is income. Sure, we hopefully love our work, but the bottom line is you need to keep the red lights glowing. Looking back at my own career, and speaking with several long-time industry pros, there are a few common themes that pop up when it comes to working continually. One of my favorites is that of over-delivering.
Somewhere along the line, and I’m not even sure where, I learned to deliver above expectations with every job I do. That means getting the job done at a high level, no matter how much time it takes. Not just getting the job done, but getting it done right. Delivering that product to the end client on time and on budget— the same client that will pay you and keep the red lights glowing and will then come back to you year after year.
In analyzing most of my work, it’s from just that—repeat clients. Be it a 5.1 mix, sound design job or writing music for television, I’m lucky to have a variety of friends in the biz who bring me work. That’s because when I take on a project, I make sure I’m personally happy with the end results. That means I’ve given it the classic 110 percent. Were there times I didn’t do that? Looking back, yes. Did I pay for it? Yes. Not only was there some odd dropout towards the end of one CD (remember those?) project, but also they printed 1,000 of them. Ouch. It came out of my pocket. You can be damn sure I’ve QC’ed every single mix since then. Just the other day, I did a 5.1 mix, and when finished, I imported the six multi-mono files into a 5.1 session and sat there and listened to every second of it. When I delivered, I noted this mix has been QC’ed and is good to go. I felt that 110% sense of confidence that this was not coming back.
Aside from over-delivering in our business, you have to be able to take what my good friend Paul Antonell calls a beating. When I call him up to check in on what’s happening, we talk of jobs in the level of beatings they are. A Tremendabeating is just an easy job. Then there is the Stupendabeating, and finally, the Meglabeating. As owner of Clubhouse studios in Rhinebeck, he’s seen and been through it all. He’s taken untold amounts of Meglabeatings. But he can take them all, no matter how difficult the client (oh, the stories he has). Bottom line is, he’s a pro, he delivers every time at a high level and sure enough, gets a lot of repeat customers. Over-delivering pays off again.
But over-delivering should not just be for those of us that actually produce/mix/engineer. We expect the companies whose products we buy to over-deliver, too. We pay good money for them, and for the most part, are happy. Their over-delivering is often not seen by us. That means countless hours designing, testing and building the gear. Of course, this could apply to both hardware and software.
Believe me, I appreciate that things like my Massive Passive turn on every time—years later—without as much as a blip. My NHT Pro monitors are 10 years old, and I never think about them. My Grace 906 just works, every day. I appreciate that the software I use rarely ever crashes, and that the plug-ins I use sound amazing. A lot of work went into making sure our user-experience is as smooth and flawless as possible. A lot of over delivering has to happen in order for that to happen.
Yesterday, I was at breakfast at my favorite restaurant before we started our session. I order just about the same thing every time—chamomile tea in a pot and a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. The tea came out in a teabag/cup, not loose like usual. The oatmeal had strawberries on it. My friend didn’t get his eggs until the end of the meal, and they gave us the wrong bill. No joke. Big deal? Not really. They were busy, and we called it a meltdown. But we’ve noticed that’s the case when this place is busy. They set the expectations of a quality meal with great tea and coffee, and did not meet their own standards. They didn’t deliver as we expected. They surely didn’t over-deliver. Guess what? We didn’t go there for breakfast today.
We’ve all hopefully learned our lessons. It’s worth it to go the extra mile and do it right. If you want to get that job out early, and are thinking of taking a shortcut, don’t do it. Step back, take a breath, and think about your customer. They are paying you for 110 percent. They are paying you to over-deliver. So do it, and rest easy. They’ll be back.