At Awaken&More we recently had an invaluable learning opportunity regarding reputation management. We are a non-profit consultancy that works with non-profit and social enterprises and planned to work with an international non-governmental organization (INGO). However, two projects have fallen behind schedule and we had to decide whether we could work on a third project with the INGO. On the one hand, we could work with an established organization and increase our reputation, on the other hand, we could mismanage the projects and risk not reaching client satisfaction. It was a real dilemma. During our discussion we considered the capacity of our human resources, the expectations of current clients, and the organizational growth.
Taking Values Into Account
Such a situation demands taking organizational values into account. As one of Awaken&More’s value is achieving, one could argue to strive for growth and restructure the consulting teams. One could manage human resources and redistribute the Social Impact Consultants to create three teams. However, one team was already deeply involved in a project and the other team did not possess the right knowledge to work on the INGO case.
Every consultancy has three struggles. The first one is to find capable consultants and clients that can benefit from the added value of the consulting team. The second struggle is related to client retention, which is the art of completing projects with high client satisfaction to enable up sales, cross sales, after sales, and simply new sales. Lastly, consultancies face struggles regarding consultant retention, generally known as employee retention or employee turnover. At Awaken&More we were able to gain practical insights on onbaording and team building. Retaining talent should be a key priority for every organization.
Growth Versus Trust
It is very inspiring to grow an organization and enable Social Impact Consultants to accumulate work experience while creating maximum social impact for our clients. I have a very strong growth mindset, personally and professionally. However, if one wants to find capable talents for new projects, then one has to invest a considerable amount of time and energy. We spend a lot of time branding Awaken&More to attract highly skilled Social Impact Consultants. Basically, the more one wants to grow the more of the above struggles are encountered. However, uncontrolled growth can cause trust issues. Onora O’Neill believes that one has to be competent, reliable, and honest to be perceived as trustworthy. By not delivering projects on time or satisfying expected quality we would risk to be perceived as incompetent, unreliable, and ultimately less trustworthy. As a result, we would harm our reputation. First, there is the risk that clients would not want to work with us again and second, they would not refer us new clients. If we do not satisfy clients it will have a negative impact for everyone at Awaken&More. Perhaps not financially because we do not work for monetary gain but we care about gaining new clients and maintaining our personal reputation of excellence. Growth is important but not when it causes trust issues and jeopardizes long-term growth. Everyone can attract clients and win projects, but finding capable talents, completing acquired projects, and reaching full client satisfaction is an art that has to be learned, cultivated, and perfected over time.
Awaken&More is about learning and we all enjoy accumulating invaluable experiences about managing an organization, leading teams, decision making, and problem solving. We learned about the importance of reputation management and followed three steps to solve the dilemma: 1. We contacted our clients and promised to fix the current issues and get back on schedule 2. We appointed new consultants, had a discussion about what went previously wrong, found the root causes, and set new goals 3. We contacted the INGO and explained them why we would not be able to work with them at this point. They appreciated it. After all, we want to be an integer organization and treat our existing clients with priority. This is our definition of commitment. New potential clients appreciate this attitude.
Joep van Gelder. (July 1, 2016). Awaken&More.