I’m not sure you’ve heard, but Smart Dolphins is Proactive. For realsies.
What does Proactive mean?
Proactive means doing stuff that isn’t simply in response to client needs that have arisen unexpectedly. Sounds easy enough in theory, but in practice it is crazy-hard to do in any significant quantities. Reactive IT work is like a black hole; Fighting technology fires will suck all available free time if you let it. It’s like quicksand. How an IT company gets out of reactive mode isn’t easy or obvious so most don’t ever truly get there even though almost all want to.
For the greater good, I’ll share some of our secret sauce on how we have managed to do what most can’t.
We made several leaps of faith:
- We decided that all clients needed to make a commitment to us – we started requiring a monthly agreement. To get out of the IT death spiral, you need to invest in being proactive over the long term; we demand clients do this with us.
- We didn’t hedge our bets by making the Proactive model optional. I don’t believe you can promise to be truly proactive to some clients while you are still committed to some purely reactive customers. See notes above about black holes and quicksand. We used to have a lot more clients than we have now. A LOT more. This was a huge leap of faith for us.
- We take on full responsibility for our clients’ needs by charging fixed prices; we generally don’t charge extra when there is more reactive work to do. This aligns our incentives with our customers. Everyone wants the reactive noise to die down.
- We charge enough to be able to have the resources that allow us to be proactive. This is a tough one because most companies won’t pay what is necessary (especially when cheap, reactive IT service is so readily available). You have to get used to lots of people saying no thanks (or more commonly, simply not returning your calls or emails), which is not fun and doesn’t feel successful. You have to have strong belief to face all that rejection and still know you’re on the right path.
- We dedicate entire Dolphins to proactive roles. Several people at Smart Dolphins get the luxury of completely ignoring the noise of all the reactive work and can focus on proactive work. This is incredibly powerful.
- We invest heavily in tools and processes that allow us to be proactive. I have some very large invoices to prove our commitment to being proactive. I also have years of my life spent on building the “Smart Dolphins Way” with the team. Without all the points above, an IT company simply will not make the necessary investments in time, money, blood, sweat and tears into the tools and processes to be truly proactive.
- We built our culture around being proactive. It is at the core of who we are. It is cult-like.
In short, we have thrown ourselves at being proactive. We burned the ships and attacked the enemy (reactive work) knowing there was no turning back. We haven’t just talked about it. We didn’t just use wishful thinking. We took a leap and continue to take leap after leap. That is why I feel comfortable sharing our secret sauce with the world, including our competitors. I don’t believe any of our competitors could catch us now (but I would like them all to follow our lead).
Of course, there is still so much more we can do; in many ways, we’ve only just begun. Next week we bring on another Dolphin who will also be completely dedicated to being strictly proactive. When we discussed these plans with the team, I was wondering if the Dolphins carrying our reactive load would squawk for more help with their workload, but they didn’t. Not a peep. They get it. Everyone here gets it. We see it happening. It is clear. We’re truly Proactive.