Being open and clear on expectations is the best way to ensure a positive experience working together.
I call these expectations Rules of Engagement and share them publicly in order to instill transparency and accountability. Here is the starting set of guidelines:
- Up to 3 clients at the same time. This is to ensure I give enough attention to each client while allowing me to keep pricing reasonable and work with a breadth of interesting clients.
- Create a shared channel of communication (I prefer a shared channel in Slack). No limits on the amount of communications and I aim to answer all requests within a 24-hour window.
- Weekly 2-hour f2f session (Zoom preferred). Always with a pre-set agenda – we can brainstorm, do a workshop, or discuss a range of questions and issues. The session day and time are scheduled at the beginning of the engagement – I am always open to change them with due notice (and I might ask for the same from time to time), but knowing they are on the calendar instills accountability.
- At the beginning of the engagement and throughout, we agree on specific deliverables along with due dates for them. The client is responsible for providing all relevant resources (data, access to tools, facetime, etc.) needed to accomplish the work, while the advisor is responsible for delivering on time and within scope.
- Initial engagements typically last 3-6 months. Both clients and the advisor (i.e. me) have the ability to cancel at any time (typically with a months notice – in order to wrap up and deliver work in progress – but it can be shortened or waived).
- After the initial period, we have a discussion about what’s gone well, what could be improved, and if/how we want to continue working together.
The pricing model is based on a monthly retainer. This ensures I can focus on a small set of clients and on delivering meaningful outcomes for them instead of counting beans (hours) or looking for ways to stretch work.
In order to identify the optimal pricing and incentivize potential clients to commit as early as possible, I double prices after each successfully closed client.
To make my services available to companies of any size and stage in their journey, payment can be partially taken in equity.
Equity-based payments works under the following guidelines:
- Up to 50% payment in equity (rest in cash). The equity allotment usually comes out of the ESOP (employee stock option compensation plan) and shares do not carry voting rights, etc.
- The value of the equity is based on the most recent post-money valuation of the client company. This valuation is locked for the advisor for the duration of the engagement.
- If your company hasn’t raised any money/hasn’t been evaluated, we’ll look at a (current) revenue-based valuation.
- Stock options vest immediately as they are earned (each month) and never expire. (If they need to expire as per your compensation plan, we’ll discuss a workaround.)
100% satisfaction 100% of the time
It is paramount to me that the clients I work with are 100% happy 100% of the time. While this sounds (close to) impossible, it is a real rather than an aspirational goal for me. Here’s why:
- The most obvious reason is that clients which are consistently not happy will churn quickly – just this is good enough to strive for high satisfaction.
- This type of relationship requires a lot of work on both sides, high degree of trust, and spending a lot of time together. I want the people I work with to be excited before each session – otherwise working together will quickly become a drag for both sides of the relationship.
- Finally, sometimes there might just not be a good fit – some founders have a specific thing they’re looking for or are not happy with the direction proposed by their advisor. In this case, I would rather end the relationship profession