Monday, June 22, 2009

Balancing Crisis and Clients

I could have just as easily called this blog “don’t forget your clients when you have a family crisis of spousal Leukemia diagnosis and a month of hospitalization and upheaval and mayhem in your life.” Or, I could have called it “prioritize, prioritize, prioritize, and be realistic!

So, on day three after the diagnosis, a bone marrow biopsy, admission to the hospital, and beginning chemo, I had to address a few business issues. I had one deadline for a final report in 2 days, luckily for me all research had been completed and the first draft of the report had been sketched; I had just signed on a new large customers not due until November; was in mid search of the Wochenschau films; and ending the search on the allusive Wm. Williams. Right…William Williams. And, on the day, I received a down payment for customer number four who I didn’t have to start for a couple of weeks, according to the contract.

I may have mentioned this in a previous blog, but I schedule my jobs according to the estimated time of a job, and I usually have one large and two small jobs going every month. Very little overlap occurs on large jobs, except I usually am writing a final report, while doing a set up on another. This is a career, not a suicide attempt!

I think the “check in the mail” thing jolted me into reality. Three precious days had past and only two days left before my final report was due. Well, I was not about to cheat my client. My reputation is based on very few things, but one of them is timeliness, the other is thoroughness. And, although I don’t believe my personal affairs should in anyway affect my customer, I did realize that I needed more days to complete the report. So, I grabbed the laptop, that had been with me at the hospital and home, and began to communicate. I had to let the client know that I was finalizing the final report, but due to this “life problem” I would need an additional week. Yep, clients are human and compassionate, especially if you keep them abreast of progress all along, giving them frequent updates, and my client was no exception. Plus the word Leukemia does not equate with sore throat. He granted me the week to finalize, compile, double check, and recheck my cited work. This was to both of our advantage, because reports need to be clear and concise to limit follow up questions or confusion. And this client was a respectable genealogist himself, and a repeat customer.

Wm. Williams posed a bit more of a problem. But, the truth is travel was out of the question for now, and I needed to research some files that could not be removed from an archive about four hours a way. What good is networking if you don’t consider it as a resource. Reality: I couldn’t go. Resolution: use my trusted genealogists peers in the field. Not any genealogists, but one who worked at the archive. This allowed for my research to continue and move forward. Time not wasted!

Wochenschau, although a tedious job, was do-able from the laptop, but once again, I had to use my resourceful peers. This time genealogists at the NARA in D.C. Believe me, I don’t pull these favors normally, but it was nice to know that I had developed the relationship and was able to take care of customers seamlessly. Again, time was not wasted, and the end of the month deadline was met, exceeding expectations.

My point is not to juggle customers and workload, but to be resourceful, and face reality. Reality: I couldn’t do anything in the hospital but stare at my husband and talk to him. Resolution, I had a laptop and a phone at my disposal.

We, as genealogists, have contacts throughout the nation in archives, in societies, from conferences, etc. It pays to do “random acts of kindness” periodically, and in return others remember your good deed, and are willing to pull together in a pinch. It is also important to remember not to abuse your resources. But most of all, communicate with your clients, and never cheat them of the job they paid for: thorough research, and a comprehensible thorough final report. With a little creativity and setting of priorities, it all can be done.
Hope you are keeping all balanced and providing the best research for every client! A page out of Sponge Bob: This is "the best (genealogy) day ever!"

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