Entrepreneurial Innovative Engineering – Part 2
We talked in the last article about picking up the right technology that gets you further, faster!
But technology without communication skills is completely useless.
If you cannot communicate the most complex technical terms to your clients in a fashion they would simply understand then you’re just an engineer – someone who’s incapable of communicating with others except for computers.
Let’s dive deeper into communication.
As an entrepreneurial engineer myself I cannot tell you how important it is for you to be able to communicate effectively with your clients. It could save you a month worth of development effort just by negotiating what they need from a usability standpoint.
But if I were to describe communication (with humans of course) to an engineer I would say it’s the ability to understand the cultural language your client is speaking.
You and your client could be both speaking English to each other, but the common ground between the two of you might almost be non-existent.
Let’s take an example of a client who wants to build a website for construction tools and machinery. You need to go learn about construction and watch a couple of YouTube videos to get a glimpse of how construction folks talk, think and what common terms they use.
It’s important to do that because if your client doesn’t feel that there is a common ground they will lose interest in working with you, they will feel disconnect and unable to communicate their vision to you.
And believe me when I say, whoever your client is, the very fact that you know how to develop software makes them think you’re already a genius – they will try to come out as tech savvies who know the ins and outs about software.
Don’t stop them or embarrass them when they get it wrong – they are not then technical people in this situation – you are!
And it’s your responsibility to educate your clients and take care of their technical needs, make them feel comfortable not knowing particular things and be willing to always inform them for as long as they need about a specific technology or a method you’re following.
Communication also means being able to live at least a year in the future ahead of your client – understand what they might ask for in the future versus what they’re asking for now.
When you live in the future, ahead of your client, you design your software in a way that’ll make it easier to develop potential new features, features that are inevitable if your client is willing to continue the development of software.
There’s a common belief in the software industry that software engineers are not good communicators – which is a belief that created a whole new type of jobs like product owners and program managers.
I personally believe that communication just like any other skill (such as programming), requires training and practicing – trials and errors, knowing that you will run into situations where you’ll be completely rejected or dismissed and you should be okay with that because people are different and you are not for everyone.
When engineers employ their highly trained brains into improving their communication skills they become more efficient and communicative than any others.
An entrepreneurial engineer understands that a good product is completely useless if there’s no way to introduce it to others so they can benefit from it, and in order to introduce a product to somebody you have to have the right skills to communicate with people, to show them how great the product is and what it’s capable of doing.
But communication isn’t just the words you say, it’s when you say them and how you say them.
And while that might sound complicated, in reality it’s not that complicated at all. It’s just like programming – it might look complex and hard for someone who’s not familiar with it, but just like any skill once you practice it, it becomes easier and easier to do.
Communication isn’t always about saying something, sometimes communication is to not say anything at all – yes, in some situations you might make an offer, and wait, don’t bend your client’s ears about how great your product is – let them take their time to decide.
I’ve had a potential client whom I contacted a couple of years ago that reached out to me recently, he remembered everything I showed him.
This is because people process information and make decisions on all kinds of different ways, some rely on their past experiences, some others google similar products and some others just ask around which means your reputation, people who worked with you before and how you present yourself online and in front of others is of utmost importance – you reputation and how you image yourself out there on the web and in your community is everything.
Let’s talk about reputation then!
Reputation is how you treated your clients in the past, your experiences and how you present yourself online and among your community.
You could be the fastest engineer with the best tools and highest communication skills. But if you didn’t have a good reputation all of this would become a huge impediment for your business.
That’s because people are more likely to decide not to buy something or enroll in a service merely based on other people’s opinions than just try the product themselves.
Reputation is so, very important to the point that websites like Amazon have decided to mark product reviewers who didn’t have a record of purchasing the product as a measure to make sure someone who didn’t buy the product cannot ruin it’s reputation for others.
Reputation could be on the product level as well as the company or the person level.
I’ve seen some of the biggest deals that could have been made being completely voided because of “what people said”.
You want to make sure you keep all your communications professional, and on point – provide the best service you got no matter what the size of your deal is, smaller or bigger client – smaller clients bring bigger clients and bigger clients bring you all kinds of good reputation to both bigger and smaller clients, that’s why you see so many websites today bragging about their clients especially if they are one of the larger clients – put their logos on their websites even they were competitors – reputation!
Reputation could translate into marketing, but there’s a trick to marketing here, which is to keep it honest, don’t let marketers advertise your services or products to be something that it isn’t. because lying could only get you so far before this one comment on reddit or yelp that spirals into endless amount of bad reviews that costs you your product, yourself and everything else in between!
Some entrepreneurial engineers like Elon Musk decided to go a different route with reputation – he believes if you invest all your money in building a good product, the product will basically market itself.
Tesla spends as little as $6 on marketing per each car compared to $3,000 for a brand like Jaguar for instance – they let the media and their free service which translates to reputation take care of the marketing for them – for free!
Protecting your reputation can only be done in one way, be honest, if you make a mistake admit it, own it and fix it then apologize – I see a lot of companies of all sizes try to find excuses and explain themselves, and that’s such a bad way to go, because people are not stupid, they can read between the lines and some of them will dig deeper to find the truth, it’s a hobby for some and a job for others like journalists, so stay honest to yourself, your craft and what you’re making, combine that with good communication skills, kindness and high technical skills and you’re all set!
Back where I come from, they say one hand can’t clap.
No matter how smart, fast or kind you are, you need friends, partners and people you can trust to keep the ball rolling for your business.
The one man show or the savior with all the good ideas is a myth, behind every great product, company or person you’ll find good partners, people one could trust with his life.
That’s what we are going to talk about in the 3rd part of this article.
… To Be Continued.