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Will the Real Client Please Stand Up?

I know this should be obvious, but who am I working for on this project?

I used to have a pretty good idea. Somewhere along the way, the number of people for whom I am apparently working and the number of people who believe they are controlling the project has increased. They all smiled as they redlined my work.

Is the owner my client? He certainly does not hesitate to provide his criticism of my work, and we want to keep him happy, right? If the amount of paper determines the client, then the prime consultant is the client.

A couple of federal and state bureaucrats are waging a struggle like Godzilla and

Mothra over who is the “Authority Having Jurisdiction.” It really doesn’t matter who

wins because they both assume that I will respond to their edicts as if I really were

working for them.

My princiapal in charge must also be the client. He knows more about the job than

I do; he just forgot to give me all the details. I don’t know how it happened, but my

spouse somehow got to be the client. She must have. How else could she tell me to

just extend the deadline a couple of weeks so we can go to visit her Great Aunt Lolla

in Idaho?

There is another sub-consultant who is giving me instructions like he is the client, but he’s just like that. A vendor who tells me that only a fool would design the job like I have sure sounds like a client to me. My neighbors might be the client. Their directions for me about world order, good taste, proper professional restraint, and the bidding climate are causing me to reconsider my specifications.

The contactor patted me on the head and told me that they would take care of everything – just like a real client. I hate it when that happens. Even our insurance guy and attorney have told us lots of things to be sure to avoid.

I know how to tell. I’ve got it now! All I have to do is ask for more fees for additional services. Everyone who is not the client will smile and point toward “The Client.”

Will the real client please stand up?

*This article was originally written by Charles Batson for an early version of The Zweig Letter on May 25, 1995.