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Quitting On A Client

Kaushal Trivedi

Startups journeys are kaleidoscopic. Every piece of the journey veils a part of the big picture and unveils some. The startup team can either be aligned in this idea of fragmented reality or believe in their make-believe team spirit and some day be trampled by the incoming train.

I recently had to quit on a client. In India, and for a small business, quitting on a client is probably rare. Yet I had to do it.

I had given many strong hard thoughts to it and every iteration brought me back to the same answer. Quit.

We are into product design. We shape a founder’s ideas into a product. And this is a tricky ground. Many founders come with such a strong business background, it is difficult to convince them they know nothing about product design.

More so, about the one’s who have worked a large portion of their career in large corporates and dealt with vendors. They put up efforts to treat a product designer as an equal partner in thought, but never sincere enough. They tend to revert back to their behaviour with vendors while on job.

Now, product design by nature, requires you to tell your client how to do things. And they’d rather tell you how it should it be done (because of money, skin in the game and other cultural reasons).

This is further complicated when founders want to focus on ‘business’ and delegate tech to the tech leprechaun.

Third, there is total dissonance on what it costs to build a product. So while the founder makes discoveries in the market and pilots a changing product to surf the wave, the tech cofounder is expected to cope up with constant changes without putting relevant capital or thought (time) on the table.

And when you add a career finance person to the team (bean counter) who knows nothing about technology, tech crowd and original context we have someone trying hard to bring down input costs in line with manufacturing industry or vendor suppliers. Soon, as a equity partner in the game, its your skin in their game.

Only way this unequal relationship can be normalised is when people who make mistakes end up paying for them. Directly and without any cover. And when it comes to making those choices, the real tech founder’s character is revealed. The others have to learn that they are in on the gold rush, only if they get the ‘tech’ mindset.

For Prodio therefore, it was back to basics — Stay loyal to the product and not client, and when there no scope of that, rather quit on a client than the product.
Quitting On A Client was originally published in Prodio DesignWorks on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Story published on March 31, 2019

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