Several years ago I learned a lot of valuable lessons on a few projects. I had taken on these projects with some of my partners and we all made a lot of rookie mistakes. We severely under-quoted on the projects, we didn’t get good contracts in place and the project specs were all so loosely defined at the start that we were basically rewriting the specs on a weekly basis. It was a nightmare. They were supposed to be three- to four-month projects, and it ended up taking me the better part of a year to actually wrap them up.

To make it worse, my partners backed out of the projects. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t blame them. They were absolutely justified in doing so. In fact, I would have been justified in walking away, too.

But I didn’t.

It was early in my career and I had a choice to make. I could have walked away and said “I’m not going to deal with projects like that”. Or, I could have done exactly what I did. I buckled down and delivered two of the best projects I’ve ever done. I had promised to deliver. So, I delivered.

Now, one of those clients thanked me over and over and has actually become a good friend over the years and the other client ran out of money and never even paid. There is one thing that both clients did, though.

Those two clients have brought me more leads in the past decade than anyone else, and they continue to this day. Years later, I still get calls out of the blue saying “they told me you were the man that would do what you promise and exceed expectations”.

Every time that happens it reminds me that sometimes you lose your shirt on a project and that’s just what you have to do. It’s just the cost of doing business once in a while. You can whine about it and walk away or under-deliver and have a miserable experience with a client, or you can man up and produce the kind of quality work you agreed to deliver and want to be known for, even in a situation where others would bail.

You have to choose your battles in business and it’s always easier to recover from an unprofitable project than it is to recover from a broken reputation. You’ll never regret delivering quality if delivering quality is what you set out to do.

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