Key Distinction: Practice vs. Project LeadershipBy Andrew Neitlich
In the last blog (link is above), Roly had some questions about the philosophy of considering your Web Design/Development business to be a professional practice. (If you missed that blog, he was referring to the PowerPoint and .wav file that you can read at
Here is my response:
First, I hope that all readers at Sitepoint consider their business to be a professional practice with clients, not a series of projects or “gigs.” Having a professional practice means that you have a certain attitude when you work with clients, similar to a lawyer, physician, or accountant. You focus on service, continuous improvement, excellence, and a long-term relationship. Clients rave about them (most people complain about lawyers in general, but love their own lawyer), and stay loyal to them over a lifetime. They perceive them to be experts in their field and, over time, trust them with confidential information.
In contrast, IT professionals who focus on projects and gigs are mercenaries and vendors, forced to compete on price and almost always bid on projects. They put themselves first, and the customer second. They focus on tasks instead of results, and just get the job done and move on.
I would much rather be a professional in a practice with clients. What about you?
At the same time, to get to Roly’s question about budgets and not having room to “blue-sky” with clients and prospects:
No matter how professional your practice, you still need to consider budget and scope. In Web Design/Development and any profession, managing a project is a key element of being a professional. In fact, in the USA, the best physicians are those who have found ways to optimize quality and cost, and they tend to rely on strict clinical protocols and guidelines.
Every prospect/client has a fixed budget. Therefore, part of your practice is about helping clients define scope. Until you tell them, they are not always aware that there are three things that every project needs to balance: time, resources, and quality. It is essential to iterate with your prospects up front to find out which of these three are fixed, and then adjust the other one or two elements to arrive at a satisfactory project definition. This is not always an easy conversation to have with clients, and it can take time to work with them to arrive at a satisfactory solution.
Within this framework, you can always say something like, “I know your budget is fixed, but if you were willing to pay a bit more, look at what we could do for you…” That way, you find out exactly where the client’s real boundaries are.
Then, as Roly indicates, you have to manage to scope very carefully to remain profitable.
So having a professional practice and managing closely to a budget are not exclusive. They go together.
Thanks for a great question!
P.S. Regarding staffing in a professional practice, all kinds of models work: contractors, part-time employees, full-time employees, employees paid only when there is work….What sets a practice apart is a commitment by the owner to set standards and employ a methodology/process that ensures quality work, solid results, a smooth process for the client, and a mutually valuable relationship.