The Importance of "We, Not They"
Benjamin L. Harris, CPA, CGMA

The Importance of “We, Not They”BLH Technologies’ employees like to “get in deep” with their Federal clients—I mean, really deep. How deep—deep enough that, if you didn’t know better, you’d think our employees actually held positions with our Federal clients.

That’s right—our people are often mistaken for Feds; I mean this in the best possible way. In some instances our employees work on site with their Federal counterparts, present at conferences on behalf of our clients, and answer questions from the public at large as if they were Feds. Our unofficial motto is “we, not they” when talking about our clients.

I encourage this idea. We aren’t staff-extenders, but we’re positioned deeply with our clients to offer them good, reasonable counsel and service.

I tell every new hire at BLH that “client service” is a bare minimum. By itself, client service is insufficient. If all we’re doing is client service, we aren’t distinguishing ourselves. I don’t want us just to be a service provider for our clients; I want us to be a trusted advisor for them. I don’t want us simply to respond to a client’s needs; I want us to anticipate those needs. I want us to know what the client wants before he or she knows it.

That’s why our “we, not they” approach is so important. We’ve got to get in deep with our clients.

Here’s a true story of something that happened recently. One of our employees was at a conference with a client. He was working a booth on an exhibit floor, answering questions about the client’s work. A third party visiting the booth asked our employee for his card. Because he’s a BLH employee, he didn’t have a business card from the client, but he noted, “I’m not a Federal employee; I’m a contractor.” He then told her, “Here’s how to reach me,” and he gave her his BLH contact information. However, the woman asking him questions was shocked: “You’re not a Fed?” But you know so much about [the agency].” “No,” our employee replied, “I’m a contractor; I just know what I’m doing.” The woman making the inquiries was impressed. So was the Federal employee with whom our employee was working.

That’s how we handle things. We’re honest and transparent, of course; we’d never pass ourselves off as Federal employees because we’re not. When we’re with our clients, though, we think like they think; their concerns become our concerns. We’re not just giving them a product; we’re serving as a trusted advisor. I’ll take that tradeoff every time.