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Since the first Bureau gathering in 2012, conversations inevitably turn to managing clients and workflow. Nothing can derail a service company like a project that stalls out. It messes up resourcing, scheduling, cash flow, quality, culture and the client relationship. 

At my shop, nGen Works, we wrote a clause for our contracts that would keep projects on track and give us control if they did slow down. It improved the overall health of our company and has since been adopted by dozens of shops. We call it the “Pause Clause.”

If a client deliverable — such as input, approvals, or payment — is late more than 10 business days the project will be considered “on hold.” Once the deliverable is received and the project is re-activated it will be rescheduled based on nGen Works’ current workload and availability. Just to say it loud and clear, it could be weeks to get you back in the system if the project is put on hold.

When I’ve explained the Pause Clause to digital agency owners they almost always adopt it. Occasionally, I’ll get some pushback. Here are the top concerns I’ve heard over the years:

1. Our clients would never agree to that.

Hmm … so, your clients think that they should come and go as they please, and you should be at their beck and call? You have bigger issues, mainly that your clients don’t respect you and never will. Not until you respect yourself. Your business will suffer from cash flow issues and your personal health will suffer as you stress about every project.

2. We love our clients.

Hey now! We love our clients, too. In fact, the Pause Clause protects good clients and keeps their projects moving and on time. It only impacts the clients who can’t make decisions or get things done in a timely manner.

3. Sometimes our clients can't control approvals.

Again, you have bigger issues. Mainly, you’re not plugged in at the right level.

In all these years I don’t remember a client ever asking us to remove it, but I have explained why it’s there. The conversation usually goes like this:

Client: We’ll stay up to speed on all of our deliverables, no problem there.
Me: That’s great to hear. Sometimes it’s beyond your control, like legal reviews or content from another source.
Client: Would that cause us to miss our deadline?
Me: Only if those deliverables are late. But, now that you know, you can start preparing for those potential delays.
Client: Sigh. Okay, thanks.

The Pause Clause is beneficial for both the web shop and the client. It sets expectations and starts a conversation about staying on schedule. Plus, you’ll rarely have to use it. Normally an email with the subject line “Pause Clause” is enough to keep things moving. Depending on the nature of the delays, you can be sympathetic and waive the clause or let them know you have to enact it but will do everything you can to minimize the delay.

 

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