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Trusting your Instincts

business woman flying

Once upon a time, while implementing an accounting program far less superior than NAV, I learned a very valuable lesson: when your instincts are telling you that something is a bad idea, it probably is. And you should stand up for what you think is right.  Allow me to explain.

As a young, green consultant, I was assisting in the implementation of a new accounting software program. While consulting with the owner as to how the numbering of the customer accounts should occur, he came up with what he deemed a brilliant idea: rather than using a simple, incrementing number, why not use the customer’s phone number? 

At this point in the story, there are three things you need to know:

  • this particular software program does not allow you to change the customer number once it has been assigned;
  • there actually was an existing field for the customer’s phone number (hard to believe, I know); and lastly,
  • this occurred on Long Island.

I had grave reservations about using the phone number as the customer’s account number.  Primarily, what happens when the phone number changes?  It seems that he had a fantasy which involved the customer calling in, rattling off their account/phone number, while the customer service tech typed happily away, bringing up their account with no issues what-so-ever. Again, I asked, what happens when they change their phone number?

After many iterations on this theme, the owner insisted that this was the way to go, and away we went. Plugging in customers, using their phone numbers as their account numbers. One year later, the announcement came that Long Island was rapidly running out of phone numbers and needed to split the existing area code into two. As you can imagine, this caused an account number reconciliation fiasco.

I learned a valuable lesson as a consultant, actually two. The first was the discipline not to say “I told you so.”  The second, more important lesson, was that I needed to work on my confidence. I knew the client was making a mistake, but he was a successful business owner and who was I to tell him how to do things?  Well, I was somebody. Maybe I was younger, maybe I didn’t have experience running a business, but I knew my product. I lost sight of the fact that I was there for my expertise. Perhaps if I hadn’t lost sight of that, I could have persuaded him to make a different decision.

The inevitable phone call came, “How do we change the customer’s account numbers?” It pained me to remind them that they could not. It pained me more to know that my lack of confidence had caused issues for the client. 

I did learn. And now, if my instincts tell me something may be wrong, I always consider their validity. I always take the time to explore any misgivings with a client. I now have the confidence to do the right thing.

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