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Reducing Clutter: Organizational Tips for Office Productivity

 

reducing clutterDo you like the peace of mind you get when things are organized, yet have trouble keeping them that way? Are you sick and tired of losing significant chunks of time that could be spent working just looking for what you need to get the work done?

Relax: If you're fed up with falling victim to your own bad organizational habits, you're not alone. In 2010, Brother International Corporation released a survey finding that around 76 working hours per person each year are wasted as a result of various forms of workplace disorganization. That's a lot of time frittered away that doesn't have to be.

But there's no need to fear; THINQ is here! Your Atlanta IT solutions specialist is here with a few tips for reducing clutter -- of both the physical and electronic variety -- in your workspace.

1. Have a Place for It--and Use It!

How much time have you lost just searching for things you've misplaced? If you're a serial clutter bug with an earnest desire to be more organized and productive, the thought probably shames you.

One of the best things you can do to organize your workspace better is something most of us learned in kindergarten, if not before: Put things where they belong. Have a place for everything in your office, and put it back there when you're done with it.

Why is the (insert random object here) out? Does it need to be? Or is it out just because you haven't returned it to its place yet? It's about creating a habit, so it will take time for it to become second nature. But it won't become second nature if you don't do it consistently. Start today. Start right now. DO IT.

2. Minimize Your Stuff to Maximize Your Productivity

Make "stuff" earn its keep. In other words, if you don't use it and it's just taking up space, get rid of it. If you can't bring yourself to get rid of it, at least demote it to a location that's not prominent -- preferably somewhere out of sight, where it's not hampering your mobility or taking up precious real estate on your desk.

3. Deal with Your Email

Email is one of those things that can very easily -- and very quickly -- spiral out of control if you're not careful. Letting your inbox get cluttered can be just as harmful, if not more so, than letting your desk get out of hand. It's very easy for an important message to slip through the cracks because it was sitting right between a promotional email from an office supply store and Canadian pharmaceutical spam.

The best thing you can do to avoid email clutter is to deal with emails as you read them. If it's urgent, answer it immediately. If it's important but can wait until after you've dealt with more pressing matters, put it in a "pending" folder. Make it your goal to empty that folder every day, either by answering the emails contained therein or moving them to more specific folders. Every email should be organized to an appropriate folder (labeled "invoices," "project files," etc.). If it's junk, treat it like a used candy wrapper and trash it.


How do you go about reducing clutter in your office? Please share your answers in the comments!

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Image credit: Sean MacEntee

IT Support Services – Outsource, Insource, or Family Member?

 

Uncle ByronThe decision concerning whom you should use for your company's IT support services is likely based on a number of factors: How complex are my company's IT needs? How much can I afford to spend? Is there someone on my staff who could do the work? If I decide to outsource my company's IT, who has the best track record?

At THINQ, we understand your dilemma. That's why we're going to show you, generally speaking, what you might expect when you go with one of three different choices for your IT needs: outsourcing, insourcing, or a family member. Sure, we're generalizing a bit, and maybe you should take some of it with a grain of salt, but still…there's some truth to be had here. Oh, and when we mention "outsourcing," we're referring specifically to THINQ, of course.

What You Get:

When You Use THINQ: You get an expert -- a company whose very existence is dependent upon providing top-notch IT service to your company.

When You Insource: You get someone who has likely become your "IT person" by default. Maybe he knows slightly more than the rest of your employees about IT, or maybe she just volunteered.

When You Use a Family Member: You get your Uncle Byron.

Maintenance Issues:

THINQ: With one fixed monthly fee, you get unlimited server room support, 24/7 server/network monitoring, monthly server tuning, and backup and recovery management.

Insource: Chances are, you don't get a whole lot of maintenance. Whichever employee you're using to take care of your IT needs has an actual job that you're paying him/her to do, and the IT is likely treated like an extra duty that only gets attention when it all hits the fan.

Uncle Byron: "Uncle Byron don't do maintenance." (Apparently Uncle Byron does "do" referring to himself in the third person.)

Emergency IT Situation:

THINQ: With our Basic, Essentials, and Fully Managed plans, you get a 15-minute response time. With our Fully Managed plan, you get business continuity plans (Plan B and Plan C).

Insource: You'll most likely get a panicked employee yelling in a panic-stricken voice, "We've lost everything. WE'VE. LOST. EVERYTHING!!!"

Uncle Byron: "Meh. Just kick 'er a couple of times and restart 'er. She'll be fine." 

As you can see, you should expect significantly different levels of expertise, skill levels, and responses, depending on which direction you want to go with your IT. We may be a bit biased, but it seems to us that your best bet is to go with THINQ, your Atlanta IT solutions specialist.

You'll be secure in the knowledge that your IT is being handled by experts, your employees will be relieved not to have the added pressure of dealing with IT concerns on top of the job they're getting paid to do, and Uncle Byron can get back to drinking beer and watching the World Turkey Call Championships on TV. Everybody wins.

Have you ever relied on someone other than a professional to be responsible for your IT support services? Please tell us about it in the comments!

Leave the IT Hassles to THINQ

Image credit: Steph Wasch

Mr. CEO on Staff Productivity (II): How Productive is Your Staff?

 

staff productivityHello there, friends! Mr. CEO here again. Everyone recovered from the time shift? Let's hope so: I have plenty to discuss, and I don't have time for you all to be feeling all time-shifty and out of sorts!

In last week's post, we talked about how social media can drain your employees' productivity at work and what you can do about it. This week, we're going to look at some more obstacles to staff productivity and what you can do to neutralize -- or at least minimize -- them.

Inefficient Processes

Maybe you have a process/policy in your office that made perfect sense at one time, but has outlived its usefulness. It could be due to changes in technology. Or perhaps it was right when your company was smaller, but it doesn't work anymore. Whatever the reason, it's important to ask yourself: Is there a process or policy in place at my company that's outmoded?

No? Are you sure?

Ask your employees what they think. As management, it's easy to find yourself out of step with the day-to-day processes that are used in your business. Keeping an open-door policy is great for management/employee relations, but you can go a step further by actively asking your employees' opinions about how efficient the processes are in your office. Their answers may surprise you. And don't stop there: Ask their opinions on what the best solution is, and work with them to streamline the process.

Meetings (aka "Time Suckers of Death")

News flash: Meetings can be vampires of productivity, sucking away at one's time, productivity, and will to live. Okay, that last one may be a BIT of an exaggeration. Maybe. But you get the idea.

So how does one turn meetings from time-wasters into productivity-enhancers? Ask yourself these "really" questions:

1) Is this meeting really necessary?

If it's something that could just as easily be solved with phone calls, an email or two, and/or a couple of quick one-on-ones, save your time -- and everybody else's by doing so.

2) Who really needs to be there?

Including nonessential personnel in meetings wastes their time. If they're not essential to what's being discussed, leave them out of it. It'll help to streamline the meetings and leave them to do what you're paying them to do: their jobs.

3) What's the meeting really about?

KEEP THE MEETING ABOUT THAT. Resist the urge to go off-topic. Focus on the matter at hand and insist that others do the same. Address the issues that need to be addressed, and then get back to work.

For more ways to transform your company's meetings into a productivity asset rather than a liability, check out this article.  Do you have other suggestions to improve staff productivity? Please share them with your Atlanta IT solutions provider in the comments!

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Image credit: Michael Stein

Mr. CEO on Staff Productivity (Part I): How Productive is Your Staff?

 

staff productivityHowdy, folks! Mr. CEO here. Nice to meet you! I'm going to be offering my expertise in…well, all the things I'm an expert at. Um…inOn? (Okay, fine! Grammar isn't one of them! Give me a second to Google…)

Okay. Let's try this again. I'm going to be offering my expertise in all of the areas in which I'm an expert! Ha! Take that, grammerians!

What? Really? Gramarians? (One second, please…)

Grammarians!

Ahem.

Today's topic is the first in a series on productivity. How productive is your staff? What's keeping them from being as productive as possible? How can you enable them to be more productive? Hopefully, we'll answer some of your questions with this series of posts. Today we're going to focus on one of the obstacles to productivity and what you can do to overcome it.

Social Media

Did I just hear some chairs creaking due to some uncomfortable seat-shifting? After all, who hasn't been guilty of spending too much time on social media at some point?

This one can be tricky. There was a time when you could just block employee access to these sites on your company's network. I'm not saying that's what you should have been doing; I'm just pointing out that it was an option.

Though you can still choose to go this route, it's effectively useless, thanks to the explosion of social media's popularity on mobile devices. Do you want to be the employer who outlaws cell phone usage at his business? Or sneaks up on people to see if they're using their phone or tablet to log in to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? I didn't think so.

So what's the answer? Here's my suggestion: Rather than issue forth unenforceable policies regarding social media, focus on specific productivity goals and deadlines. If your employees know that there's a hard deadline for a specific task -- and there are consequences for missing said deadline -- they're more likely to self-regulate their time on social media. If they're not, then -- to put it bluntly -- you've probably hired the wrong person. Daniel Newman says it best in his post, Quit Blaming Social Media for Lost Workplace Productivity:

"Employees that want to waste time and have access to social media will use it. Take it away and they will waste their time somewhere else."

Have you had staff productivity issues due to the overuse and/or abuse of social media? Please share in the comments of your favorite Atlanta IT services blog! (That's us!)

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Image credit: Pearson K-12 Technology

IT Efficiency + Staff Productivity = Lower IT Costs

 

staff-productivityLet's do a little exercise here:

You own a small company called WizBang (Don't judge; it's hypothetical, remember?) WizBang produces Wiz-Its. It has the capacity to produce a lot of Wiz-Its, and it's a good thing, as it turns out there's a high demand for them.

Wiz-It production is a highly specialized, highly technical skill. It takes a lot of time to educate and train a Wiz-It maker. 

One more thing: The Wiz-It-making process is extremely dependent on reliable computer access. If the servers go down, Wiz-It production ceases until they're back up.From a bottom-line point of view, every minute of the workday that the Wiz-It makers spend on what they're trained, educated, and hired to do -- produce Wiz-Its -- is a minute that generates revenue for the company. Every minute they're at work and not producing Wiz-Its is a loss of revenue.

WizBang has made the decision not to go the managed services route. After all, Jeremy, one of the Wiz-It makers, has a little bit of computer know-how. Why hire somebody to do their IT when WizBang already has someone on staff who has some basic IT knowledge?

(If this were a radio ad, it's at this point you'd hear the "record skip" sound effect.)

I'll repeat that: Why hire somebody to do their IT when WizBang already has someone on staff who has some basic IT knowledge?

Alright, so let's just answer that question.

1) Do you really want to put the entirety of your company's information technology -- indeed, the very ability of your company to function -- in the hands of someone who only has a basic knowledge of IT?

What happens if he runs into a problem he can't solve? You'll end up hiring someone anyway, and the urgency and severity of the problem may mean a higher price tag.

2) Perhaps you're thinking, "Well, what if Jeremy has more than a basic knowledge of IT?" What if this Wiz-It maker is a straight-up IT wiz?

Here's the thing: It doesn't matter. You're still losing money.

Even if Jeremy is an extremely competent IT guy, that's not what you're paying him for. Keep in mind that for every minute he's not producing Wiz-Its, WizBang is losing money. Even if Jeremy manages to keep WizBang's IT running smoothly -- even if it never goes down -- they're still losing money, because he's doing IT work, which generated zero revenue for the company, instead of the highly specialized, revenue-producing job of producing Wiz-Its.

Now you're starting to see, aren't you? Which leads us to #3.

3) Jeremy is only one of your Wiz-It makers.

To calculate the true cost of how much this little IT issue is costing you, you have to multiply the average amount of money WizBang loses from one Wiz-It maker's complete lack of Wiz-It production by the number of Wiz-It makers in the company. That will give you the total amount you're in the red with the loss of staff productivity.

Now do you see the inherent fallacy? WizBang isn't saving money at all by taking care of its own IT. In fact, it's hemorrhaging moola! 

WizBang could have saved money by going with THINQ's extremely reasonable managed IT services pricing. Learn from Wiz-It and put your IT in THINQ'S capable hands. Nip your IT issues in the bud with great preventive maintenance, and let your employees do what you're paying them to do!

Has your company ever suffered a loss of staff productivity due to an IT issue? Please tell us about it in the comments!

Optimize your IT efficiency with THINQ  

Image credit: One Way Stock

3 Leadership Strategies That Can Transform Your Company

 

leadership strategiesAt some point in your life, you've probably had a supervisor who was -- to put it kindly -- less than effective. Their failure to lead could have been due to any number of things: indecisiveness, incompetence, inexperience, foul temperament, poor work ethic...the list goes on and on. Whatever the specifics on their leadership shortcomings, being in their employ probably left a strong impression, and not of the favorable kind.

It's easy to see the flaws in the leadership of others, particularly when it impacts us directly. When we find ourselves in a position of leadership, it's important to recognize those flaws so that we don't emulate them. However, in our quest to become better leaders, the
avoidance of poor leadership traits isn't enough; we must passionately and relentlessly pursue the traits we want to define us as leaders. In other words, it's not enough to say, "I don't want to be this kind of leader." It's imperative that we decide what kind of leaders we do want to be, so that we have goals for which to strive.

With that in mind, your Atlanta IT services company is here to talk about three leadership strategies you can apply to become the kind of leader you -- and, ultimately, your employees -- can be proud of.

1. Inspire by Example

When it comes to how you want your employees to conduct themselves, no handbook, video, or presentation can speak to your employees as effectively as your own behavior. You are the walking, talking, breathing embodiment of your leadership style. You can drone on all day long about how much you value a strong work ethic, but if you spend half your working hours at the golf course, do you really expect anyone to take you seriously? Be a positive case study for the application of your own advice.

2. Encourage Contrary Opinions

The best leaders don't surround themselves with "yes" men. They value different -- and even opposing -- points of view. Abraham Lincoln is one famous example of someone who took this to heart. In the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, author Doris Kearns Goodwin chronicles Lincoln's efforts to recruit political rivals for his Cabinet. The 16th President of the United States was onto something. He knew that the input of those who thought differently than himself could prove invaluable. Opposing viewpoints provide a clearer, more complete picture of the problems we face and can offer additional insight into how to solve them. Great leaders are able to put their pride on the back burner in the service of the people they're leading.

3. Reward Innovative Thinking

In some office environments, employees are reluctant to bring ideas to management for fear they won't be well-received. In other words, they work in a culture that discourages innovation. This approach couldn't be more wrong-headed. Employees should be encouraged to brainstorm ideas and to present them to management, and they should be rewarded for doing so. Whether it's an idea for a new process or program or a tweak to an existing one, it could be the very idea that completely transforms your company.

Of course, not every idea is going to be a game-changer. Some may be slightly helpful; others may be outright stinkers and never make it past the first pitch. But you'll never know if it's not submitted in the first place, will you? Offer incentives to employees for innovative ideas. Once it's been established that innovation is both valued and rewarded, the creativity and ingenuity of your workforce can truly begin to flourish.

What are ways that you've utilized these leadership strategies in your office? Please share them in the comments!

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Image credit: Ken Teegardin 

Managed IT Services vs. DIY: Lies People Tell Themselves About IT

 

managed it servicesThe scenario can differ slightly from office to office. Sometimes, the powers that be decide that somebody in the office who’s “good with computers” can provide your company's IT:

“Nah, we don’t need to pay anybody who can take care of our IT. Erica can take care of it for us.”

Sometimes it’s a well-meaning employee who bites off more than he can chew:

“If I run into something that’s beyond my admittedly limited skill set, I’ll just Google it!”

Are either of these scenarios familiar to you? Perhaps they’ve occurred in your office. Perhaps you’ve even been one of these people. For whatever reason, expert IT is something that sometimes gets tossed by the wayside. With that in mind, your favorite Atlanta IT services provider is here with a few lies that people tell themselves about IT.

“I’ll save money by doing it myself.”

Your heart is in the right place. You’re trying to save your business money, which means you're a conscientious steward of resources. However, you’ve made that most common of mistakes: You’ve mistaken “cost” for “value.” Something can seem to be low-cost, but actually have very little value.

What good is paying $0/month for managed IT services if at some point you have to pay somebody on a contract basis to come in and fix a mess? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… or in IT terms, paying a little per month for managed services beats the heck out of paying a whole lot later on to troubleshoot something. This is even more true if you’ve lost valuable data because you decided not to pay an expert. Reliable IT is an investment, not a luxury.

“I’ll save time if we keep our IT in-house.”

This is really just a variation of the “saving money” argument. Why take the time to compare IT providers, question them about their services, and get the best managed services pricing for your company when you can just “wing it” on your own? After all, Erica is one floor up, so there's no wait on a response!

Exactly whose time are you saving? Not your own. When you run into the inevitable issue that’s beyond the expertise of your office’s “computer person” researching the problem is going to take valuable time away from the other projects he/she is working on. You’re no longer paying your employee to do what you hired her to do; you’re paying her (presumably a decent wage) to perform a task for which she’s quite likely underqualified.

You're not saving your customer’s time, either. Their project is now on hold and at the mercy of whatever IT issue you're facing.

“It can’t be that complicated.”

Once upon a time, back in the days when “java” was just another word for coffee and “network” referred to what TV station your favorite show was on, being a technological jack-of-all-trades was more doable. In today’s world, it’s just not feasible to be an expert at everything you need to be to handle any and every tech issue that can arise. IT issues can be pretty darn complicated, so it makes a lot of sense for your company to entrust its IT to a company that knows its stuff.

Think about it. Plumbing issue? You call a plumber. Electrical issue? You call an electrician. If you rely on professionals for these tasks, why wouldn't you do the same for something that can make or break your business?

Do you have any amusing – or horrific – stories about things that have happened when you decided to DIY it instead of going the managed IT services route? Please share them with us in the comments!

Leave the IT Hassles to THINQ

Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski

ITmatch.com Member Profile: THINQ (IT Support Provider)

 

Iit support providert's us again! ITmatch.com is back to help your company find an IT support provider that's compatible with its needs! In our never-ending quest to bring bliss to companies in need of reliable, competent, and affordable IT, we've decided to do a spotlight on one of our IT members in good standing.

Everybody say hello to THINQ! He's going to share a little bit about himself and what makes him tick. If you think THINQ might be compatible with your company, find out more here!

Name:

THINQ

Age: 

15 (No, it's cool. That's like 45 in tech years.)

Occupation:

Atlanta IT Support Company

Interests:

I enjoy providing high-quality, reasonably-priced managed IT services and projects, managed online marketing, and cloud managed services to those who are in need. (What can I say? I have a giving heart!) I like talking about servers, discussing the benefits of using the cloud, and looking at actual clouds. (Cumulonimbus is my favorite!)

FAQ:

I thought since I get asked a lot of the same things, I would go full-on IT nerd and just provide a FAQ.

What made you decide to join ITmatch.com?

To be honest, what drew me at first was the free trial. This isn't because I'm cheap (I'm not that kind of IT company, thank you very much!); it's because I can appreciate a free trial. I offer them myself! Yep -- I'll provide a free 30-day trial of IT services at no obligation to you!

What's your most awkward moment?

Once when I was laying down some sweet moves on the dance floor, someone said they "liked the way I backed that thing up." I told them that it really meant a lot to me that the way I protect my clients' information was appreciated. They just kind of looked at me funny and walked away. I resumed my dancing and didn't let it bother me too much, though. You might say I made a nice "recovery!" Just a little IT humor for you!

Why are you looking at me like that? Seriously. Stop that.

Can I change my "most awkward moment" answer? Because it's now.

Do you kiss on the first date?

No! What kind of IT company do you take me for?! But if you're super-cute and we really hit it off, we can immediately go on a second date. I'll drop you off at the end of the first one, drive around the block, come back, pick you back up, and take you out for coffee or something. Even if we just do a shot of espresso and come right back, it still counts as a second date, right? Of course it does! Then you can call me Mr. Smoochers!

Because that's how I weed dates out. If you call me "Mr. Smoochers," it's back to the drawing board.

What are you looking for in an IT support provider? Please give us your IT "wish list" in the comments!

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Image credit: mrhayata

 

3 Mobile Apps for Engineering

 

apps for engineeringA couple of weeks ago, we took a look at a few apps that can be helpful in the construction industry. And we, of course were immediately inundated with dozens -- nay, hundreds -- of letters from angry engineers asking -- nay, demanding -- that we do the same for them.*

Not being a company to take the demands of our clients and blog readers lightly**, we set to work. Here are three mobile apps for engineering from your beloved Atlanta IT solutions specialists (well, not technically from us, but we're making you aware of them) to warm your delightfully nerdy brains today. Now stop reading this drivel, go download some apps, and get to engineering things mechanically! Hoverboards, reliable jetpacks, and…hoverpacks…aren't going to design themselves, now are they? Not unless you go design something that designs them for you! (And if you do that, THINQ wants a cut for inspiring the idea.)

1. Engineering Cookbook

Engineering Cookbook is a handy-dandy reference guide for mechanical engineers. It provides easy-to-reference access to frequently needed info, such as heating and cooling load estimating, sound and vibration guidelines, ventilation rates for indoor air quality (just to name a few).

2. Mechanical Engineering

Don't let the rather bland name of this app fool you. ("Mechanical Engineering"? Really, guys? We couldn't come up with something just a little bit catchier?) What it lacks in pizzazz, it makes up for in usefulness. This app has several hundred important mechanical engineering formulas, covering topics ranging from belts to brakes, fluid power to kinetic energy, and -- well, the list goes on and on.

Formulas can be saved and the results emailed. You can access recent or favorite formulas. Mechanical Engineering is available for iPad and iPhone/iPod touch.

3. Autodesk ForceEffect Motion

What if you didn't have to wait until you got back to the office to test the viability of a design? According to the description for Autodesk ForceEffect Motion, it is, "… a mobile engineering app for simulating design concepts in the field, in the office or in the classroom." This app does the calculations and simulations for you, freeing you from the grunt work and giving you the ability to focus on what's important: what works, what doesn't, and why.

Have you used any of these mobile apps for engineering? If so, what did you think? Please share in the comments!

* No, we weren't.
** Even the imaginary ones.

Let THINQ assess your tech tools

Image credit: -Jeffrey-

Dealing with Difficult Clients: What You Say vs. What You Want to Say

 

difficult clientsYou know the type, architect friends.

Maybe they have no idea what kind of design they want. Or maybe they want everything in their design. Or maybe they’re “trying to help,” but their help is…well, anything but helpful.

We’ve all had them. Let’s be diplomatic and call them “difficult clients” (though we can think of some more colorful terminology that may not be as appropriate or professional). You’re not alone, friends. Sometimes there is a huge difference in what we’d like to say and what we actually say. Check out these examples from your Atlanta IT solutions specialist – and at least try not to beat your head against the nearest wall, okay?

The Delusionist

What Client Says: Yeah, I want it to look sort of like [insert famous building here].
What You Say: What’s your budget?
What Client Says: It’s [insert miniscule budget]
What You Think: That wouldn’t even pay for a model of that building.
What You Say: Super! I’ll see what I can do!

Best of Both Worlds

What Client Says: I’m thinking kind of modern, but with a nod to the past; sort of innovative-retro? You know what I mean?
What You Think: So you want me to go back in time to design your building, then travel into the future to see what kind of stuff we’re building then, and somehow marry those two ideas into something cohesive that doesn’t make people want to throw up when they look at it?
What You Say: Wow! Sounds like you want the best of both worlds! I’m looking forward to the challenge!

Do You Even Hear Yourself Right Now?

What Client Says: I’d like something that at its heart is very basic and functional. I hate to use the word “boxy,” but maybe that can get you headed in the right direction. But of course, I don’t want it to be boring, so if you could add an interesting design element or two – maybe a couple of arches or something? – that would be great!
What You Think: So you want me to build you a McDonald’s?
What You Say: Uh-huh. How interesting!

The "Helpy Helperton"

What Client Says: Don’t get me wrong. I’m no artist, but I drew up kind of a basic design—
What You Think: Uh-oh –
What Client Says: Just a little something to give you some inspiration –
What You Think: Oh, I’m inspired, all right. To find another career.
What Client Says: I wanted to combine some elements of nature –
What You Think: What elements? Organic compost?
What Client Says: With something kind of asymmetric and amorphous –
What You Think: It looks like a coffee stain.
What Client Says: So that it’s both functional –
What You Think: My four-year-old has drawn pictures that, if rendered in 3-D, would have more structural integrity than this abomination you’re showing me.
What Client Says: And pleasing to the eye.
What You Think: BWAHAHAHAHA!
What You Say: Thank you! This is going to help tremendously!

And your soul begins to weep.

What is the most outrageous request you’ve ever received from a difficult client? Please share it in the comments!

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