Idea: Access to Company Materials

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How much would I pay to see another company’s materials? I’m thinking specifically about the materials of interactive shops and digital agencies whose work I admire and whose processes may be more sophisticated and evolved than ours. What exactly would I want to see?

Here’s a brief list that I had in mind when thinking about client-facing materials:

  • Capabilities/credibility deck
  • Some examples of real project proposals
  • A real contract
  • Project documentation such as schedules, briefs, and technical requirements outline
  • Presentations given to clients (perhaps outlining strategy or process overview)
  • IA/UX designs such as site map, user stories, and wireframes
  • Training/hand-off documents given to clients at the end of a project

And here are some internal ones I’d love to see:

  • Employee contract
  • Employee performance review form/write-up
  • Employee handbook
  • Internal checklists used during projects
  • Any regular/periodic communications between management and rest of the team
  • A list of vendors that they use for banking, legal, accounting, IT, cleaning, supplies, printing, insurance brokering, etc.
  • A list of tools that they use and for what purpose (e.g. Basecamp for project management)
  • A list of meetings that they have on a regular basis within the company and what each meeting is for (e.g. Monthly Meeting for entire team, Design Team meeting twice a month, etc.)

These are materials and information that would give really good insight into some of the processes and procedures in place at a company. In fact, careful examination of these things would probably yield some useful ideas that I could then try on my own business. And this is why I think I wouldn’t mind paying a good chunk of money to get access to these things. Of course, the company would most likely have to be one that we really respect and aspire to, which most likely means a company that has a higher profile and is either bigger in size or does more business than us. I also wouldn’t mind seeing this material for smaller companies and companies of equal size and reputation as ours, but I would probably pay a bit less.

So how much am I willing to spend? We paid a speaker from a larger agency last year a $2,000 speaking fee to come and talk for a couple of hours about being a good project manager. I think it was money well-spent, and I’m constantly looking for people who can come and share their knowledge with us. For access to the materials I mentioned above, I think I would be comfortable paying $500 for the privilege. Maybe even $999. If I could perhaps get access to materials from 3 different companies, perhaps I’d be cool with spending something like $2,500. Having three (or more) would allow me to make comparisons and also see any emerging patterns on best practices or unique approaches.

And finally: would I do this for our company and offer it up to anyone who may be curious about these things as I am? Would I be comfortable sharing such information? And how much would I charge?

I’ve given this some thought, and I think I would be very comfortable sharing these things. Obviously, we would have to take out any mention of clients or any client-specific information from the client-facing docs, but I’d be happy to share things like our performance review write-ups (of course, just the structure and not of anyone’s specific review), list of vendors we use, and descriptions of the meetings we have internally. In fact, I share most of these pretty freely whenever we meet with people from our own industry. Some are people who run larger agencies and others run smaller ones. I’ve found that people are fairly liberal when it comes to sharing information like this. You might not get revenue figures or salaries, but they’ll share best practices and maybe even show a template of a proposal.

For something like this from a company like ours, I think I would want to set pricing at around $500 to start. To organize all the content, clean it up, and make them presentable would take me at least 15-20 hours of work. And then to get a nicely designed website up with payment processing (and some nice marketing hooks like screenshots of some docs) would probably take another 15-20 hours. Then there is the marketing aspect like reaching out to various blogs, hitting up influencers on Twitter, and fishing it around on LinkedIn, which could mean another 15-20 hours of work. So we’re looking at up to 60 hours of work to get this going, not a small endeavor by any means. We’d have to sell it to at least 20 companies to make this feel worthwhile. Do we think there are 20 companies out there who’d pay up for this? I think that’s something I’ll need to do some research on and figure out if there’s a viable business plan here. It could be that pricing has to be something much lower–$50 perhaps–so that we can achieve a bit of scale and sell to hundreds of customers. I’m interested in finding out. Time to get out of the building and start asking.

1 Comment

  1. This is a very interesting post.

    I had a similar thought about how much I’d pay to learn from another company’s materials when we were scaling up from a small team of freelancers into a business. Building these materials was at the top of our priority when we decided to incorporate, even before we started doing sales formally as a company. I remember reading somewhere that these documents, both external and internal, are not for showing how professional a company is. They are what make companies professional. That stuck with me.

    Looking back, this task was not easy (and still is hard). I and my co-founder must have spent more than 200 hours on all sorts of external materials, and internal documents (contracts, policies, processes, handbooks etc.). Right now we are still improving and adding to them. So your original $500 offer would have been quite a steal!

    That being said, what was really valuable in those 200 hours was the experience. The vision and direction of our business were never clear until we put ink on paper. Without doing it ourselves, perhaps we wouldn’t have really thought that hard about our internal process and external values. We would still be functioning more like a “collective”, not a business. Building these materials affects everything from sales to hiring in a positive way. I’m very grateful that out of many things we did wrong, this was not among them.

    So I guess the materials itself are not as important as the “how” and “why” for their existence.

    If I could get the materials from, say 3 successful companies in the same industry, __and__ also 1 hour of each of their time to ask meaningful questions and pick their brains, I’d happily invest $5,000. The cost we spent for tinkering as well as trial and error with different processes or business plans well exceeded that.

    Anyways, just some random rants on a Friday evening. The post was written one year ago so I’m wondering if there has been any updates to this idea, which I think is very promising!

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