Face-to-Face Meetings Are Overrated

Author: Ben Buie Ben Buie | 3/28/16

I’d love this post to spark a conversation because I’m still formulating this opinion.

In building Buink Web Development, I’ve worked with over 15 clients all over the country and close to home. The interesting thing is that I’ve met very few of them face-to-face. This is true of both my clients in San Francisco/LA/Utah as well as my clients right here in Denver. In fact, 3 clients come to mind that operate nearby and whom I’ve never met.

One good example is a client that I worked with last year for about 6 months, I’ll call them GameChanger. They operate probably no more than 20 minutes from my house. They were referred to me by someone I’d met at the grand opening of Confluence, a co-working space in Lafayette. They had an existing code base and I cleaned it up, re-designed the UI, added pages, and added some really complex features. We’d use phone, email, and Jira to communicate and if there was something really complex, we’d use Google Hangout.

I share my experience with GameChanger because we could have met in person if we wanted to, but why? Most of our communication didn’t require a time-consuming meeting. Ninety percent of it could be done via email and Jira, and for the couple times we needed to meet, a quick chat via Google Hangout saved close to an hour of drive time.

Today, face-to-face meetings are an expensive nice-to-have.

Despite the fact that face-to-face meetings are just an expensive nice-to-have, I find myself constantly trying to avoid them (I think it is my obsessive focus on efficiency :)). Many people have it set in their mind that they have to sit across from someone to work with them.

I’ll admit, in-person meetings are more memorable. Their face is more indelibly imprinted on your mind, their mannerisms are more noticeable (or more distracting), the things they carry with them tell part of their story, but I’m not sure that these niceties are necessary. They are, however, costly.

I’m not sure that these niceties are necessary!

I went to a meeting last week to provide technical direction for an IOS app that I hope I get to build. I got a first impression of the company, where and how they work, who works with them, and a little about their background. It was pleasant. I like to meet with people, but it did take two hours of drive time for a two hour meeting. And, unfortunately, I don’t own a self-driving car (trust me, I will!).

Luckily, I did get paid for the time in the meeting, but the client wasn’t planning on paying for drive time. I don’t blame them, who pays for drive time? No one. No one, that is except for the person driving.

I guess I could just raise my hourly rate. That is probably the most common reaction to covering incidental costs, but I’d rather push the clients to realize the true cost of development. They may value in-person meetings more than I do, so I want to happily give them the option rather than avoiding it. 🙂

So, I’ve decided to charge for drive time. I have to admit, that it doesn’t always go over really well, but I think I just need to work on my delivery. Thoughts?

About The Author

Ben currently works as a senior developer and technical business consultant outside of Boulder, Colorado.

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About Buink

Buink Web Development is a development shop founded in 2009 by Ben Buie. For years, Ben built and modified web assets for clients in Utah. In 2011, he moved the company to Colorado and in 2015 he started taking on new clients full-time.

Buink’s Core Values:

  • Cost effective technology (with business strategy in mind)
  • Eloquent, maintainable code
  • Responsive and transparent communication
  • Quick project turn-around
  • Less code, less bugs
  • Start with responsive styles

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