It's something so small, so easy, yet so often overlooked.
I've been working from home as a marketing writer since 2002.
Over the years, I've hired many dozens of vendors and contractors:
- Virtual assistants
And I am consistently dumbfounded by people's inability to do one simple yet crucial thing, even if asked.
It's closing loops.
Not Fruit Loops®, the brand.
Closing Loops, the action.
What does closing loops mean?
I thought everyone knew what closing loops meant, until I posted a project on Upwork and asked in the interview questions, "What does closing loops mean to you?"
I decided to ask this question because vendors NOT closing loops drives me crazy. It kills my trust, and makes me want out of the relationship ASAP, and if it continues, abruptly.
Before I tell you what closing loops means to me, let me share a few of the wrong answers I received -- wrong answers only because they weren't what I expected, not because the person responding was wrong.
What follows is a representative sampling.
What does closing loops mean to you?
- I suppose you mean to complete the task in any way or at least find the solution among other possible options. [Yes, that's a good thing.]
- I am very well versed with Closing loops. And I can easily use loops with reset queries and more. [Ah ha! I just remembered that closing loops is a programming term.]
- I don't use this term. I am not a firm and I do not sugar coat with fancy reports and terms to impress those with less of an understanding. I focus on results, not image and talk like far too many firms do. Closing the loop means seal the deal, get the sale, etc. But that could be in any form depending on the business model. [Well that escalated quickly.]
- I will provide good quality work and timely deliver. You will 100% satisfy of my work. I will preference your work first. [Very good, but you have to close loops to make that happen.]
- If you mean closing loop of deal, for me it'll mean work together with you with sale's funnels and pages for conversions. [I think I get what you're saying, but it's not what I mean by closing loops.]
- Your cruciality is of our importance and we are surely dedicated to closing loops. [Cruciality? Well ... I appreciate your dedication.]
- Let’s discuss details on a call. [Why not just say that you don't know?]
- That means I have to be dedicated to complete the loops.I mean to deliver you the bug free complete application/feature not the broken feature. [Yep, all good. But it's not closing loops.]
- Rounding off the project in a timely manner that will enable you to move your website ahead smoothly. [Yes ... but no.]
- I've to work for you and only you and complete the all tasks which you want me to do within a timeframe. I will do my work wholeheartedly, these are my principles. You will be happy with my dedication toward work. [No, but I appreciate your dedication and diligence!]
- Well, for us Client satisfaction is our priority and we make sure to deliver the end result without bugs and issues. [Yes, but no.]
- I always tend to write a code that needs the minimum human interference during errors 😉 [No, but I like your smile.]
Now, while those sentiments are all fine and dandy, they are not the sentiments I'm looking for when I say I want people to close loops.
What does closing loops mean to me?
To me, closing loops means to always follow through ... to never, ever, leave a client, vendor, or co-worker hanging.
It means never making the other person wonder why they haven't heard from you or what you're up to.
It means always circling back, no matter what.
Here are a few examples.
- Closing loops means checking in with your client at 5pm when that critical document she was supposed to send at 4:30pm did not arrive. Don't just assume the client changed her mind about the project; what if she sent the document but something went wrong with the mail? (#TrueStory)
- Closing loops means contacting a client as soon as you know you won't meet a deadline, and letting her know when you expect to deliver. Don't make her sit around waiting for the delivery, wondering what happened or where you went. Then, after a long frustrating wait, she is forced to write to you to ask what happened. And then, she is also forced to wait for your reply, and to wonder whether it's time to hire someone else. (#TrueStory)
- Closing loops means not disappearing from a chat when the last words you typed were, "I'm looking at it now." If you're going away for any reason, let your client know. Otherwise, she must resort to saying, over the next hour or two: "Hello?" and "Are you there?" and "Well I guess you've stepped away; please contact me when you return." (#TrueStory)
Closing loops is a way to foster a high level of trust in your clients because they know you'll deliver when you say you will -- or you let them know before their deadline approaches.
Your clients will know they can count on you.
Otherwise ... it's a little bit like the tongue twister "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" **
If you tell a vendor to close loops and they say they'll close loops but leave the loops open anyway, then when will the loops get closed if the loops gets closed at all?
What boggles my mind the most is not necessarily that so many people do not close loops; it's that even when I spell out what closing loops means to a vendor who's just failed to close a loop, they still don't get it.
They might send me a smiley emoticon, or say okay, or sorry, and then turn around and do it again, and again, and again! Maybe it's a faulty cultural expectation on my part ... I don't know.
To combat this issue, I'm creating a Partnership Pledge, which both I and prospective vendors must sign before working together. The pledge will spell out what both sides expects in advance so, I hope, there will be
no less misunderstandings and more win-win partnerships.
**A wood chuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood. Ha ha! Seriously though, you can get a real answer to the question "How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?" over at the Futurist. God, I love the Internet!