In every business, there is always a need to hire an outside vendor. Whether you need a carpenter to build an office partition, an accountant for tax advice or a public relations firm for raising awareness, executives will need to seek outside expertise from time to time.
The success or failure of those engagements relies a great deal on a company’s ability to manage those vendors. Being in the client service business myself, I live in both worlds. My agency is hired to consult with other businesses, and as a business owner I sometimes have to bring in professionals to service my company. While most of my experiences on both sides of the fence have been mutually beneficial, I find myself learning from those few that have not. That’s why I thought it might be helpful to offer a few tips on how to make your vendor engagements successful ones.
- Vet Them – Before you hire anyone from outside your firm to work for you – whether it’s a plumber or an accountant – vet them well. Don’t accept braggadocio; instead, look at their past experiences. Do all that you can to ensure, to the best of your ability, that these people are everything they say they are. Find people you can trust to do what they say they will do. If you’re not reasonably sure, don’t hire them. It’s that simple.
- Trust Them – Now that you’ve made the decision to hire them, give them everything they need to do their job, including your confidence in their expertise. Allow them to do their job and perform as promised. If they don’t perform, it will be readily apparent to you and that would be the time for questioning, not before. Until then, treat them with confidence and trust.
- Respect Their Expertise – The irony about this tip for me is that every so often a potential client will come along because he heard from someone else that my team and I are experts in our field. But soon after, we’ll get questioned on the strategy and tactic we recommend to the point of disagreement. As you would never dream of ignoring an attorney’s, surgeon’s or accountant’s advice, similarly once you’ve made a decision to hire a vendor, respect their professional expertise and the counsel they provide.
- Keep Out of Their Way – If your pipes burst, you call a plumber, but if you stand over him with a wrench in one hand and a length of pipe in the other and insist on directing him on how to fix your pipes, you’ll only wind up with pipes that were not expertly repaired. Some people actually do that, and when the pipes break again, they complain to the plumber that he did a bad job. Don’t create artificial roadblocks to your vendor getting the job done because you want to micromanage a project. Hire them, give them some direction based on the goals you want them to meet, and then keep out of their way and let them do their magic.
- Play Ball – When you choose a vendor to work with, be it your ad agency, web designer, marketing consultant or PR specialist, recognize that you’ve hired that expert to help solve a problem or achieve a business goal. Therefore, you need to play ball with them and be ready to change your direction if their expert opinion is that you’re headed down the wrong road.That said, you are fully within your rights to reject that expert’s recommendations. If you do, however, you lose the right to complain that you didn’t get your money’s worth. When you hire an expert, you aren’t paying for what they do as much as you’re paying for what they know. If you discount it, then it’s as if you’re taking half of the fee you’re paying them and throwing it away.
Remember, you hired them for a reason. Let’s face it, if you could have done it yourself, you’d have done it by now.
Hiring good vendors is a key to business success. You’ll get the most out of your money by hiring smart, and then managing them even smarter.