Post by Tanya Goodwin-Maslach, contributing Women On Business writer
Regardless of the size of your business, contracting for services will be (or already is) an integral element of your activities. Some think outsourcing is synonymous with contracting, and that may be, but for my purposes in this article, I’m sticking with contracting as a distinctly different service. Why? Because when I think of contracting, I think of two people, in two separate companies, working towards a goal. (Notice I didn’t say ‘working together’ or ‘common goal’. But more on that later.) The nature of that relationship implies more intimacy than an outsourcing model and, as a result, raises the stakes a bit.
The word itself belies its great importance. With the hard “c’s” it even sounds a little hard and cold, giving the individuals engaged in such an activity permission to treat the actual activity with the same experience the word connotes. But like so many other words in business lexicon; reengineering, downsizing, CRM, and disruptive technology, contracting displaces the real meaning of the activity with something more sexy and smart-sounding.
So, why is all this important for your business?
- Contracting is relationship-building on steroids: When you fall in love, really fall hard, money isn’t an issue. When you build a working relationship with someone, you can still fall in love, but money IS an issue. And if you’re doing it right, you’re building it so that money flows in both directions – yours and theirs. Because of the that, your relationship-building skills should be on top form. Which leads to #2…
- ‘Working together’ and ‘common goal’ are key elements of your relationship: As mentioned in the beginning of this article, contracting can get complicated and messy. For example, if you are working towards one goal (offering high-quality service) and your potential ‘contractor’ is interested in another (high profit margin), uncovering that difference before you take your relationship from 1st date to marriage is critical. Do you know how to have that conversation? When to have it? Why are you putting it off? See #3 below…
- Trust your gut: Sometimes we really can do a number on ourselves. Something feels weird in your gut after a meeting. And then again after a second encounter. But you keep justifying the ‘good match’ saying things like “It’s just business, and they’re well respected in their field,” or “Don’t be so judgmental of their character (attitude, behavior, whatever ..)” But it’s always the who before the what that matters. SO having a great strategy, with a killer process and an awesome product only gets you so far. With the wrong person on the bus, and even if they are NOT an employee, they are still on the bus, you’ll have to quadruple all your efforts just to save the customer from your new marriage.
Onward and upward!
Anna Goodwin says
This is a great article Tanya. Mandatory for anyone wishing to subcontract.