Ever find yourself in need of a freelancer or consultant? Someone who specializes in whatever the weak link is in your operations or marketing? The last thing you want to do is work yourself up into a lather and waste time trying to figure out how to configure a SQL database when you could be making and shipping the stuff that actually generates revenue.

The decision to hire someone on the outside doesn’t come easy to many organizations (sometimes they even toss out RFPs, blech!). There may be concerns about sharing proprietary information or expense. There could also be skepticism about achieving results or a general reluctance to work through the time-consuming screening and ramp-up phases. Real or imagined, you might think that the company that overcomes these issues to move ahead with outside counsel would really put resources into making their outsourced project rock, right?

Wrong. Some of the organizations engaging a contractor or consultant sabotage their project before it even leaves the ground. Put in direct contact with a skilled, reputable consultant, some companies will fail to value research and preparation. They’ll try to phone it in.

Phoning a project in doesn’t work. Committing to your project does.

Scenario: We’re just not that committed

Imagine receiving an email like this: “Sharon Walker from AdFed referred me to you. She said you were great at [insert consultant specialty here]. Might you be able to help us? We need a [insert final work product here] and we’re anxious to get started. Thanks, John Durham, Executive Director of Company X”

In this scenario, the contractor phoned John Durham after receiving the email. He explained that his standard process included an introductory meeting to define needs and dependencies, discuss roles and responsibilities,commitment commit to binding agreements, and receive a deposit. He explained that following the administrative meeting, they should schedule a project kick-off meeting to identify goals and explain standard operating procedures (“We’ll give you a logon to Redmine so you can view progress.”) and work style (“Please funnel final group comments to me via Basecamp.”). A project brief, completed by the project owner, will ensure the exchange of expectations and critical data by both parties.

Now imagine the social media consultant’s surprise when, after outlining his thorough and professional process, he was met with, “Yes, well what I have here should do you fine. I’ll forward some emails to you from a similar project handled by our sister organization. That should give you enough to go on. When can you get started?” Huh? (**mock scenario**)

When we give ourselves a “pass” from unsexy due diligence no one in the board room will ever come to fully appreciate, much less see – well, then, we’re just not that committed. We can’t Slim*Quik our way to a rawking project.

Great ideas are born from meaty conversations. These conversations also reveal valuable cues about each party – the kind of stuff we draw on when it’s time for instinctive decisions and tactical choices. We need rapport-building dialogue (which, not incidentally, helps build mutual trust and empathy). Skipping vital pieces pushes the burden of discovery off to the consultant (even the best consultants won’t know the minutia or backstory possibly critical to the project). This scenario leaves the responsibility of success squarely in the consultant’s lap. The company had no skin in the game. The consultant hasn’t been set up for success. In the end, there’ll be finger-pointing instead of a beautiful solution that saves time/improves performance/helps customers.

Lesson: Think of working with a consultant, contractor or freelancer as a temporary joint venture. When you each stake currencies – reputations, revenue, potential for future earnings – and collaboratively work toward outcomes (a road sure to be wrought with a pothole or two; see rapport-building dialogue referenced above) you’ll find that the professional you hired really wants to exceed your expectations. That can happen when you share knowledge, communicate openly, and proceed with brutal self-awareness.

Other ways to sabotage your project before it ever leaves the ground:

• Demonstrating excessive control in an attempt to establish dominance or reach outcomes. Instead, take advantage of the fresh perspective you hired, and see what new path they recommend you consider. Serf-to-master mentality doesn’t end up well for anyone.

• Marginalizing the efforts of consultants through thoughts or actions. If you find yourself making sweeping statements like “We could do that in a half hour” ask yourself, “Why haven’t we?”

• Committee-think. Nothing is gained when a solution is compromised by excessive group feedback. Appealing to everyone is the kiss of death. Revisit your objectives and goals, evaluate them with a small cross-functional group. Leave the subjective and immaterial out of the decision-making.

Commit to your project – and your own success – the next time you hire a contractor.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Heather Rast

Heather Rast

Heather is Principal of a boutique Cedar Rapids digital marketing company. She develops brand positioning strategy and marketing communications plans to distinguish small businesses from the competition and attract their ideal customers. Her content planning, writing, and online community-building work helps larger businesses better serve their audiences with useful information that solves problems as it builds affinity for the brand.

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    You must push people to be great and to get things done. Its the way you carry yourself that rates how they will perform.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

     Thanks Heather for this great post. Though we do virtual assistant services for small business owners we hire techies for design part of our site.

  • Carl Harmon

    Loved your article Heather. Need to do something about it. Thanks for sharing.

    social media expert

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    Great post Heather! A lot of clients think it is our responsibility as consultants to just get the job done. wrong.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Hey, Nick. I view it as a shared responsibility. It’s the client’s job to thoroughly provide all the inputs – problem statement, internal expectations, requirements, etc. It’s the consultant’s job to communicate any ancillary issues, provide specialized counsel, lay out expectations of deliverables, and, well, deliver the job. These things happen in concert and create an environment where trust can grow.

      Sorry for the late reply, and I do thank you for your comment. 

  • http://www.gadarian.com David Gadarian

    Thanks Heather.  Very well said.  

    I too have found with some of my clients that they are at first a little hesitant to invest the time that is necessary to “buy” into the process.  For me I then try to engage them in other ways like asking very specific emailed questions in order to invigorate the communication.  

    • http://twitter.com/christammiller christammiller

      I think Heather totally got into my head on this post. ;) My challenge as a consultant has been dealing with very busy clients, and fearing that I’m making too much of a pain of myself such that I’ll build a reputation as “high maintenance.” I’m bookmarking this to refer back to when necessary — and it will be necessary again I’m sure!

      • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

        Great google+ conversation we’re having on this!

      • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

        Great google+ conversation we’re having on this!

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Some companies have a low opinion of “creative” professional services to start with. Or they may be a little intimidated by the process of exploring what they never thought much of (brand positioning, architecture, values) when originally creating…If you can frame up a process that elicits the info you need while demonstrating there’s more to the “woo-woo” marketing magic, then you’ll have accomplished something.

    • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

      Some companies have a low opinion of “creative” professional services to start with. Or they may be a little intimidated by the process of exploring what they never thought much of (brand positioning, architecture, values) when originally creating…If you can frame up a process that elicits the info you need while demonstrating there’s more to the “woo-woo” marketing magic, then you’ll have accomplished something.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I agree, the most important thing with any partnership on a business function is communication. Always make sure that you have an open and flowing dialogue with each other, so that little bumps in the road wouldn’t amount to an epic fail.

  • http://www.facebook.com/apex.pacific Apex Pacific

    Interest to know about valuable information. when we share knowledge, communicate openly, and proceed with brutal self-awareness we have great partnership.

  • Web design London

    Great post Heather! A lot of clients think it is our responsibility as consultants to just get the job done. 

  • http://www.adsyou.com/ شقق للبيع في الاردن

    I agree, the most important thing with any partnership on a business function is communication.