Helping Outside Help

In today’s world, more and more organizations are turning to outside resources in order to get important jobs done. As a leader, it’s likely you’ve hired outside help, perhaps for website development, accounting support, catering services, or some other need. While these professionals aren’t your “employees,” they must be taken seriously and managed well. If you fail to manage these relationships wisely, outside resources could end up managing you, a worrisome situation that can create a whole host of issues, including unexpected costs to your time, energy, and bottom line. The good news is that you can have truly positive relationships with outside resources, assuming you take the time to identify needs, set expectations, and hold them accountable just as if they were your company’s official employees.

Here are three ways to manage your outside resources and benefit both sides of the partnership equation:

Establish clear expectations.
Just as with other relationships, setting expectations from the start can make or break your success. Fail to define expectations at the beginning and you’ll find that problems, confusion, disagreements, and other issues are much more likely to pop up. And once they do, it’s really tough to go back to the drawing board and start over. In establishing expectations, make sure it’s a two-way process between you and the vendors. What do you expect and need? What do they expect and need? The more specific, the better. Think of everything, clarifying things such as billing, communication, time spent, roles, responsibilities, goals, deliverables, and more. It may take a little longer to create crystal-clear transparency in this initial partnership phase, but it will be time well spent.

Create accountability.
This is part of what you’ll agree upon when establishing expectations with your outside resources. Not only do you want to define their accountability, but you’ve also got to manage it, not allowing any excuses to get in the way of ensuring that vendor (or company) keeps their end of the accountability bargain. You may also find that a sharp focus on accountability with outside resources is even more important than with your own hires. If they’re not working daily in your culture, it makes it harder for you to know their habits, see exactly what they are doing, how they’re spending their time, and stay apprised about whether they’re going to meet goals. You may even consider adding in extra accountability measures such as weekly updates or progress reports, or utilizing a shared project management software program to enable maximum visibility throughout the process. Whatever you do, build these measures in up front, and take swift corrective actions if a vendor fails to meet goals or key deliverables.

Build and maintain trust.
It’s important to remember that outside resources are not your employees. But they are professionals just like you and me, who deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. Why? First of all, being respectful of others in life and business is the right thing to do. Second, respect keeps relationships running smoothly and builds crucial trust. Third, being respectful of these unique hires can benefit you in unexpected ways, such as through word-of-mouth marketing and business referrals. For example, one of my outside resources regularly tells her other business clients about us. This person has become a big fan of our program, and her word of mouth could land us a great client! So, when it comes to such resources, treat them as you would any important relationship. Demonstrate genuine respect. It can go a long way toward building trust and even motivating your vendors to perform better over time, increasing your chances of having a solid, sustainable partnership.

What other things can you do to support your partnerships with outside resources?

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