Proactively Manage Outside Resources
In today’s world, more and more organizations are using outside resources to get any number of important jobs done. In your role, it’s likely you’ve hired out for such help, perhaps for website development, accounting support, catering services or any other types of needs. While these professionals aren’t your “employees,” they must be taken seriously and managed well. If you fail to manage these relationships wisely, these 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 having healthy relationships with outside resources is well within your control, 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:
Set clear expectations upfront. Just as with other relationships in life and at work, setting expectations from the get-go can make or break success. Fail to define expectations at the beginning and you’ll find problems, confusion, disagreements and other issues are much more likely to pop up later on, at which point it’s really tough to go back to the drawing board and define expectations. In establishing expectations, make sure it’s a two-way process between you and your 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 longer than you ever imagined or hoped for to create crystal-clear transparency in this initial partnership phase, but this 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 and agree upon what the accountability will be, but you’ve also got to then manage it to a tee, not allowing any excuses to get in your way of ensuring that person 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, whether they’re going to meet goals, etc. You may even consider adding in extra accountability measures, such as weekly updates or progress reports, or a shared project management software program to enable maximum visibility throughout the process. Whatever you do, build in measures upfront to take swift corrective actions if they fail to meet goals or key deliverables.
Build and maintain trust. True, 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 just 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 with word-of-mouth marketing and possible business referrals. For example, one of my outside resources regularly tells her other business clients about MAP. This person has become a big MAP fan—part of the “tribe”—and the WOM marketing that comes from this person could someday land us a great client. So when it comes to such resources, treat them as you would any important relationship. Demonstrate genuine respect and this can go a long way toward building trust and even motivating them to perform better over time, bettering your chances of getting the solid, sustainable partnership you seek.
What other things can you do to support your partnerships with outside resources?