Imagine paying to have someone bring in a washing machine into your house and set it up and then having to fire them before the job was completed. This is exactly what happened to my friends last week after they bought a new washing machine from Home Depot. The wife had decided that as a treat for her husband she would pay the $80 delivery and installation fee.
Unfortunately for Home Depot, the contractors they used to deliver and install the washing machine didn’t seem to have the same professionalism as some of their employees. In fact the crew that showed up to install the machine looked unkempt, and bringing the machine into the house proceeded to bang into walls and corners. After only a few minutes of watching the two “machine installers” the husband asked them to leave and completed the installation himself. As the wife told me, “it was a complete waste of the eighty dollars that I gave to Home Depot”.
Subcontracting is a common method of business for many organizations these days. With a
shortage of labor and in some cases an inconsistency of work, it makes sense to hire outside
“professionals” to do work on a piecemeal basis. Yet managing contractors can become a full time job in itself unless you are prepared to set some parameters. Here are 5 things you can do to ensure that subcontractors are working for you.
1. Understand their scope of abilities. In hiring subcontractors we need to be clear about what they can and cannot do. We also need to understand the work that they want to do and ensure that when we subcontract to them that we give them work that fits their abilities, skills and passions.
2. Check references: Before hiring a subcontractor to work for your firm and represent you to your stakeholders, it makes sense to do some due diligence. This includes checking references and doing your research. Sloppy or unprofessionalism can quickly hurt your brand reputation and it's easier to find an option for a substandard subcontractor than to repair your brand.
3. Onboarding is essential. Having contractors do work for you is not different from having employees except that the contractors are hired to do specific tasks in exchange for a certain amount of compensation, while employees are on the payroll all the time.
Unfortunately, in many cases we fail to onboard and train these contractors to the
standards we expect of our employees. Just because someone is working as a
subcontractor, does not mean that they shouldn’t follow our systems or live up to the
expectations of our organization. In fact when subcontractors go out into the field and
engage with our customers they represent our company and to this end they need to
maintain the same standards of professionalism.
4. Have a system of accountability. Contractors need to know what they are being
measured against and what is expected of them. While this is no different than having
employees, sometimes we feel that contractors don’t need to be managed to the same
extent because they are “professionals”. Having a system of accountability ensures that
you are getting what you are paying for. If its delivery of products or services within a
certain scope of time and quality, random test and develop systems to make sure that
what you are getting lives up to your expectations.
5. Give Feedback and Build the Relationship. Just as your employees want to know how
they are doing, your contractors too would like to have some feedback on what you think about their work. If your contractors don’t happen to meet your expectations of
professionalism they need to know so that they can either step up or step out. Also if you are hearing good feedback about your contractors let them know that you are happy with them. Having strong healthy relationships with your subcontractors enables you to build a business in a win-win manner where everyone including your customers are happy.
Subcontractors can damage your business if you are not careful just as the Home Depot brand suffered in my friends eyes. However, having the right subcontractors in place with the right framework to manage them can help you build a business that establishes a great brand reputation with your customers and enables you to profit. Without some documented standards of managing your subcontractors, your business is at risk.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award Winning Business Coach and the author of the book “Profit
Yourself Healthy” Dave is a partner in the firm Pivotleader inc. If you are interested in subcontracting to Dave and his team email firstname.lastname@example.org