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Picking the best vendor partner or contractor for your company

This blog was originally published on September 20, 2019.

Like most small agencies and consulting firms, we outsource certain types of work to outside vendors or contractors and have vendor partnerships that help us provide services to our clients. It makes financial sense; it gives us an opportunity to work with highly qualified professionals without hiring full-time staff members.  It also allows us to assemble project teams that require different skills, design aesthetics and experience to make client projects most successful.

But finding contracted service providers you can trust requires some effort. Contractors aren’t on your payroll, but they do represent your company with the work they are doing, so vetting them properly is important before you start a relationship.

When looking for a quality contractor or vendor partner, you must look for more than just technical and tactical skill. Look also for those “softer” skills that will make the relationship beneficial for the long term. I even think the softer skills have equal importance to experience. Here are some things we look at when selecting a vendor partner or contractor:

You share a similar culture and work style.

I think this one is huge. At Dot Org, we spend a great deal of time working on a strong company culture, so having contractors and vendor partners that share our same ideals and work styles is critical. I personally talk (in person if possible) with any potential contractor of vendor partner. I can tell in a matter of minutes whether that person or company is going to be a good fit for us based upon culture fit.  If the fit is good and they align with our core values, we look for ways we can work together.

You have complementary experience.

Unless you are bringing in someone to temporarily pick up some of your work, look to outsource work that is complementary to what you do. Agencies like ours are becoming more specialized in certain areas of communications and fundraising. Since you can’t be great at everything, look for complementary vendors that are great at things you either don’t want to do or don’t have the capacity to do.

The partnership is mutually beneficial.

Some people are givers. Some are takers. And in the world of contractors and vendor partners, I seem to find that there are quite a few more takers who think people OWE it to them to give them work. Be assured that there are givers out there. You just have to find them. And when you do, make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial – financially and otherwise. Remember, no relationship exists well without both partners working together to achieve success.

You can have honest conversations.

This one is important, especially after you have worked with a contractor or vendor for a while. Complacency can set in and one of the parties may start misusing or abusing the partnership. If there is an issue, bring it up and have an honest conversation about it. Whether it is about costs, work quality or deadlines, the sooner you discuss it the better.

You can call them in a pinch – and they will cover for you.

I’ve used this one more than once. A good contractor or vendor is one that has your back when something needs to happen quickly. Whether it is a design project, a print project, an IT project, etc., knowing that you have people you can trust that will get things done in a pinch is a huge comfort. Just remember to return the favor for them later. Or, if you can, send them a thank you package, take them to lunch and just profusely say thank you.

They meet project goals and deadlines.

This is so important. If your contractor or vendor can’t deliver something on time, it isn’t their job on the line – it’s yours. When starting a new contractor or vendor relationship, make sure you establish ground rules for meeting deadlines and setting project goals. I suggest starting with a small project first to test the waters for both parties before jumping into a big project that could go off the rails quickly.

They agree to written terms of the arrangement.

Consider creating written terms for all your contractor and vendor partnerships. This includes fees, liability, ownership of work and other details that can save you time, money and agony in the future. If a contractor or vendor doesn’t want to agree to written terms, that is likely a red flag.

We rely on quality vendor partners and contractors every day. They have saved us time and money and brought a quality of work to our company and projects that provides extraordinary value. We’ve spent a great deal of time nurturing these relationships and rely on them to provide the best work possible for our clients. We have definitely experienced the pitfalls of hiring unreliable contractors and vendors over the years and we have learned from those experiences and entered better relationships over time.

These are just some of the things we look at when considering outsourcing work to other parties. Use them when looking for your next contractor or vendor and consider what matters most to your company or organization.


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