“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
Over the past few months, this quote has really stuck with me. I am one who enjoys wearing multiple hats in my business. Outside of operations and strategy, marketing has always been my favourite area because I enjoy the creative process and executing campaigns.
But, as the business continues to grow, focusing on strategy and operations has become crucial and time-consuming. Between running a business and managing my family life, I found the creative process to be more tedious than anything else. I slowly began to struggle with everything on my plate.
I realized that knowing all aspects of my business doesn’t necessarily translate to having the expertise, to maximize its potential. For example, I have a good understanding of what my social media should look like, the right marketing channel, finding the perfect holiday gifts, updating human resource policy etc., but I am not able to develop each task and execute on demand. Ultimately the quality of work suffers and burn-out is imminent.
Partnership is Key
The key is to recognize when and where you need the support and expertise to help you grow. Here are some of my key learnings in finding the right vendor partner.
- Understand Your Goal – This to me is a very important first point. Why are you bringing someone on board? Do you want someone to create a strategy for your vision? Or simply to tweak and execute what’s already in place? Two very different things that often lead to miscommunication and poor experience.
- Do Your Research – There are so many phenomenal professionals out there, but not everyone may be the right fit for you. This is an important time and financial investment, so do take the time to speak to your industry peers, friends and family and don’t hesitate to ask for referrals. Get a good feel for price points and types of contractual obligations.
- Budget – Knowing your spend and clearly communicating it is crucial. Some areas require a monthly spend whereas others are a one-time expenditure. Some monthly expenses can also variate while others are fixed. For example, advertising dollars can be fixed monthly however certain times of the year, you may need to spend more. What are you ok with? These are important steps in finding the right partner.
- Alignment – Like any relationship, there has to be a fit. Your partner should have a clear understanding of your vision and be able to contribute and add value accordingly. It takes time and patience to get the right fit however trusting your gut is important. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
- Expertise – If you have invested the time in the first four steps, then trust that you have brought someone on board with the right expertise who can add value. So, do keep an open mind when hearing their ideas, feedback and new perspectives.
- Sign a Contract – A written agreement is critical, especially with ongoing initiatives or long-term work. A contract helps set out the expectations of fees, the scope of work, cancellation terms, and confidentiality etc. It also helps set the right tone for your business relationship.
- Set Goals – To stay on track, it’s essential to set some goals. Whether it’s achieving milestones or hitting dollar figures, make sure to discuss strategy and evaluate goals frequently. As you explore new ideas together, goals always keep you on track.
How To Get Vendors To Help You?
I believe that prioritizing long-term relationships over short-term gains and cost savings benefits everyone. A long-term relationship includes trust, discretion and access to expert knowledge.
If a vendor provides a key part or service to your operation, invite that vendor to strategic meetings. By sharing information and priorities with your vendors, you can create a think tank for your brand that amplifies your vision and mission.
Getting Past The Price Tag
A vendor partnership is more than just getting the lowest price. It can often be a challenge to decipher which vendor to go with – the cheapest one or the more experienced one. Consider the maturity of your company and the level of expertise needed for the project.
On one hand, established vendors have a proven track record, which is why they can help you to reach your goal, expand your business in lesser time and avoid the hassles that come with new processes.
However, hiring a new entrepreneur can also turn out to be a boon. They often bring a fresh set of eyes, and advanced strategic tools and resources that may be optimal for the situation.