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Monthly Business e-Tips Vol 1
Issue 9

Hiring Outside Help? Do It Right.

The last issue of Growing Possibilities focused on when to hire an outside professional to help you in your business. Once you determine that the time is now, how do you go about getting ready and selecting the right individual or firm to work with you?

You have some homework to do before you get on the phone and call consultants; graphic designers; PR firms; law or CPA firms. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is calling someone before you have figured out what you need. Determine your budget and how well prepared you are for the project. For example, if you want to hire a Web designer, do you have the content ready? If not how will they know how many pages you need? Have you determined who your target markets are and how you differentiate your company from the competition before you call a PR firm or someone to create a brochure?

If you are not prepared, you will most likely make mistakes and be dissatisfied with the results. Professionals with integrity will encourage you to prepare before they start working with you. Some may charge extra to help you get important information before you begin. It will be well worth it to be ready.

Here is how you can prepare before you meet with outside contractors:

  • Determine how you want to pay for the service: retainer, project or hourly.
  • Talk to several colleagues about the cost to develop their Web sites so you have a range. You don't necessarily want to go with the least expensive bid; you may get what you pay for.
  • Know what kinds of results you want. When hiring for development of outbound materials, get input from key employees. It will ensure a well-rounded perspective of what is needed. If you aren't clear, it becomes trial and error for the consultant.
  • Ask how you can prepare before you meet with the consultant. Get a list of information they will need so you will be ready.
  • Know how much time you or someone in your company can give to this person. Good consultants want to get up to speed on your business and will need to check with their contact many times along the way. You should also want to be involved in the process on some level. You will be more satisfied with the project.

Meet with a few professionals. Make sure you see samples of their work, ask for references and investigate a little. In the end, rely on your instinct. Collaborate with someone whom you are comfortable with and would enjoy working.

In addition:

  • Whenever possible, get referrals from trusted colleagues. Tried and true contractors, whose business relies on their reputations, usually make good hires.
  • Build frequent milestones into the project so that you can evaluate how well it is going.
  • If the cost is too high, you can request the work be done in phases, simplify the project or ask for other suggestions to lower the price. Many vendors offer the optimum program but if it is beyond your means, there are often alternatives available. Occasionally a few service providers will work on deferred payment, will barter or take warrants or stock.
  • Don't sign a long-term contract until you have worked with the company. Start with a small project before you invest a large amount of money.
  • Call references. Have a list of questions to ask about timeliness, integrity, support and other issues that are relevant to your project. You will gain relevant information with targeted questions.
  • Find out who is going to work on your project. Often larger firms send out their most polished professionals then have junior staff work on the project. This is similar to "bait and switch" advertising used by retail advertisers. Make sure you know who is doing your work.
  • Ask for an escape clause. If the project isn't going well, don't wait until the end; get out sooner rather than later. When you sign a contract, be sure you are not bound "until death do us part."

Remember, help is supposed to be just that. You should feel confident in the person you hire and that they are doing a good job to support you. This assistance should be helping you and your business run more smoothly. If you hire right, it will happen. It is hard to operate a business without outside help. Do yourself a favor; you will be glad you did.

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