3 things business owners can do to avoid red flags
The most important thing a business owner and their service providers can share is trust.
Nearly every business coach, consultant, and contractor knows this. It is a common saying in the sales process that the freelancer or firm wants to be "your trusted partner".
the promise of trust erodes under the failure to deliver
Few of us on either side of the discussion stop regularly to consider what that really means.
The cost of this failure shows itself time and time again in statements like these:
That consultant was full of big promises.
All they ever told me was that I didn't give them enough time.
I have no idea what I got for all that money.
Maybe you've heard them before.
How many times have you asked the same kinds of questions?
Too often, the promise of trust erodes under the failure to deliver.
The good news is that there's a way to avoid the erosion.
Three key actions will help you evaluate a new service provider or decide whether or not your existing partners are the right fit:
Be engaged with the process
See the work while it is happening
Know the location of all your assets
1. Be engaged with the process
Red flag number 1 - If your "partner" isn't helping you understand the process they use, they might not be the right fit.
I hear you. You're busy. I get it. I own a couple of businesses too. There are so many moving parts as a business grows. It can feel impossible to have your finger on all the pulse points.
Understanding the process is the first step to knowing whether or not you're being ripped off.
We hire experts because of what they know. We hire experts so they can do the work on our behalf. That leads us to this mistake:
I don't care how they do it, I just want the results.
When we don't understand the process, we basically allow the service provider to put up a "no trespassing" sign up at the door of OUR business.
A person who presses to give you slightly more information than you think you need is usually someone who cares. They want you to know that you're buying an experience along with your results.
The willingness to be transparent and share the process with you is an indicator of whether or not the freelancer or firm will actually deliver on the trusted partner promise.
2. See the work while it is happening
Red flag number 2 - If your "partner" ships a lot of work without telling you, they might be delivering sub-par work.
Business owners who wait until the end of the project are usually the ones who are most shocked to see what they bought.
It is nearly impossible for a service provider to cut corners when they are actively making themselves accountable to their customer.
This level of engagement in the work is a balancing act. It can be easy for us, as a customer, to second guess the expertise of our highly skilled service providers. At the same time, a business owner needs to be skilled enough to know that a deliverable is fit for purpose and will ultimately lead to the results.
When you're unsure about whether or not something is fit for purpose, remember to look for red flag #1 - is your service provider helping you understand how it fits rather than just rolling over your concern?
The willingness to show and explain quality work as they are producing it is a key indicator of whether or not the freelancer or firm will actually deliver on the trusted partner promise.
3. Know the location of all your assets
Red flag number 3 - If your "partner" is using their own systems or hasn't shared the source files they've created specifically for you, they may be guarding their own interests more than your own.
It is inevitable. Somewhere along the road, the relationship will change. Perhaps your business will grow beyond the skills, abilities, or even interest of the service provider you've hired. That's a completely natural occurrence. It can even be healthy in some cases.
Sometimes, that moment comes along in an unexpected way. This often happens when the quality of service has begun to slip and the provider is unable or unwilling to fix it.
If you do not have a clear picture of the systems, processes, and assets you purchased from or through the service provider, you are at a significant disadvantage.
Your ability to quickly change to another partner can be very limited. If you are able to make a change, it can often be very costly and may even result in paying for the same services and deliverables a second (or third) time.
A service provider who makes sure you have access to the full solution for which you are paying is a key indicator that they are confident in their results and aren't relying on the coercion of high switching costs to keep you as a client.
Paravelle offers executive coaching services to founders and CEOs with big growth goals. It's a crucial support structure that helps leaders avoid the negative results that come from being lonely at the top.
We might be a good fit to work together if you're:
at the create (<1M ARR), build ($1-3M ARR), or grow ($3-5M ARR) stage,
curious and looking for ideas and answers, and
ready to invest in working with a collaborator that brings a co-founder's perspective (without losing half your equity).