Tied to a Provider

Much of my work is done through colleagues – for example, I have a few graphic artists that I can hire on a regular basis, some SEO specialists, marketers, branding consultants, web developers, and so on. While I can do some of all this work myself, most of my clients need a combination of experts in various fields, and bring me onto the project to find the appropriate experts and coordinate the team.

However, what this also means is that in meetings with clients, I’ll bring along another expert appropriate to the situation to provide additional perspective. On occasion, it will come out during the meeting that my colleague doesn’t actually work for me, but with me. The questions that immediately follow are:

Who owns the relationship?

What happens if one of us moves to Malta or is otherwise unavailable?

These questions have very real ramifications to the client. The client needs to know who is liable for the work agreed upon. Who does the client turn to if there is some level of dissatisfaction with part or all of the work done through our agreement. Additionally, if someone moves away, what happens to the client’s work and support? What if one of the people I hired moves away?

The Relationship

In answer to the first concern, the answer is always the same – the relationship is owned by the middleman. The reason for this is simple – the one coordinating the various parts of the project including working with multiple vendors and service providers makes most sense to be the person the client uses as the primary contact for the project.

That being said, the client should be provided with the contact information for each of the vendors where appropriate. The middleman needs to know what’s happening with all aspects of the project, but does not need to control every communique.

Disappearing Vendor

If one of the vendors is no longer available, then from the client’s perspective, there’s no issue. The middleman locates a replacement for the vendor, passes on the relevant information to the client and vendors, and the project carries on. Often, the middleman can hold onto copies of the work in progress as well, so that little is lost even if the absence of the vendor occurs suddenly.

Disappearing Middleman

If the middleman disappears, the client can directly contact the vendors and manage the relationship themselves. Much of the value to the middleman is provided upfront in giving referrals, with the ongoing value being that they act as both project manager and client relationship manager to the various parties.

Client Benefits

The benefit to the client is therefore two-fold. First, they don’t need to search for each vendor, or manage each of those relationships. They can manage a single relationship for the project, and trust that the various people needed to do the work will be available as required. Second, if there’s a change to the vendors, this is little chance that both the middleman and the vendors will choose the exact same time to be unavailable – which means that the client is not tied to a single provider, but to two halves of a pair.

This flexibility can make it easier for a client to switch providers at any level. They can cut out the middleman and stick with the vendors, or insist that other vendors be used and that the middleman work with the new vendors. In either case, the client is left with both the control and the flexibility.

Vendor Benefits

The benefit to the vendor is that they don’t have to manage a client relationship, and can be assured that work coming through specific middlemen will be with known associate vendors. The marketers will know who the graphic artists are, the developers will know who is managing the SEO work, and it will be consistent between projects. This results in higher quality over time, and reduces the risk inherent in assembling new teams who haven’t worked together before.

The trouble is finding someone who coordinate such projects, and who can find a good balance of vendors in multiple areas to provide real value to the clients. Since there is a cost to the client for having a project manager, that person must bring real value beyond coordination and bring in referrals, quality control, and risk reduction.

Enter Optimal Upgrade Consulting Inc. This is what we do.

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  • http://www.wordtree.ca Sue Varty

    Documentation can help ease a client's concern about this issue BTW.

  • http://blog.optimalupgrades.ca Elie

    True, but that assumes that either type of provider can and will provide appropriate documentation, and that you know enough to understand whether what has been provided is sufficient for your needs. Breaking up the vendors into two stages can help alleviate the dependency you as a client have on any one provider.