A few weeks back I had a meeting with a local web agency about some potential sub-contracted work. As I mulled things over on the way home, I realised that in amongst all the conversations about hourly rates, skill-sets, and clients past and present, we’d failed to properly discuss the most important part of working together—process.
To each his own
In my experience, every agency works a bit differently. This is hardly surprising, but it does mean that fitting in with the idiosyncrasies of a new client can be one of the most challenging parts of being a sub-contractor.
The difficulties posed by such a situation are exacerbated by the fact that I have never worked with, or for, a company that has clearly defined and articulated processes governing what happens during each and every project (until I started my own company, of course).
Just to be clear on this point, a process is not a process until it is documented, clearly and unambiguously. Until that happens, it’s just “the way we do things around here.”
Michael E. Gerber has plenty to say about the value of systems and processes in his book “E-Myth Revisited.” To ruthlessly paraphrase him, a clearly defined process makes the quality of your end-product more consistent, and makes your company more reliable, and less-reliant upon the (fluctuating) abilities of your employees.
It also eases the growing pains of employing new people or—you guessed it—hiring sub-contractors, because everything is clearly laid out, and no longer open to interpretation (or, more frequently, out-and-out guesswork).
And finally, it’s a great sales tool (which is something I don’t recall Gerber commenting on directly). Quite apart from the good reputation you’ll get as a result of being more reliable and producing a better quality product or service, having a solid process in place is a great way to turn potential clients into fully paid-up members of the fan club.
It makes it very clear that you’ve invested the time and energy in thinking about how best to serve your customers, and it allows potential customers to see what they’ll be getting, and when, at every stage of their project.
Needless to say, that’s a huge confidence builder.