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Calling the Cavalry
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Choice Words from Schneider the Writer


If you survived the recession of the early 1990s, you probably faced a spate of new decisions. Could you afford to relax your budgetary belt-tightening? If so, how and where?

On the other hand, are you happy with some of the cost-effective adjustments that an uncertain economy forced you to make? Perhaps you continued with some of those measures. Now you have the opportunity to make long-range plans to use them more effectively.

Undoubtedly, cutting costs has meant calling in the cavalry -- bringing in independent contractors at the eleventh hour when you realized that you lacked the full-time staff to accomplish projects. Because of time constraints, you might not have had the chance to analyze the relationships and see how you could make the most of them. Consider these guidelines:

1) Be specific about what you want.

An independent contractor who has worked with your company before or who has experience with similar companies or situations should be able to handle a given project with minimal supervision. However, some degree of direction from you is necessary in order to assure that the project reflects the unique style and flavor of your company, as well as accuracy and detail.

2) Be available to the contractor.

The quality of the output on any project is directly proportional to the interest and input of key company personnel. Hold uninterrupted input sessions with the contractor, be prepared to answer questions that are germane to the project and respond quickly to the contractor's requests for approval or modification at every stage of the project.

3) Give the contractor enough space to accomplish the project.

At the same time let the contractor show you what he or she can do and explain the reasons for doing it. Decide how much of the project you want to handle yourself and how much you want the contractor to do.

4) Give the contractor enough time to accomplish the project.

Set up progress checks and deadlines at the outset. Be sure that the contractor has enough time to perform the task and that you have enough time to review it before it goes out the door.

5) Offer constructive criticism or suggestions at the appropriate time.

By setting up review cycles, you will have ample time to make suggestions, and the contractor will have ample time to make changes. Let the contractor know your true feelings --subjective and objective -- about the project as soon as possible. Nothing is cast in concrete during the review cycle, so run rampant with your red pencil at that time. It will save you costly changes at the last minute, missed deadlines or dissatisfaction with the project.

6) Define your terms, and be sure that the contractor has defined his or hers.

Do you want the contractor to work on your premises, or do you want him or her to disappear and come back with a finished project? Is the work being performed on a per-project basis, regardless of how long it takes or how many revisions are involved, or is the fee computed by the hour? What is the most time- and cost-effective way to work with the contractor?

7) Understand what the contract does or does not include.

Request a proposal or a fee schedule that spells out the effort, time, costs and payment schedule for the project. Clarify at that time what will be included in the project and what additional costs might be anticipated. Both you and the contractor should feel that services are being performed at a fair price at the time the contract is signed.

8) Understand what the contractor's capabilities are and are not.

Will the contractor need assistance from members of your staff or other vendors in order to accomplish the project? Will it be cost-effective to ask the contractor to spend time doing something outside the scope of his or her work in order to complete the project?

9) Treat the contractor as an expert in his or her field.

Just as you are an expert on your company and its products or services, the contractor is an expert in a given area. To obtain the most value from a contractor, listen to suggestions of what has worked for him or her in similar situations. Discuss ways to adapt that strategy to your specific needs and individual taste.

10) Make the contractor feel like part of the team.

Spend the time getting personally acquainted with the contractor. Introduce him or her to as many key players in your company as possible. Give the contractor as many perspectives as possible on your objectives and strategy, as well as knowledge of your products or services and markets. The investment of your time at the outset will result in a dedicated, customized approach that justifies the investment of your money in the contractor's services.



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Copyright 1998 Schneider the Writer
Last modified: July 25, 1998

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