Outsourcing and Delegating: Learning How To Be a Good Client

CB041752Yesterday one of my long-time clients was sharing with me her disappointment at her first foray into hiring a cleaner. The cleaner had been booked for 4 hours but professed herself finished within 3.5 hours. She asked my client if there was anything else she wanted before she left early and the client said no. But after the cleaner left she was disappointed to notice that she hadn’t done something which she would have assumed every cleaner would do.

It’s the assumption which is the problem. Next time I’ve advised me client to draw up a list of things the cleaner must do on each visit if both parties are to be absolutely delighted with the arrangement. If the cleaner was either a mind-reader or a genius, she wouldn’t be doing a job which pays just over minimum wage so it is our job, as the contractor, to find ways to make the outsourcing go with a swing.

I reckon I know how to be a good client. The first thing to know is that any supplier will not necessarily just jump to and do the job precisely the way you would do it or the way you had in mind that “everyone” does it. We are all unique and what satisfies me in my cleaner might fall considerably short in your home. Never assume. Any worthwhile relationship with a sub-contractor could be worth working at if you feel the raw material has potential. Train your subbies how to please you by giving them a full brief about what you want and working with them until they achieve it.

It is worth remembering too that the majority of people do not necessarily process that information in the same way you do. Just because you have written it down in black and white doesn’t mean the reader will intuit either what you want or what you don’t say. When you are in a restaurant and it goes wrong, if you go home without saying anything and then write in a letter of complaint, it’s too late. If you tell them on the evening during your visit, a restaurant will appreciate that you’ve given them the opportunity to put it right on the night. Afterwards is too late, as it is after your cleaner has left, especially if you have no intention of allowing them to return.

This isn’t magic, it’s a process, although do not rule out the possibility that you and your supplier might also just “click”. Marvellous when that happens, but rare, and there is something you can do about it. Take responsibility for your half of the partnership.

If you are outsourcing something creative or artistic, the same applies. You have to make sure the supplier has received, fully understood and ingested your brief. Personally I like to leave them wriggle room to fill their creative boots, otherwise what’s the point? But I know I am not normal in this regard. If you have a very strong picture in your mind or opinion of what you expect the outcome to be, then you have to be sure they have understood your requirements fully and you may have to continue to work through some difficulties while they tweak their work to suit you. Don’t just walk away, give them the dignity and the opportunity to continue to work towards the mutually desired great outcome.

Understanding other people isn’t easy. We have to train everyone in what we like. If you are the client, you drive; delegate not abdicate. Tell your supplier what you want. This might involve a series of difficult conversations but everyone is happier in the end, particularly you when you get what you want and are presented with the bill for it.

This is just part of learning how to be a good client and it does get easier with practice. If you can get this right with a cleaner and practise your delegation skills there first, in the comfort of your own home, you can – in time – get it right with anyone.

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