Surefire strategy #9 for producing a consulting train wreck - "Sub out the work, go do something else, then check in with the contractor at the end"
Welcome to my next surefire strategy for bewildering your customer with your ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of consulting project victory. Strategy #9 is an oft-followed approach that goes something like this
1. Prime contractor wins a major piece of business following an RFP process
2. Prime contractor now realizes that he won't be able to do all (or in some cases ANY) of the work that he so creatively described himself as being able to do in his RFP response. This could be for a number of reasons including but not limited to:
- he doesn't have the expertise required
- he doesn't have the bandwidth or the staff to do the work himself
- he would rather spend time selling the next piece of work rather than deliver this one
3. Prime contractor rapidly finds and hires a subcontractor (who is generally an expert in the work that has been sold) to do the work. Prime contractor reviews proposal with subcontractor, provides cursory explanation of promised deliverables, and negotiates hourly rate for subcontractor to complete the work while still leaving a fairly attractive profit margin for himself.
4. Prime contractor leaves subcontractor to do the work while he, well, does something else.
............................TWELVE WEEKS LATER............................
5. Prime contractor returns from Maui and drives directly from LAX to client site to meet with subcontractor for review of final deliverables. On arrival at client, prime contractor is horrified to learn that:
- Project is four weeks behind schedule
- Subcontractor has already billed an amount equal to your budget and is demanding additional payment to complete the project
- Subcontractor's travel expenses are equal to 40% of project fees
- Customer is withholding your final payment pending delivery and acceptance of the final deliverable, still four weeks away
6. Prime contractor fires subcontractor and completes the work himself. In some cases the prime contractor will even need to hire another sub if the work requires expertise completely outside of his comfort zone, making the project economics even worse. Results? Late and sub-par deliverables, miserable profit margin, and - perhaps worst of all - a very unimpressed client who will likely hire their mother-in-law rather than you the next time they need a consultant.
What went wrong? Well, by following "Surefire Strategy #9 for Producing a Consulting Train Wreck" the prime contractor above completely failed to adhere to some of the cardinal rules of SUBCONTRACTOR MANAGEMENT, namely:
Rule 1: Clearly identify subcontractor requirements for your project DURING THE SALES PROCESS and identify and shortlist subcontractor candidates well in advance of you winning the work and certainly well before kicking the project off.
Rule 2: Should you win the work, interview your shortlisted subcontractor candidates. Evaluate them based on their understanding of the project's deliverables (which you will VERY clearly define for them) and their ability to persuade you of their expertise and capability to deliver.
Rule 3: Negotiate compensation with your selected subcontractor whereby payment is tied to the SUBCONTRACTOR COMPLETING DELIVERABLES THAT ARE ACCEPTED BY THE CUSTOMER. That way, even if you are indeed in Maui, the sub has an incentive to produce high quality and timely deliverables.
Rule 4: For goodness sake, demand at least twice-weekly status reports from your subcontractor during the project. Preferably, visit the project site at least every other week.
Rule 5: STAY IN TOUCH WITH THE CUSTOMER. Although you are outsourcing the delivery of the work, NEVER OUTSOURCE THE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP. Put in at least a weekly call to your main client sponsor to make sure that she is happy with the progress of the project. Remember, the customer doesn't necessarily need to know that your subcontractor is actually a subcontractor (unless, of course, you are bound by the terms of your contract with the customer to disclose this) - for all they know the subcontractor is one of your employees. And you would always keep on top of the work of one of your employees, wouldn't you?
In other words, AVOID AT ALL COSTS Surefire Strategy #9 for Producing a Consulting Project Train Wreck – “Sub Out Major Parts of the Work, Go Do Something Else, and then Check in With the Contractor at the End”!! Implement the antithesis of Strategy #9 instead! In this particular case, this means following the CARDINAL RULES OF SUBCONTRACTOR MANAGEMENT above.
Are you getting into the swing of this "Implement the Antithesis" thing yet? Good!!
Next week, visit 1Procurement Place for Surefire Strategy #8 for Producing a Consulting Train Wreck - "Just Focus on Things You Can Control - You Can't Be Blamed for the Actions of Others".
1 Procurement Place
Non-spin commentary on the world of procurement, supported every now and then by the occasional piece of factual information.
Mark is Founder and CEO of SpendWorx LLC, a provider of spend analytics services. Prior to SpendWorx Mark co-founded Treya Partners, a boutique procurement consultancy. Earlier in his career Mark held various positions at Accenture, GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce.