Working with external businesses such as your vendors, contractors, and suppliers can be a challenge. Disparate corporate cultures, incentives, goals and priorities can be a problem when your team relies upon the employees of a partner company in their processes or projects. Differences in expectations, review and approval processes, documentation, and scheduling can cause friction and significantly slow down the pace of getting things done. Communication, incentives, and shared systems are three keys to success.
Share Your Vision
Just as you so with your own employees, share your vision, goals and objectives with your vendors, contractors, and suppliers. When people feel that they are working towards an exciting, motivating outcome that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, they tend to be more focused, more diligent, and more timely. The result is higher quality work, greater satisfaction and commitment to your business. Make sure you have opportunity to share your vision with all external team members who will become virtual parts of your team. And if external team members change (and they will) take the time to share your vision with them as well.
Inherently, different businesses have different goals and objectives. Certainly your vendors’ motivations are generally aligned to please you and earn your loyalty, but your suppliers will additional goals and incentives that are beyond your control. In Aligning Incentives in Supply Chains, Harvard Business Review researchers called these external incentives the “hidden actions” problem because they can create conflict with your goals. Discuss mutual incentives and put them into your contracts. Make sure payment for services are tied to on-time delivery of high quality services. Incorporate aspects of service level agreements to set the guidelines. Ask your vendors if their team members have additional incentives so that you can understand the potential impact.
Streamline Shared Workflows
You and your vendors have different tools for tracking and managing the work that needs to be done. Too often this means you and your suppliers coordinate work via email and track progress by manually updating a spreadsheet or document in preparation for an occasional status meeting. While email is likely the most common system you and your vendors have in common, email has been shown to be very inefficient when it comes to coordinating workflows and drive operational efficiency. Require your vendors to collaborate with you using online collaboration tools that fit the type of relationship you have.
Instead of coordinating work by email, consider these options…
To manage occasional projects like website or collateral design, use collaborative project management tools like Trello or Asana. Trello’s free version gives people from different organizations access to shared kanban boards that show priorities and progress at the same time.
To manage recurring processes between your business and an outsourced bookkeeper or CPA, use TeamworkIQ to track the regular, recurring accounting processes that need to get done. TeamworkIQ lets you assign tasks and workflow steps to anyone (inside our outside your organization) at no additional cost.
TeamworkIQ makes it radically simple to automate internal and inter-organizational workflows. Simply outline who needs to do what as you would in an email or document, then press start. TeamworkIQ handles all the next steps, assigns tasks at the right time, and track progress for you. Streamline work with external business partners. TeamworkIQ’s automated checklists ensure completion mission critical business processes together.