There is a scene in Kierra Knightly’s movie version of Pride and Prejudice that is subtle but powerful. Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley are listing the qualities that make a woman accomplished. A woman has to play the piano, embroider cushions, have extensive knowledge of the arts, be a linguist, etc., etc. Elizabeth Bennett says:
“I never saw such a woman. Surely she would be a fearsome thing to behold.”
Oh, the wit. I usually end up giggling with Mr. Bingley after that statement.
I thought of this scene after a few recent networking events. I had a number of conversations with professionals in different industries, and they all had the same issue. Clients – and in some cases employers – were expecting them to be the answer to everything. They hired Joe, but they want Superman.
This isn’t a new issue, but I usually only hear about it out in the open from creatives. Instead, I was hearing it from financial advisors, PR pros, BD specialists, architects, and IT people. A financial advisor is expected to take his own headshot with a cell phone. The PR pro is asked to create brochures and postcards for clients. I know a medical librarian that is supposed to build websites and landing pages.
It sounds like madness, but this is what companies expect. In business, it is too easy to assume that a person can do something because you see another person trying to do everything.
Business is evolving at neck-breaking speeds, and companies are asking for the sun, moon, and stars in the name of “value.” For those with small budgets or internal teams like marketing, we know that getting value out of a vendor or subcontractor is an essential part of doing business. That’s why you ask your PR person to be your graphic designer. It’s for value – efficiency and saving money.
This puts the vendor in a sticky situation. A professional becomes a professional by investing in education and honing their craft to become proficient and exceptional in their trade. They may have additional skills, but that doesn’t always mean they are fully equip to handle a task. If a person says they cannot complete a project, there is a chance of losing a client or being replaced. If they say they can do it, they run the risk of taking on work they cannot deliver and/or running themselves into the ground. See the problem?
If you’re looking get value out of a vendor or subcontractor, here are a few items to keep in mind:
- Be honest about your budget. Talk to your pro and give them your wants and needs. See what they can deliver within your budget. When the client talks to us about their budget issues, we can almost always come up with a good solution that works for both of us.
- Ask if your vendor will act as an advocate on your behalf when searching for another service. We’ve seen PR consultants and web designers act as liaisons for their clients when looking for a photographer. On the shoot, they will art direct and take the pressure off of their client. These are tasks that seem small, but it can take a huge amount of anxiety off of you.
- Weigh the stress vs. the savings. The absence of stress can be invaluable. Expecting an employee, friend, or yourself to photograph someone, write a press release, or design a brochure can add too much to their to-do list. Is the cost savings worth the added pressure?
- If you think you cannot afford a specific service, don’t immediately turn to DIY. Talk to your community to see what other options are out there. There may be a recommendation to a professional that you didn’t know about or a service you can use to hold you over until you can get what you need (or just plain want).
It is important to remember that you are hiring real people – not the accomplished woman out of Jane Austen’s books or Superman. Value is important, but so is quality. It isn’t a safe business practice to sacrifice quality in the name of saving a dollar. Instead, communicate with your pros and use them as a resource.
You might be surprised by what they say.