Hiring a new person or company — regardless of industry or service offering — can be tricky to navigate. The journey can be emotional and costly without a proper framework in place guided by a few basic and sensible principles. Fruitful working relationships are akin to a dance between people than a show performed by one party. In the context of working together for the first time, a good vendor — person or company — will be interviewing you as much as you will be interviewing the vendor.
This article aims to take the mystery out of the decision-making journey, minimizing the time invested while maximizing the odds of success.
The first step towards finding a fit is to look for immediate deal-breakers. We have some, and so should you. In your case, deal-breakers could come in many forms, including budgetary limits, production schedule conflicts not allowing us to meet a deadline, or an incompatible culture. Avoiding potential deal-breakers can result in a costly journey that succumbs to failure.
Below are a few high-level “rules of engagement” that may not work for you.
- We won’t write proposals in the dark. 💍
We’ll scope the project with you, through real conversations. This means, we do not respond to RFPs. Read below for more details on this.
- One-night-stands may sound hot… 🔥
But our hearts only have room for long-term relationships.
- The minimum engagement is $50K. 💵
This can cover one or multiple projects.
Exceptions are possible for selected non-profits, artistic/social/educational enterprises, and friends & family.
- Decision-makers need to attend. 🖋
Let’s save everyone time and ensure the right people are in the room.
There are essentially three phases to our journey. At each phase, our goal is to determine if working together is a no-go, or if it makes sense to move on to the next phase. We believe, and we hope you do too, that a “no” is not a bad thing, especially when we come to the conclusion earlier in our discussions. Figuring out that working together is not ideal late in the game costs more — so if you have doubts, bring them to the table early on, as we will too.
01. Introductory call
Think of it as the first few messages after swiping right. Let’s ask a few questions to see if it’s a yay or nay.
In this first call, we will cover deal-breaking topics like scope of work (what your goals and/or challenges are, and do we have the right capabilities for you?) and timeline (when do you need it, and can we deliver?).
If both parties get passed the basics, it will be our pleasure to invite you to the first date.
02. Discovery Meeting
Like a first date, there will be questions to ask, and questions to answer. There may even be stories, laughters, and a show-and-tell of relevant past work. Aside from exploring the surface such as qualifications and experiences, we’ll dig a little deeper into vision, mission, and culture. The goal is to determine if we’re a magnetic ‘match made in heaven’, or at risk of a forever ‘friend-zone’.
A poor choice of restaurant is negligible in consequences, but the wrong choice of agency partner? Whew. So let’s take some time to discover and explore here.
If the initial discovery goes well (ie. you and us feel like we could be together), we shall ‘order desserts to go’, and begin imagining what a potential engagement would look like in terms of high-level scope and investment (time & money).
Assuming you’re the decision maker (if not, please invite your decision maker to join you), because we’ll conclude this meeting with either of these outcomes:
- No: We thank you for your time.
- Yes: We hash out the next step together.
(A ‘maybe’ is a No in our book and that’s ok.)
03. Engagement Plan & Statement Of Work
We’ll meet again to review an initial engagement plan and statement of work, built upon the previous conversations. There are 2 common outcomes:
- Sleep on it:
You request additional time to review the SOW.
We schedule a follow-up.
- Ready to rock:
You sign the SOW.
We schedule a kick-off.
Yay, now that you and us have passed the first three steps, it’s exciting time!
You’ll meet the family, particularly the folks who will be leading your project and taking it to the finishing line with enthusiasm.
A long time ago, our company has decided not to respond to RFPs, and not to prepare proposals without collaborating with the client team. In our experiences, RFPs and proposals are commonly written in a vacuum on the basis of guesswork. If time is money, then proposals and RFPs are expensive with poor ROI. What’s proven to deliver significantly greater outcomes in less time (and money) is two-way collaboration to scope things out together.
Buyers express the desire for “fairness,” a “level playing field,” and the ability “to compare apples to apples.” Yet, in requiring formulaic responses to the RFP, buyers may unwittingly enforce a conformity that restyles in sterility and a lack of creativity and innovation, and which eliminates potentially good alternatives. Buyers may ask sellers to agree to one-sided, onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite formerly responding to the RFP. Excellent solution providers may even choose not to respond. It can eliminate intelligent and creative negotiation that could serve both parties.
Do you want to play?