We all like to feel in control in our personal and professional lives. Outsourcing projects can be difficult because we have a strong sense of ownership about our life’s work. No one else can do it like we can. An outside company can’t possibly know our business the way we do.
That all could be true.
But your credit union also can’t possibly achieve all you want to for your members with your existing internal resources. So, how can you identify the right credit union business partners to meet your credit union’s objectives, collaborate and allow you the control you crave?
Differentiating Partner From Vendor
Launching new endeavors can be scary and exciting at the same time – like binging my favorite crime documentaries. Credit unions pursue their goals like a detective chasing down a criminal. You think you’re going to be successful, but the consequences could be huge for you and your community if you’re not. No pressure!
Your prospective business partner will be the Watson to your Sherlock, so ask the right questions to gain the perspective you need to determine whether they will work with you as a trusted business partner to relieve your team’s task saturation and stress or are just another vendor hocking the latest shiny object.
- How do you work with clients to achieve success?
- If they talk a lot about themselves or use ‘I’ frequently, it could be a red flag.
- How do you challenge your clients?
- While you want to work with someone who is agreeable, you don’t want mere order takers – unless you do, which is a different issue. But if you want experts who are invested in your success and committed to the project, you want a team to challenge your this-is-how-we’ve-always-done-its.
- What is the minimum length of an engagement with you, and why?
- If a contract seems unnecessarily long and inflexible, it could be a bad sign. If the firm feels the need to trap you in for a certain amount of time, they might not be great at serving existing clients or at what they do, so they’re doing whatever they can to retain clients. Ensure you feel you have enough control in this area, so you don’t end up frustrated because you’re locked in.
- Would you share a time when you and your client didn’t agree on a key piece of a project, and how was the situation resolved?
- Their answer can help to determine whether they’re collaborative or want to ram their way down your throat. Obviously, sometimes – for example in website design – the expertise of your business partner and their process is invaluable to getting a project completed efficiently and effectively, but if something doesn’t smell right, it could be a sign to walk away.
- How frequently does your company miss deadlines? How is that handled?
- Stuff happens. The best intentions are thwarted by human error or just life. That said, how does this prospective partner fix problems to clients’ satisfaction and get back on track? If they won’t acknowledge that stuff does indeed happen, it could be a sign they lack integrity.
Finally, in differentiating a business partner from a vendor, ask for references but dig into the company independently as well. Sites like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau or a simple Google search can help you determine how the company really conducts business. Also, check with your credit union associations and colleagues at other credit unions to find people who have worked with your prospective firm and how it went versus relying on them to send you to their favorite clients. For those of us who are Type A, this process can help us feel in control, even when we have to let some go.
Selecting the Right Business Partner
The right business partner will be the one that demonstrates a level of integrity to match your credit union’s brand. They will also meet your objectives. For example, with a website design, the objectives would be a better member experience and easier updates for your team. You don’t want to be locked into a contract in which you can’t make timely, simple tweaks to the content of your credit union’s own website and instead wait days or more. That would be so stressful – not as exciting as it should be!
Your partner should be honest and direct, while collaborative and reliable. They should make you feel confident you made the right choice to have the best possible impact on how your members view your credit union, not stressed to the point I see you featured in a crime documentary! Take back control.