Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How to brand yourself as a %!@*$# business - a relationship perspective.

Relationships. I’m a relationship evangelist.  It is what I’ve been studying relationships in academia for the last decade.   So what do you do when you meet a company that does nothing but destroy them?  Call it a firing or call it parting ways, sometimes it is just best to not work with companies that don’t share the same philosophy.  There have always been people out there who don’t get the social part of social media.  Social media isn’t the only place where relationships are important.  Relationships are also important when working with outside vendors and contractors.  Vendors and contractors talk to each other as well, and word of mouth works well in reverse as well.  Don’t turn your business into one that none of the vendors will tolerate.

Here’s a list of tips on how not to treat vendors and brand yourself as a *#&#@!% business.

1. Reply to contractors in a timely manner (usually within 48 hours).  If you’re asking a contractor to devote 20 hours a week to your business, don’t keep them hanging for months after saying “Can you start? We want to hire you now.”  Also, don’t expect that they won’t throw you to the bottom of the priority ladder after a week of no contact.  We call that being a flake.

2. Don’t ask for multiple meetings without expecting to pay for them.  Typically, a first meeting with a contractor or vendor is free as both parties are getting a feel for each other.  Asking for more meetings after that should be paid meetings.  It is just plain sleazy to keep asking for meetings without paying for time.

3. Don’t try to offer to buy someone coffee or lunch in exchange for their time. A meeting over lunch is a meeting nonetheless.  Be prepared to pay for that meeting.  I find it odd in particular when business that know I’m a food blogger/writer thinks that lunch or coffee is worth my time.  I get invited to dine at very nice restaurants on a regular basis.  Lunch at Subway really isn’t that impressive nor worth my hourly rate.  *Note: I love going out to business lunches or coffee with friends.  I like my friends.

4. Don’t berate your vendors.  This one didn’t happen to me, personally.  I was one of five contractors for a particular Austin startup company.  The list included a video team, design team, industrial designer, supplier, advertising team, and myself.  An employee of said company called one of the other contractors and yelled at them on a weekend.  It is my understanding the team did an excellent job on one aspect and made another contractor look bad.  Don’t ask me the logic behind berating a contractor for good work.  I guess I’m glad I didn’t get yelled at on a weekend.

5. Don’t follow potential contractors on social media only to question why they weren’t working for you. The marketing director at the previously mentioned Austin startup followed me on Twitter apparently to learn about social media.  After a trip I took the San Francisco, he questioned my activities (being a tourist and foodie) there.  At this point, I was not (nor did I ever in the end) working for or with said company.  The only person who should be questioning my activities is my boss, and that’s me.

6. Don’t insult your vendors and contractors.  After not hearing from said Austin startup (yep, they sure were screwy) for a long time, I received a phone call with an apology about the lack of communications.  Apparently, the company had officially hired the advertising team, but they were unhappy with the work accomplished.  They finally decided they wanted to hire me.  I heard nothing for three weeks after that.  Then I received a phone call out of the blue.  They were frantic.  They wanted to start as soon as possible, so I forwarded over my agreement along my hourly fees.

It appears there was a major breakdown in structure, policy, and communication in the company.  My fees were not communicated to the founders, even though I had sent them my list four months prior.  I received an email from said Austin startup company offering to pay me 20% of my hourly fees.  The logic was that they had already spent money on a “high priced ad agency,” and now they needed a more economical vendor.  I found it insulting as I don’t do advertising, and there was no reason why I should accept their offer of 20% of my typical fees.  I wrote them back a very nice “no thanks” letter.  Not only did they destroy their relationship with the previous ad agency, but also with me.  They should probably stay off social media as well. I can’t imagine that they would treat customers any better than they treated their contractors.

7. Don’t treat members of the company so poorly that they leave. One of the founders of same Austin startup company was so frustrated with his own company that he decided to take a lengthy vacation away.  If the founder doesn’t have a strong positive relationships with his own company, it might be time to euthanize it.

There you go.  7 easy tips to keep yourself from becoming that (#!@*%#* business.

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