FROM THE TRENCHES: On Professionalism

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Once a colleague of mine in advertising said, “Whenever you hear the word ‘unprofessional’, you can basically insert the word ‘schmuck’ instead. I wonder about that. I don’t wonder that unprofessionalism is rampant out there.  And for the would-be  leaders among us, here are a few observations and suggestions from the trenches.

If you are asking someone to work for you and they represent an integral part of the work product, why not treat them with respect. There are certain protocols I’ve learned as a consultant who hires third party vendors and as a third party vendor myself. Here are some of them:

  • Educate yourself about their background and skills so that you don’t unintentionally condescend to overstate the obvious.
  • Give the consultant and his or her team your specifications as clearly and completely as possible. That means your internal communications should be clear and complete too. If there is a less than obvious objective for the assignment, make sure all the internal agreement about priorities is set before the specifications are handed out. Ideally, a printed spec sheet is given to all the bidders simultaneously, or at least each one gets the same date and time stamped information.
  • Make requests or changes in a timely way.  It’s not really to anyone’s advantage to wait until the day before a pitch or meeting to request substantive changes. Get your  ducks in a row. Make sure all the relevant decision makers offer their input to your company’s one outside link by a date certain and in plenty of time for your vendor to create the most successful and well-received presentation.
  • Make sure your vendor knows your team. This is important because we all want to know who we’re speaking to. We might make adjustments to a presentation with a better understanding of the audiences’ specifics. If your consultant is meeting important people on your staff or team, be sure they know each person’s background, proper title and current role in the project. Is your vendor dealing (especially on short notice assignments) with the decision maker so there’s a minimum of wasted work and time?
  • Give the consultant the correct address information and a contact phone in case of emergency. If possible, directions and even paid or, at least, pre-paid transportation to get the person there comfortably and in plenty of time to be pulled together and organized.
  • Greet and announce them in a timely way. Don’t make a visitor sit endlessly in a waiting room. Offer them a restroom key, a glass or water and be sure that all the parties are assembled. Start on time even if the entire team isn’t on time.
  • Be sure the meeting attendees are up to speed about the consultant’s credentials. After all, the consultant will have prepared for the meeting.
  • Have a meeting agenda prepared so everyone’s time is spent optimally.
  • See the person out. If you’re located in a remote location, make sure they have transportation back to their offices.
  • Be responsive. Make a point of letting your vendor/consultant know outcomes, decisions, even if they aren’t favorable. Either initiate a call or email or, at the very least, respond to theirs. No one likes to feel they gave a meeting their all and no one cared enough to even say, “Thanks for coming by. We’ll call you when we need you.”After all, professionalism is professionalism. And lastly,
  • Pay on time. Some vendors ask for money up front (either 1/3 or 1/2 depending on the lead time and length of the assignment). Now you can invoice and pay through PayPal or Google CheckOut. No fuss no muss. Don’t forget, these sites take a percentage for themselves on each transaction.