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Be Careful Who You Ask For Help With Your Business

help.jpgI can’t tell you how many calls and emails I get from small business owners who have had a bad experience with their web designer or their marketing coach. It seems so common. Maybe 1 in 3 of the people who contact me do so because they’ve not gotten what they’ve needed from the person they’re working with.

In the past ten years, I’ve seen everything: web designers who take the money and run, have ever-increasing project costs, outrageous pricing for simple projects, horrible design (and over design), and just plain rudeness.

With marketing coaches it’s a little better. At least they’re usually nice to their clients. But usually clients call me because they feel ‘boxed in’ by a marketing program. They don’t feel heard, they’re not really getting it, or their coach simply doesn’t get how to effectively translate a marketing message to the internet.

All-in-all, I end up bailing people out.

Now, I’m not complaining. I love the business. And I love helping people who really need my help in using their websites to grow their business. Yet, I’m not happy that they’ve gotten such poor service before they found me. And I’m definitely not pleased that sometimes they’ve been down right taken advantage of.

That’s why I think it’s important that you’re careful about who your hire to help you with your business. Remember, you’re entering into a relationship; one that should help you with your business needs. So to be sure the relationship has a foundation, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself in deciding whether a marketing coach or web designer is a good fit for you:

  • Do I like the person?
    Sure, we’re not always a good judge of character. But most of the time you’ll have a sense as to whether you’ll get along with someone. Even the best marketing coaches have personality ticks (as we all do). And sometimes those ticks don’t jive with our own. So don’t work with someone who you’re not sure you can get along with – regardless of how successful they are or what your friends say.
  • Can we communicate clearly with each other?
    Don’t overlook this one. Relationships are built on communication. If you and your web designer or marketing coach don’t communicate well, don’t even consider working together. The frustration and misunderstandings you’ll have will just cost you headache and time. You need to find someone who you understand…and who understands you.
  • Do they care about my business?
    Okay, seems trite. But there’s a difference between the web designer who’s just designing another website and the one who takes a real interest in what you do. The former is just doing their job to make a buck – which isn’t wrong by any means. The latter is certainly interested in making a buck. Yet they also take a sincere interest in your success. And you want to work with someone who wants you to succeed.
  • Do we share a common vision about how my business growth?
    You know your business. You may not have crystal clarity around it, but you do know what you do. Your coach needs to clearly understand your vision. They should listen and clearly understand what it is you do and then help you refine your branding, your approach, your message, etc. They need to add to your already developed vision, not take from it.
  • Am I just a number?
    There’s a lot of programs out there – both for web design and for marketing and business development – that sort of cookie cut the process. Often, these materials or courses can be highly helpful. But some miss the point of really helping your individual needs. Know yourself and what you need. If you thrive by reading a book or working in a group environment, buy the book or take the course. But if you’re someone that benefits most from one-on-one help, spend your time and money getting one-on-one help from a coach, consultant or web designer
  • Can I learn what they have to teach me?
    We all have things to teach each other. The question is whether we can learn from each other? Take the time to find out if you can learn what they have to teach. Your web designer may know code up the yin-yang. But do you really need to learn it? And your marketing coach may be an amazing copywriter. But can they teach what they know in a way you can learn? Whoever you work with, make sure you can learn what they have to teach in the way they teach it.
  • Can I afford to work with them?
    The old adage is true – you need to spend money to make money. I’ve found that to be true. So the question you want to ask yourself isn’t whether to spend money – if you’re building a business you need to spend money. Just be sure you have a budget. And also try to get clear what sort of return you can get on your investment. Spending money that doesn’t return is one thing. But your budget might be a little different if you consider that what you spend is an investment that can be returned on. Don’t be afraid to spend, just be sure not to overextend yourself.
  • Can they really help me?
    This is really the bottom-line question. You want to know inside yourself that the people you hire to help you with your business really can help you with your business. It doesn’t matter so much what they can do. What matters is can they do it for you? And can you mesh together to create a successful relationship that will help you solve your business needs.

Someone once told me that a teacher isn’t just someone who knows some things. A teacher, to deserve that title, needs to be able to teach you in a way that you can gain from their knowledge. Otherwise, they’re not a teacher at all; they’re just someone who knows some stuff.

I feel the same way about the people who you work with on your business. Be sure that you can really gain from your web designer or marketing coach. Ask questions and get to know the person, even if it requires a few conversations. If they’re not willing to meet your needs before you hire them, what makes you think that’s going to change once you do?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with a web designer or your coach. And if you have a good one, feel free to link to them in the comment box.

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Comments

  1. I’m stumbling along and learning a lot. But it would save me a lot of time to be able to pay for some answers to questions about WordPress once in a while. Does anyone know of a good consultant? One that is willing to take on small problems at a reasonable price? There must be a market for that kind of help.

    Thanks!

  2. WOW! You said it all and you spoke the truth! I’m not going to go into great detail, however I’ve had to deal with many situations with which you have mentioned. From SEO consultants to individual’s who treat our business as just another job.. Some people don’t want to genuinely help, unfortunately. However, many of the people I’ve worked with and currently work with do care and do want to help. Your comments on first impressions and knowing if you’ll be able to get along with someone certainly is good advice!

  3. I was sorry to hear you have encountered some business people who have less than excellent integrity.
    The company who helped me start out with my website and marketing were fantastic. Arrow Marketing took all of the pain out of my internet presence by designing the website, search engine optimisation, and other marketing. For anyone wanting exceptional service Jasmine and Anup can be found at:
    http://www.searchenginerankings.com.au/
    Hope your future endeavours are less stressful and more fulfilling for you.

    Belinda
    Fashion Excellence Pty Ltd

  4. i agree with your suggestions, but i think one of the biggest pieces of advice entrepreneurs need to hear is that they need to be continually recruiting and looking for the right people for their company.

    finding good people is increasingly difficult, which means the worst time to begin looking is when you already need the person. more often than not, when this happens entrepreneurs tend to settle and get stuck with a mis-hire or a bad outsourcing vendor.

  5. Rich: “but i think one of the biggest pieces of advice entrepreneurs need to hear is that they need to be continually recruiting and looking for the right people for their company.”

    IMHO with this you start at the wrong place. Every entrepreneur should have a clear view first of all the various tasks/jobs etc that the business needs (even at the time you’re just a one-man/woman-band). Then, when you grow, finding the right people to fill (take-over) those ‘positions’ is way easier (and quicker).

    Just one of the practical tips our marketing consultant – business consultant – accountant – mentor (all in one) has given us over the years. “The Company Doctor” has never let us down, complete two-way traffic, always there for us whenever we need him.

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  6. Also check out the background of the coach. Especially online, many “gurus” are full of hypes and they are not what they claim. Only engage coaches that have been in the same field for years and who walk the talk.

  7. Jean,
    I know someone…

    Rick,
    Thanks. It sounds like you’ve had a number of ‘bad’ experiences. How have your resolved them?

    Rich,
    Absolutely. I’ve seen a number of cases where a business owner knows someone isn’t a good match ye they hire anyway. It seems odd, but it happens all the time.

    That’s why I feel the relationship is so important. It’s also why I constantly remind business owners that people do business with people, not businesses.

    Belinda,
    Thanks. However, I’m not the one who’s had the problems. Rather, I’ve been the one bailing business owners out. So while I thank you for you kind sentiments, I’ll pass them on to the clients who call me in crisis.

    Abel,
    Yeah. I suggest people talk with clients of coaches and consultants directly. And ask questions about the relationship. Ask specifically how well they felt their needs were cared for.

  8. Karin,
    It sounds like you and Rich are both talking about outsourcing. There are thresholds in every business when it’s time to let other people manage some of your task. Accounting, inventory, scheduling, website updates, etc. All can easily be outsourced. What entrepreneurs need to do is be willing to let go of some of the control, when the time’s right.

  9. Just from the title of your blog, I really get what you mean… Sometimes, the one who help you may fail you too.. So we must be careful all the time in doing a business..

  10. Hi Dawud
    (Somehow the email notification is not working).
    I beg to differ on this. (Not on the part of willing to let go some of the control, I agree on that).
    I’m not talking about outsourcing, I’m talking about one of the fundamental issues in any business: what tasks are there to be done to run the business properly?
    (Like: bookkeeper – me -, marketing manager – me -, shopkeeper – me -, product buyer – me -, IT person – me -, administration – me -, quality control – partner -, deliveries – partner -, installation work – partner -, maintenance service – partner. We have a two-man-band).
    Because you’ve lists all those jobs (and attached responsibility to them) the minute you grow you know what jobs you can ‘outsource’ – be it to another company or another – your first – employee. That also makes ‘letting go of the control’ easier, because you’ve set op your company like that already.

    Karin H.

  11. Hi Dawud, Mark Silver is my coach – http://www.heartofbusiness.com. I also do some coaching as well as freelance writing and your list is also a good way for me and other writers/coaches to treat their clients.

    A

  12. Thanks Anne, Thanks Dawud.

    As someone who also has bailed people out in the aftermath, I agree a lot with what you’ve said.

    About outsourcing. To have a successful business, one must eventually outsource. No successful business is just one person worth of tasks.

    But, this piece of knowing tasks. That’s really helpful, and not always very easy to get clear on. The first assistant I hired, and the second one, and subsequent VAs I hired saying: “I need help figuring out what and how to outsource and delegate.”

    I hire people who will partner with me in figuring that out. You should say the business owner -should- know these things… but should is dirty word, and not always true. 🙂

    It’s been amazing to be able to be vulnerable enough with the people helping me, and have them actually help me figure out how to help me… I love it!

  13. Karin,
    Sorry, with what I do, I assume that these tasks would be part of a business plan – on that gets re-evaluated and updated per growth.

    It’s vital, really, in running a business to know what you need to do to be successful. So I agree with you whole-heartedly.

    (sorry about the email notification…will look into it).

    Anne,
    I love Mark. Great guy, excellent ‘coach,’ and dear friend.

    Sharm,
    Absolutely. I think it’s fair to allow for humanity…no one is perfect. Yet there are trends and tendencies with people that can show you how they’ll take care of you.

  14. These are great suggestions. It’s true that we should be careful in hiring people, especially for positions that are critical to our business. We certainly don’t want a single person to cause so much damage.

  15. Mark,
    You’re welcome, my friend.

    You bring up a good point. One of the things that’s clear to me as a business owner is that I can’t know everything I need to about my business. Sure, I can do my own taxes. But an accountant will know much more about the deductions I can take – saving me money.

    Owning a business has taught me that I don’t have to know everything to be successful. But I do need to keep searching for the right questions to ask to stay that way.

    Charlie,
    Certainly not. And it happens from time to time. I have a good friend who started an IT business. They were cranking out work and growing at an amazing rate. But there was never any money. Two years into it, he discovered that his bookkeeper really didn’t know what she was doing and the company was $250,000 behind in bills. He opted to merge the company he founded with another, that took on his debts. All-in-all, he blames himself, as the principle, for not watching his own books better.

  16. I have a small “boutique” agency. One thing that I have seen around our market is the large agencies are really burning people out. They have charged them so much money for so little and as soon as they hear you are an “agency” it’s over before it begins. By doing a quality job, charging a “fair” price and always have your client’s best interest in mind it key. I have had to let clients go because I felt I wasn’t able to help them. I would send them down the road rather than take their money and not perform.

  17. So true. We’ll end up blaming ourselves for not checking their tasks and for hiring that certain person without considering their personality and attitude.

  18. If you’ve read the “case histories” section of this website, then you know that Dawud’s the one who bailed me out of a bad web design esperience. As for coaching, I’ve been very happy with my on-again, off-again relationship with my coach. It’s so important to me to be able to work with people who are not only brilliant, supportive, honest, and visionary, but who also “get” me. That kind of chemistry has been elusive in the past. I’ve hit the jackpot with these two, and I am eternally grateful! Thanks D!

  19. Excellent article! It’s applicable to so many areas, too. I find this process helpful in choosing whether to take on new clients. I think too often people think offering services is slapping on a solution. It’s not – it’s getting inside the head of your client and delivering their vision, not your own.

  20. Mark Goodyear says:

    Great thoughts in these comments.

    I’m thinking two things: First, it’s hard to recognize the hype since so much of what’s happening in social media is new and untested. Sometimes something sounds plausible, but isn’t. Sometimes folks with lots of experience have lost their edge.

    But what about the folks who don’t get to choose who the company hires? What if we are stuck with a consultant that is causing problems. That’s a solution I’d really like to hear someone address.

  21. Andy,
    I’m the same way. I turn business away as well. Sometimes people will just work better with someone else. And when I do work with a client, I take on the role of a partner during our contract and some business owners just aren’t ready for that level of relationship yet. But boy does it work to build business.

    Howie,
    Yeah, exactly. Whenever there’s a service involved, the relationship becomes paramount. And I don’t think many business owners consider that as much. Do you?

    Carol,
    Of course you’re welcome. I think the important piece of what you said was ‘get me.’ As a client, you need your service provider to really get you…to understand you, your needs, how you think, how you work, what you can manage and how you communicate. In other words, you need a relationship.

    Lori,
    Yes, oh yes, oh yes! It is about getting out of yourself to serve the needs of the client. Yes! I think you have to know what’s going on in their heads to do great work for them. Music to my ears.

    Mark,
    (welcome back…long time, no see)

    I hear you. There is a lot of hype out there. That’s another reason I’m so focused on the relationship end of things. If the relationship’s solid between the client and business owner, then the client can trust more of what the business owner is saying. That way, hype can become reality.

    As for your question…

    Remember, the consultant is a person. It might be possible to have a conversation around more effective ways to help out. You don’t want to ‘dog’ the consultant, yet you want to help them understand how to be more effective.

    If that doesn’t work – and it may not – talk to the person who hired them and be honest about your concerns. As co-workers for their feedback. Perhaps the consultant simply isn’t a good fit for the temperament of the people in a business. That needs to be clearly articulated to those who hired them.

    If that still doesn’t work, try to have the conversation with the consultant and the boss – and maybe even the whole team involved. Don’t team up on the consultant. And yet you want to express how the team could work better with the consultant. Find common ground – don’t get in a rock tossing match.

    If all else fails, know that the consultant is likely temporary and go about your work as best you can without worrying too much. But I’d recommend trying to communicate first. Perhaps the consultant feels the same way.

  22. Marko Novak says:

    I’m a web designer and I must say these bad designers really make us look like we are some kind of a thieves.

    I always try to help my clients as much as I can. There is no job where I don’t give 100% of my knowledge.

    All my clients are generally happy and pleased with my work, so I consider myself as a good designer.

  23. I 100% agree.

    However, another side to the point is when a new company hires people because of their “name”…to try to ride up the ladder based on the contacts that person is known to have in the community. I’ve have had to deal with a number of these types of hires in my last job. And without fail, once they know they are hired for their name, getting any sort of usable work from them just is not going to happen.

  24. Communication is so important when chosing someone to work with. If you can’t communicate there is always going to be problems.

  25. Marko,
    Sounds like we have a lot in common. I give my clients as much as I can in the time we work together.

    Rebecca,
    I’ve seen this problem too. Do you think the lack of performance will eventually catch up with their reputations?

    Living,
    Absolutely. I see anyone we work with as the building of a relationship – be it a consultant, design, employee or auto mechanic. Regardless of someone’s reputation, we should feel comfortable with them, their honesty, their integrity and their willingness to help us, don’t you think?

    Thomas,
    Without a doubt. Any tips on how to evaluate the clarity of communication between people?

  26. This is the 1st site I have Stumbledupon since I just joined. It is a testament to Stumble that they found me the perfect site so quickly. I am coming from the ‘burned client’ side and I have lost a year of building the business because it has taken so much to get such a simple site working well, or well enough. Still the backend programming on the database is so full of bandaids that I currently am asking for proposals from two database programmers to write a whole new site and I will just ditch the one I have. The main problem – the person bidding on the project was a salesman and not a programmer, the programmer doing wasnt getting all the right information after the project manager filtered it and the owner of the company didnt want to start over and instead threw good money after bad once he fired a programmer who had time management issues….

    So, I am hoping to do better this time around because I want my consultants to have the best resource they can have for getting new business.

    I would love emails with ideas and/or input. I will give out 25 free memberships too if anyone emails me for the promo code through the contact form on the site.

    Thanks, Jill
    http://www.jillsconsultantlist.com

  27. Jill,
    It’s great you found me in StumbleUpon. Sounds like you’ve been through the wringer. I still can’t understand why business owners treat their clients this way and believe they can stay in business.

    God speed to you. And let me know if I can help in any way.

  28. Good advice, for starters.

    To add to Rich Schefren’s suggestion, being an outsourcer himself, a person could recruit using a company like administaff. They’re trained from A-to-Z in recruiting for any position. Anyone they find can be signed as an independent contractor rather than an employee.

    Why reinvent the wheel…

    I think that if you recruit outsourced work through the framework of “worker seeking employment”, first, you get a different mindset than some lazy hack who thinks setting up an account at elance makes him a pro.

    The former already intends to prove him or herself from the outset. Whereas the freelancer usually catches victims unawares by starting off with a low price.

    Cheers,
    Sam

  29. Auto Loan Guy says:

    Yes, it’s very difficult to find good help for web designers, employees, contractors, or any other person you hire to do work for you. That just comes along with being an entrepreneur or a business owner.

    This post gives great guidelines for avoiding mistakes in the hiring process, and helping you find quality people from the get go.

  30. Sam,
    Great point. I’m, personally, don’t want to add employees to my business. Yet working with other ‘contractors’ gives me the opportunity to get help for my continually growing business while better managing my overhead.

    Auto Loan,
    Thanks. The key I’ve found is to make it first about the relationship with the people you work with. By focusing on the relationship you can build the trust needed to turn some of your business over to others.

  31. Clia Waived says:

    The problem I run into, is when the boss is less than communicative and pulls the rug out from under you at the last minute on projects. Without even telling you he wants a different direction..just “WHAM” I had someone else work up a design while I was riding you for one….

    Feels like being a gladiator at times…..

  32. Although most banks want to help entrepreneurs fund and expand their businesses, their primary responsibility is to make money from the loans and minimize their risk. Just because you have a great idea and are motivated to see it through, you may not get a loan. In fact, banks are very careful with innovation; they are conservative institutions that lend to tried-and-true businesses. Whenever you submit your business proposal, always ask yourself, “What would make this a good deal for the bank? What assurances (aside from my good credit and great idea) can I give to the bank so it will get its money back plus interest?”

    http://gewdir.com Information on Loans with Bad Credit Blog

  33. I think it’s great advice for everyone… especially those who have tried and failed at the internet startup game.

    Best,
    Bruce
    http://www.perfectbusiness.com/business-planning-software.cfm

  34. Sean Butler says:

    I made sure I was careful, I new someone known for helping start-up s and then when an ounce of cash comes in asking for all becuz they believe they are the sole propietor.

  35. Nice post! I have to agree that you do have to make sure that you form a relationship with the coach or designer to decide if you both will mesh before embarking on the path of improving the business. I also believe that it’s important as well that individuals understand what coaches really help people do before they employ their services. Coaching is a partnership between two people to help clarify a vision of business and find a way to achieve goals with action steps to get there. While it can be easy to have someone sit down and tell someone how to grow a business step by step, coaches don’t necessarily do this but instead guide individuals through the process of succeeding in growing their business. To actually learn how to market a business – well then you would hire a marketer. 🙂 But this is how a coach would help a client discover what exactly a client would need to succeed in growing his or her business. Anyway, just my two cents…many times, it may not be the coach or the web designer but maybe it’s just the right person for the job that the person is looking for …

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  1. Getting and Giving Help says:

    […] Miracle, blogger, web designer and marketing guy has a nifty post called Be Careful Who You Ask For Help With Your Business. As I read his cautions about how to hire someone to help you with your writing business, it […]

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