The other day I received a call from the CEO of a technology company, and it was not to talk about his company. In this case, I was provided as a reference for a building contractor I had worked with several years ago. The caller’s name was Curt, and like many people building a home, Curt wanted to find a contractor who would do the job on time and not overcharge him. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, not always.
I told Curt the story of my friend Mike, who like himself, had looked for a contractor to complete his home build in short time and on a tight budget. Eventually, Mike did find someone who gave him a contract and completed the job within the parameters that Mike provided. Unfortunately, a year later, Mike had to replace the kitchen and floors.
Mike got what he asked for but not what he wanted or more importantly needed—a job done well. The contractor cut corners and skimped on quality to meet Mike’s request. Was it implied that Mike wanted the job done well? Of course. Would he trust that contractor again? No. What Mike needed was a trusted partner to explain to him that his time and budget goals would yield shoddy work because of subpar materials and workmanship.
How does this relate to business? In our rush to get tasks done on time and on budget, we pick up agendas that hide what we are really looking for—quality. Look at the number of managers who cede control of purchasing decisions to procurement people willing to sacrifice value for price. Eventually, those managers get burned the same way Mike did by his home builder.
Good managers should know that procurement people are not always the best solution for purchasing certain products and services because procurement is trained to save money and find ways to cut costs. Instead, when you need something of high value that stands the test of time, it is often worth the effort to seek out trusted partners who understand your needs and provide a quality solution.
Back to my conversation with Curt, I told him that the contractor in question was someone I trusted. I never had to worry about his work or that he was trying to swindle me. If something took a little longer or cost a bit more, I knew it was because the contractor and his team were interested in doing the job right for my long-term satisfaction. If fact, much of the work that we did was based on a handshake. As unnerving as that sounds to most, it was an absolute pleasure working with someone I trusted. I did not have to worry because I had this contractor to worry for me.
Whether in the context of business or life, I fear too many people have forgotten about the value of having a trusted partner, someone who understands your needs even when you are not stating them explicitly. A trusted partner makes sure you are taken care of every step of the way. Without them, we often end up wasting significantly more time and money than any savings we may receive up front from a low-cost option.