By Cheryl Crumb

My web designer and content manager, Andrew Fraser, is experiencing the success that most entrepreneurs yearn  for…..becoming so busy that he needs to subcontract.  And that’s the subject of this blog….how to retain the trust that your clients have in you as you become bigger than yourself.


Always keep in mind your goal:  making your customers more successful. 

The trust they’ve developed with you is based on your competence, reliability, integrity, honesty and openness.  The challenge is to make sure that you retain the relationship with the addition of a third….or fourth….or more… 


When we’re looking for subcontractors, our focus is generally on their technical prowess. 

Obviously, that’s important, but it’s only the beginning.  We need to think of our new subcontractor as an extension of ourselves…..another appendage that has to work in harmony with the rest of our body.  An out-of-control appendage can cause a tremendous amount of damage to a valued supplier-customer partnership.  So, when screening subcontractors, check references carefully and ask questions about their reliability, honesty and work ethic.  Get examples of specific projects in which these behaviours showed up…..or didn’t.  If it’s the latter, no amount of technical expertise is worth the risk of the damage control you’ll engage in later!


Your Game Plan

Once you’ve hired your “appendage”, adhere to the following ground rules when working together.  Let’s use the masculine so I don’t get caught up in his/her/he/she:


  • Ensure your “appendage” understands the big picture background of the project.    Don’t skip this step because you feel it’s irrelevant and time-consuming.  If you do, it will come back to haunt you!


  • When your customer makes a request, don’t commit until you have first discussed it with your “appendage”. Share what the customer asked for and the reasons behind the request.   Why?  You hired him for his competence, so think of him now as an “appendage plus a brain”.    Can he do it….on time…..within the cost parameters?   It’s a real mood-buster when someone commits you to something in which you’ve had no say, especially when resources are constrained.  Additionally, upon understanding the request, he might be able to create options or enhancements that make your solution more powerful than what the customer asked for. 


  • After having had the above discussions, share with your “appendage plus a brain” the commitments you’ve made.


  • Since “your word” is your bond with the customer, your “appendage plus a brain” must optimally fulfil commitments made to you and the customer.  You must clearly state that in the event a project is in jeopardy, he must inform you immediately….not wait and hope that all will sort itself out.  The objective is to avoid an 11th hour call to your customer which starts out, “Sorry……”. 


  • Specify that you expect the following communication from him at regular stages:  the status on the work he’s doing for you (3 choices:  ahead of schedule, on time, behind); breakdowns he’s experiencing that might make the project vulnerable; and the actions he’s taking to deal with those issues.  This gives you time to reconnect with your customer and share an honest progress update.  Remember, customers  hate it when you give them bad news that’s too late for them to take action.  Avoid hearing them say, “why didn’t you tell me sooner?”


  • Continue to keep him posted as the project morphs.  Believe me….this upfront time will prevent hassles later.


Congratulations on your entrepreneurial growth, and keep in mind that you now have 2 partnerships ….the one with the client and the one with your subcontractor.  You're the linchpin for both.   One final note and this is based on my obsession with TV’s Judge Judy:  put every agreement with your partners in writing! 

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