This sequence explores collaboration between similar businesses. I use the Awareness Ladder throughout these posts. The higher up the ladder you go, the more trust you need for collaboration. This post is about advice and subcontracting, they are quite different but similar in one respect. With both, businesses help out another with their clients.
Advice is a private arrangement between two businesses. There’s no need for the client to be informed. If the client’s aware, it’s your marketing decision. Take care because you could give the impression the business receiving advice is not up to their job and the client might be better off with the business offering advice!
No-one is good at everything and so it is wise to seek advice. It’s good sense for a prospect to choose you because you’re the best at 80% of what they need. The reminder may be deliverable but benefit from a more expert eye.
Further, there may be advantages when you discuss a client’s problems with a colleague. For a complex package, an independent eye might be invaluable. However, there may be issues of confidentiality and so take care to square this between all three parties.
Such an arrangement could be mutual, where you meet as equals and share information about your clients and support each other. Such an arrangement is between peers. For this reason, payment should not be an issue. You meet for as long as both find it beneficial.
Mentoring and Coaching
Where you pay for support, this implies mentoring or coaching.
People may disagree about terminology. If there’s a difference between mentoring and coaching, it is mentoring implies a more experienced practitioner helps someone grow into their role. With coaching, the business-owner makes their own decisions, helped to think them through by an experienced coach, not necessarily experienced in the subject area.
Coaching is often received by more experienced practitioners. They find coaching helps, even though they are experienced. Whether clients understand this depends on how it’s presented. Essentially it is a private arrangement. Mention it to clients where their issues are sensitive and they might not want them discussed in their absence.
Subcontracting implies the client plays an active role. The client pays one person and that person pays a third party to deliver part of the contract. This is not the same as a joint venture, where the business-owners have a mutual stake in the contract.
Cox and Box
Here the subcontractor meets privately with the client for one or more sessions. There is no need for the contractor to be present because they know the ground to be covered in their absence.
Say the contract is for help with a marketing strategy. The client needs help with personal style. If the contractor knows little about this, they have little to contribute at a meeting and what they do know might undermine the subcontractor. The contractor receives feedback from both client and subcontractor, if they need it.
Here the subcontractor needs input from the contractor as a well as the client. For example, a marketing contract might include time with a website designer. The contractor may have valuable insights, to help the client prepare and present their brief. Supporting a client as they present their brief to a subcontractor is a valuable skill often overlooked by matketing coaches.
Getting all three parties together is productive. The client benefits from listening to conversation incuding two professionals. There is need for trust between the contractor and subcontractor and clarity about the purpose of meetings and roles of each participant.
Trust is essential for both advice and subcontracting. Next time I’ll cover ways in which independent businesses collaborate further, short of becoming a single business.