THE BLOG
07/15/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Vetting Service Providers: The Small Business Quest for the Right Fit

2014-07-14-serviceproviderssmallbusiness.jpgA flourishing business depends on service providers, such as accountants, copywriters, lawyers, telecommunication providers, and strategic business coaches for their expertise, industry knowledge, and timely service to take them to the next level. How can you be assured you select the ideal service provider for your business? It's easy -- once you know the right questions to ask.

The ability to discern which service provider drives or diminishes your business growth is important. Nothing is more frustrating to work with than a provider that isn't a good fit. Time, money, and a few brain cells, are squandered because of incompatibilities...not to mention the energy lost from tolerating a poor fit.

Let the Vetting Begin! The Service Provider's Pre-Cana

Vetting a possible service provider begins the moment you start your search.
During the screening process, your goal is to ensure a service provider is a good fit, capable of meeting your business needs, and able to deliver the outcomes you desire. Do your homework. In addition to scouring your network for trustworthy sources, conduct your own investigation.

Query your referral sources. What do they like and don't like about their engagement with the service provider? Ask about the outcomes achieved.

Use social media and online review sites, like Yelp and Angie's List, to uncover details about a potential service provider. What stands out? How do they respond to less than favorable reviews?

Once you reach out to a potential provider, make note on how they handle the initial request. Are they timely in their response? Do they communicate clearly? What do they provide to help you prepare for your initial meeting? Are they punctual?

Although seemingly insignificant, these actions speak volumes about the quality and effectiveness of their business...and what it will be like to work with them.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

During the initial meeting, don't wait for the service provider to tell you about their business, take the lead in asking carefully crafted questions to uncover what you need to know to determine whether or not you're a fit. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Tell me about yourself and your business.
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. What is your approach or philosophy in working with your clients?
  4. What additional support or services do you provide?
  5. Who is your ideal client?
  6. What are your company's strengths?
  7. Who else might I be working with in your business?
  8. What's your policy for responding to requests by email or phone?
  9. What is your approach to timelines?
  10. Tell me about a particular client project (without divulging confidentiality) and the outcomes achieved?
  11. What are your billing practices?
  12. How do you communicate changes to your clients?
  13. How do you best like to work with your clients?

A wise sage once said, "If you don't have time to do things right the first time, how much time do you have to do them over." The same truth applies to contracting with service providers.

Choosing service providers that meet the needs of your growing business is a big decision. Take your time, carry out your due diligence, and make sure you select the right service provider for your business the first time.

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