I pondered this question while doing some DIY projects around the house. Being an ex-carpenter, I have a lot of tools from the trade.
As a Carpenter, I had two assets that defined the excellence of my work. My skills at the craft, and the tools in my possession were equally important to ensure the job was done right.
Business works the same way. The right tools are essential to an effective business. When we talk about tools in business, we usually refer to technology (at least for the purpose of this discussion).
Your Business Toolbox might hold a good CRM system for managing customers, or an ERP system if you’re in Manufacturing. Your Marketing department probably owns a Website and a couple of good Graphic Arts applications. You probably have a collaboration platform.
But buying technical tools is quite different than running down to Home Depot to buy pick up a new hammer.
Purchases need to be planned as a strategic business decision, adequately budgeted and the right subject matter experts need to be involved. A carpenter doesn’t need an expert to know what type of hammer to buy, but a business might.
There are several options to finding a subject matter expert:
1. Use in-house staff to research products online: Not a bad plan if you trust your IT staff. However, sometimes working within a specific toolset for a long time can cause a narrow viewpoint. Why? Because the technology changes too rapidly for the average IT person to keep up with and still do their day to day job effectively.
2. Talk to Vendors: Who knows more about the product than the Vendor that sells it, right? Wrong. Unless the vendor is truly unbiased and sees each implementation though to know the pros and cons of their solution, and is willing to tell you that.
3. Hire a Consultant to find the right tool: This idea works well, but is by far the most expensive option. Usually you’ll pay a billable rate or retainer for the Consultant to learn your business model, research the right tools and create a project plan to implement it. Though they will be in a position to gauge the effectiveness of the solution.
4. Contact a Procurement Advisor: The least expensive path to getting the right tools is generally through Procurement Advisors. A good Procurement Advisor will look at your business, then find the best tools based continual research in the market. As Advisors, we need to constantly have our fingers on the pulse of the industry and know what tools are effective for the job at hand.
When a deal is brokered through a Procurement Advisor, it generally doesn’t cost you anything upfront for their services. If you have trust your advisor, that’s even better. Your IT staff doesn’t have to spend the time with vendors and service providers to make sure they get the best rate, the broker has already done that.
But how do you know you can trust your advisor? That is a good question and you better be asking it. Here are some ways you can gain trust in your advisor.
1. Review their track record: Has your advisor always been an advisor? Or do they also have experience in Consulting and IT? An advisor who’s sat you your side of the table will have a better understanding of what it takes to earn your trust.
2. Make sure their recommendations are truly unbiased: Ask for quotes from multiple vendors. The advisor should be able to give you comparable quotes. You may even want to pick a couple vendors you know of to see how their prices compare. Look for honesty and openness from the advisor.
3. Find out what the end-goal is of the advisor: If you feel your advisor just wants to close the deal and move on, they probably do. This does not instill trust. A trusted advisor will want to be with you throughout the process and earn your long-term business.
This is a key distinguisher. Your Trusted Advisor will be close to your business and involved in the whole process from beginning to end. The best Trusted Advisors and Consultants understand one thing above all. Your success is their success!
Nothing else stands out more. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been in business, how big their company is, or what their stocks are doing on Wall Street. It matters how they rate their success. It must align with yours.
Getting back to the toolbox metaphor, your business is more than the knowledge and skill set of the people in your organization. The right tools are essential for keeping up with the competition and energizing your business.
A Trusted Advisor can help you find the best tools with the least amount of effort on your part.
One last parting thought. The technical tools in your organization have to do one thing above all else. They must save you money! Either directly or indirectly.
And so I ask you, what’s in your toolbox?