So it would appear I have fallen out with my first supplier. (No doubt it won’t be the last.)
Several months ago, I contracted a small company to carry out some work for me. We got off to a shaky start due to some ambiguity regarding the scope of the work involved, but we sorted that out and proceeded on a basis that, while I wouldn’t say I was relaxed and happy about it, we had both agreed on. However, I ran into difficulty almost straight away when I asked for the dates that the work was being carried out on. The reasons that this info was important were twofold : firstly, I need to have visibility into the calendar of work so that in the event of a problem in a related area, I have the data I need to begin troubleshooting from ; secondly, I have a very finite amount of money and I need to carry out due diligence on where my money is being spent. Value for money is extremely important to small businesses, as well as everyone else
Unfortunately, this information (which I felt was very straightforward) was not forthcoming. I was continuously reassured that the work was being done, but it took over three months for the dates to be produced. During this time, I requested the info on various occasions, and it was always going to be emailed to me that evening, but it never arrived. Each time I was told that the work was being done, and I felt that there was an implication that I had no right or reason to be questioning it – despite the fact that I was often passing on feedback to the company from other interested parties who were telling me that they didn’t think the work was being carried out. This lack of clarity was compounded by one of the company’s team members (a third-party contractor) telling someone one day in August that this was the first time they had carried out this work, since as far as they were concerned, I had been doing it myself up to now. Now I had been paying for this work to be carried out since May., so naturally I was a little upset when this nugget of information got back to me. When I queried this with the company in question, I felt like I was simply fobbed off : “he probably meant that it was the first time that he had done it, not the first time it’s actually been done”. I reiterated that this was not what the individual had said, but the feeling I was getting is that it didn’t matter, I would get nothing back on this matter.
At this point, our communications were starting to get a little heated as I got increasingly frustrated. An adhoc piece of work was left languishing for three weeks – when I would look for an update, it was always “that will be done tomorrow”, which I would communicate back to the other interested party in the equation. When no-one would turn up to do the work, I looked like a prize idiot. Especially the second AND THIRD times it happened. And yet, the other company in question felt that it was their reputation that was being damaged by being associated with me – they were currently only contracted to carry out a portion of the work we do, but they wanted me to hand it all over to them because they felt they couldn’t trust what might be being done by other contractors, and didn’t want their names associated with it. Oh the irony.
I felt they weren’t doing a good enough job on what they were responsible for already, and that I couldn’t trust them with the full shebang. I was informed that my attitude was terrible, and that I was pissing a lot of people off. “Well good, because I’m pretty pissed off myself”, was my not-very-witty retort. Hey, I can’t be marvellously poised *all* the time They gave me an ultimatum – all or nothing – and I even surprised myself with how gladly I chose “nothing”.
Even a few weeks later, the situation still frustrates me – especially the implication that my attitude was the problem. Disgraceful of me really, looking for information about the service I was paying for. Honestly, who did I think I was? In the end of the day, it all came down to trust. The signal I was getting was that I should have just inherently trusted the company in question. Yet I never felt like they once trusted me. I repeatedly felt like they were doing me a favour, rather than feeling like a valued customer. My requests for visibility into the process went unheard, but I was expected to cough up for the invoices that appeared without questioning them. (And there was almost always something that needed clarification/correction.) Wonderful learning experience though, sleepless nights and angry phonecalls aside.
So what have I learned?
1. Trust your instincts. I think I knew at the start that this had potential to be a difficult relationship, and that there might be a personality clash, but I ignored it and forged ahead because I needed to get the work done.
2. Trust your supplier – and if you can’t trust your supplier, then find a new one. I left this situation drag on for longer than I should, and I’m still trying to figure out why that is. Going looking for new suppliers is certainly a pain in the ass, but so is trying to manage a supplier who doesn’t care about your business.
3. Stick to your guns. There were times when I could have been a bit more forceful and set out my terms and conditions a bit more stringently, but perhaps I was afraid of pissing people off. Since I have allegedly done this already with my terrible attitude, it seems I would have had nothing to lose and I should have let rip a lot sooner! No More Ms. Nice Girl from now on