One of the biggest challenges for a small company in dealing with a giant customer is navigating bureaucracy. When two smaller businesses are working together, there is discussion, negotiation and decision. In a big organization, that is just the beginning of the process.
A sales call, or more frequently multiple sales efforts, leads to a Request For Proposal (RFP). Submission of the RFP requires a statement of qualifications, delineating your company’s history and track record. Several rounds of negotiation settle the price and terms. Often, those terms are then passed up through several layers of management, sometimes with additional negotiation at each level.
Finally, you win the “contract.” This is the point where a smaller company wants to swing into action. Buuutt Noooo! (Thanks Steve Martin.) First the agreement has to be submitted to Contracting.
A document the size of a small novel is presented, requiring the aspiring vendor to describe their parentage, their affirmative action policy, their compliance with cyber security standards, their willingness to follow Federal contractor wage guidelines, their paper reduction and sustainability processes, and a slew of indemnification clauses that absolve the customer from any screw-ups (often including the failure to pay according to contract.)
It’s a pain, but it’s worth it to land the big sale, right? Wait! It’s time for Procurement. Their job is to make sure you are really qualified to do business with Big Corp Inc. Are your systems compliant with theirs? Do you use any components requiring a Country of Origin certificate? Do you have redundant suppliers or backups for your self-performed services? Who are your contacts for any and every phase of the relationship?
Approval by Procurement gets you passed on to Purchasing. Because Purchasing doesn’t even look at the buying process until you’ve cleared the other hurdles, this is all new to them. More process ensues, unless of course bigger and more important vendors are in line in front of you.
One client of ours who negotiates this labyrinth on a regular basis has a secret. He seeks out the Director of Getting S**t Done. It’s not an official position (but probably should be.) It’s the employee of Big Corp who understands the system, has developed personal connections in the critical departments, and has the crazy notion that crossing T’s and dotting I’s is a mite less important than accomplishing the objective. Identifying that person doesn’t make the paperwork go away, but it helps identify what is important and what can be glossed over or ignored.
Every business owner needs a Director of GSD. They may appear anywhere in your organization, and at any level or job description. You know who they are.
It’s the employee who never, ever says “That’s not my job.” The one to whom everyone turns for help when they are behind. The one who tackles new projects as a challenge, not a burden. The one who doesn’t say “I don’t know how to do that,” but rather says “I’ve never done that, but I can figure it out.”
If you don’t have a Director of GSD, then it is probably you. If you have one, take good care of him or her. If you have several Directors of GSD, then I’m betting your company is growing and most your time is spent doing the things you should be doing.
And if you can make everyone in your business a Director of Getting S**t Done, you’ll have one h*ll of a company.