Avoiding Reputational Damage

It takes years to build a good reputation, and can take just days to lose it. The old adage ‘you are only as good as your last project’ is true and with good reason. But as businesses increasingly collaborate on projects and partner with specialist companies for some of their work, the harder it can be to manage this. You only need one partner company (or person in that company) to be slightly off its game and everyone in the group will be seen in the same light.

I recently spoke to someone that runs a Brand led design agency, and they use an external company for their technical web build, as they are designers and not developers. They were saying that at least one of their clients had complained about the development company. Now clearly the designers are not responsible for the developers actions, but in the clients eyes they are seen as being the same thing, because they are working on the same project, and were recommended by the design company. So they are guilty by association, but how do you stop this from happening short of never using specialist partner companies and doing everything in house?

There are a few options available to you;

  1. The obvious answer is to make sure the client is aware that you are separate companies, but that doesn’t always work, and may not be seen as a good approach as it is less seamless and can potentially look a little like you do not completely trust your partner.
  2. Make sure your values are aligned. We only work with companies that we know, have seen examples of their work and have been recommended to others because of their work and attitude to clients. So we can feel confident that our cultures are similar and we trust them to make the right decisions for the client and the project.
  3. Clear lines of responsibility. If you are not clear about who is responsible for what, then no one is, and that is a sure fire way to ensure something will go wrong or be missed.
  4. Ensure oversight. There will always be a lead company that owns the original relationship with the client, and it is their reputation that will take the brunt of the damage if there’s a problem. So although it is extra effort, the lead company should act as the filter between the client and the other partner companies, so they can check the quality and ensure that the project milestones are being hit.
  5. Have weekly meetings for all of the partner companies. Although not everything you discuss will be relevant to everyone, it helps if partner companies are aware of where the rest of the project is, and they may be able to help in areas that you are not expecting. It also helps create a stronger team dynamic, better clarity on the project & keeps everyone focussed. Keep them short if you can, but do not be shy about a long meeting if it is relevant.
  6. If you work with multiple partners on different projects (e.g. you use multiple copywriters), try and use the same set of partners on different projects, this will allow them to build understanding and relationships with the other companies. Anything that helps reduce misunderstandings is .
  7. Always make sure that you have a cohesive plan, that you have been through with all of the partners, with milestones and a completion date. You only need one partner to not be delivering quite on time, and the knock on effect to the other partners can cause real issues.
  8. Make sure that your partner companies have capacity and you are correctly prioritised. As they are external to you, it is hard for you to get a feel for quite how much other work they have on, and where you fit in terms of what is important to them.
  9. Meet their team, frequently you will only be talking to the person that is not doing the work, make sure you have met and feel confident about the person actually doing the work.

And Finally

  1. Only work with companies you trust, our golden rule is ‘would we use them ourselves’.

We have partnered with marketing agencies building the websites they design for the last 15 years, we are not designers but we build excellent websites. We know our strengths and weaknesses and play to our strengths. We always put the client first and have high standards we work to. All of this is driven by processes that are applied to all of our projects, regardless of size. We are constantly asking the question ‘is this how we would want to be treated’ when making decisions.

If you want to find out more, just email me [email protected].

David Horne