Is finding an outsourcing partner like an arranged marriage?

Finding the perfect outsourcing partner is like finding a mate: you need to find someone who absolutely gels with you in so many ways. Americans dream of finding the perfect mate, and I’ll bet some actually expect to find the perfect outsourcing partner right away, too. Good luck!

A good relationship (although maybe not the perfect one) can be developed if you take the time to get to know each other. Just because the company has a few good references does not mean they will be good for you. Unless you have taken the time to get to know your outsourcing partner and really have common standards and goals, the relationship will be little more than an arranged marriage. Whoever your point of contact is–your project manager?–will be The One.

Here are 5 tips to evaluate and develop your relationship:

1) Since you are thousands of miles away, you need to have communication by phone, skype, and email. Talk about a variety of topics to determine how that person thinks and whether he or she really wants to do business with you at all. Be sure to talk for at least 15-20 minutes because it will take at least that long to find out what that person really thinks. Then, ask that person three to five ‘test questions’ and have the person answer these on the phone or skype— on the spot. These could be situational questions that you feel strongly about—how you handle a difference of opinion, how do you tell if you can trust someone…even how you choose a girlfriend or a mate. Be sure the person can give examples. You should not feel hesitant to ask questions. These questions will help you see if you have values in common or if that person has a point of view you feel comfortable with. Listen to the person’s answers and see if they appeal to you. If you have any doubts at the beginning…proceed with caution!

2) Based on what you have heard so far, do you have similar cultural and personal values? Cultural values can be discussed or referred to in initial conversations (above), but personal values are probably more important. For example, do you believe that you have to lie sometimes in business? What lies are acceptable? If you have to complete an important job and you become ill, how do you handle it? If you are late on a deadline and have a phone conference with the client, how do you deal with this/ what will you say? Are results more important than how the job gets done–and does that gel with your own way of working? Answers to questions like this may actually tell you something revealing about the other person and his or her policies. Listen carefully. Your future depends on it.

3) What is quality? What constitutes a quality product in your industry? Have the person tell you. If it is a call center—how will you know the callers do a great job? What specific things do they do that demonstrate “quality”? If your contact has a vague idea of quality or cannot speak well, this will tell you something about how profitable it will be to work with this company. Does the person just refer you to a link on the company website? The more details and examples the person can give you, the better chance he or she really has a good team and will be a great outsourcing partner. If the person is obviously reading from a script or says “I will need to think about this and call you back,” that is not a good sign.

4) No contract will test out your relationship as well as an actual test assignment. It will answer questions like “Do you follow directions?” and “How much do you get done in a certain amount of time?” If you are in sync with your partner, you will both get through the test assignment and will learn enough about each other to move on to the next stage–or to back off. A small, well-designed, paid test assignment—before you even sign a contract—before the “marriage”—will tell you how this company functions in a relationship. This will also test what they said in the answers to the other questions (above). You will find out whether the person / company knows how to do what they say and how cooperative they are. If they make a mistake, will they offer to correct it for free? If they did not understand the directions and did not ask—will they take responsibility or will they say “The directions weren’t that clear…” Shouldn’t they have asked?

5) Finally, to find a good outsourcing partner (outsourcing company), you may be better off finding a ‘matchmaker’, a friend or family member who can introduce you to qualified candidates and help you screen them—rather than trying to find that perfect match on your own. Talk to people you know who have outsourced or who know you well, and rely on their advice. When marriages are arranged, they are arranged by family or even a professional matchmaker. Ask your matchmaker friend a lot of questions and he or she will help you define what you are looking for. Do not just grab an outsourcing company from the internet—or you may end up in a relationship you do not want, and this may make you hesitant to seek the right outsourcing partner in the future.

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