Communication lays the groundwork on which any business relationship is built. This is especially true with your subcontractors or virtual assistant team. Without effective communication, you risk the success of your project, your business and your ability to work with that subcontractor.
More than Just Giving Instructions
Working with subcontractors requires that, not only can you give instructions, but you must also be able to give and take feedback and constructive criticism. Two-way communication is necessary for a successful business relationship.
As the project manager, effective communication with your client is also important for business success. You’re the middle man and if you can’t communicate back and forth, then the project is likely to fail.
For example, when you subcontract out a web design project, you will need to make sure you understand your client’s goals by carefully listening to them. You also want to make sure you use communication to explain this to your subcontractor in a way that they can interpret what you’re telling them In other words; you’ll need to be able to speak your client’s “language” and your subcontractor’s as well.
There are several ways that you can improve your ability to communicate with your subcontractors and your clients.
Clear and Organized
The first thing you want to do is make sure that all communication is clear, structured and conveyed effectively. While verbal communication may seem easier, written communication is more professional and more easily tracked, especially if you and your subcontractor never meet. Ways to communicate in writing include:
1. Email is often used to discuss business matters in writing. It’s also surprisingly one of the most unreliable. You’ll discover this first time a subcontractor fails to complete a project, and states that she couldn’t because you didn’t answer her questions in the email she sent three days ago – but you never received.
2. Basecamp is a project management software that’s beneficial for brainstorming ideas using an online whiteboard and also communicating via messages with your subcontractors and your clients. Each party in a particular conversation receives email notifications of updates. It conveniently lets you login at any time to see if there are updates. You can access the Basecamp website anytime you need too.
Once you have a system setup for the type of communication that suits your business, you’ll need to develop a communication policy for your company.
When we work closely with people every day such as subcontractors, it’s easy to get frustrated and sometimes even angry. This can cause more problems so remaining calm and talking over things can help resolve misunderstandings.
One way to help you remember what to do in these situations is to have a communications policy. The policy needs to outline appropriate methods of dealing with various situations in which you might be overly emotional.
- How do you handle a subcontractor who you don’t hear from for a few days, right in the middle of a time-sensitive project?
- How do you handle a subcontractor who doesn’t follow instructions that you gave her, even though they are clearly written in your project management system and she read them and said she understood them?
- How do you handle a subcontractor who talks on the phone more than she works on the projects you gave her?
These policies can also include ways to show respect to your clients and how you allow your clients and subcontractors to treat you.
Regular communication with your subcontractors or VA team is just as important as a batter following through on a swing. If the batter stopped her bat as soon as she hit the ball, the ball would barely pass the batter’s box. (It’s called a bunt!) Likewise, if you don’t follow up on your communications, your team may not care as much about your business and may not do as good of a job for you.
So, give your outsourced team instructions and then request feedback. And when your team has followed through on your instructions, give them feedback. Tell them you appreciate their hard work. And then follow the process in reverse with your client. Follow through with your communication and enhance your relationship with your subcontractors, which will benefit your business.
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