How do deal with a disappointing third-party team



Editor’s Note: Each week Maynard Webb, former CEO of LiveOps and the former COO of eBay, will offer candid, practical, and sometimes surprising advice to entrepreneurs and founders. To submit a question, write to Webb at dearfounder@fastcompany.com.

Q. I am working with a third-party team in an important role. We had great service in the beginning but with turnover in staff we’ve been noticing more errors and less communication. I’m no longer getting the service I expected and feeling quite frustrated. What should I do?

-Executive in charge of back-office operations at an investment firm

Dear Executive, 

I understand that your frustration level is high. Let’s talk about how to resolve this and move forward. 

I’m sure you’ve highlighted this to your boss, but if you haven’t, make sure he or she is engaged and aligned with you to solve it. You should not have to tackle this important issue alone and it sounds like it warrants wider attention. As I often say, problems don’t get better with age, so make sure everyone is aware of what is going on so they can step in and help.

Schedule a meeting with the third-party team so that all of you can get aligned on expectations. If the vendor is being unresponsive maybe they don’t value your business. Sometimes smaller clients are only given the basic effort, but that can fall short of what you need. If that’s the case, it might be time to move on and go somewhere that values and works hard for your business.

It can be helpful to put a framework in place to define expectations and roles. I like to use the RACI matrix, which outlines simple roles and responsibilities. A RACI chart defines who on the project is ResponsibleAccountableConsulted, or Informed for the task or decision. It alleviates confusion around who is doing what and can help prevent problems like the one you are experiencing. 

I appreciate your question and it inspired me to think about something important. You should hold people accountable to high standards and not feel guilty about it. While I recommend getting to alignment before you sign up, and I suggest working with something like a RACI chart from the beginning, fostering alignment and engaging in communication must always be a continued effort. Don’t ever stop short in getting everyone to deliver on expectations or in your pursuit of greatness. 





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