This is the first of a series I’ll touch on every now and again. The disparities of business etiquette. We’ll go through formalities and informalities and the benefits therein.
The consulting world has developed it’s own dance. All aspects of life and culture do it – courting a lover, ordering dinner at a restaurant, the way we greet relatives – and the established protocol is often best observed for a smooth path. In the consulting world, the consultant or contractor is usually first approached by the client with a request for proposal (RFP from here on out), they’ll return a proposal and – after any necessary changes – a contract will be written up.
The RFP gives you the opportunity to briefly introduce yourself, your organization, your needs and your expectations to a number of consultants. Even better, by formatting your RFP correctly, you can establish a fair and equal format for a proposal response which will allow you to gauge all potential consultants on the same playing field. Keep in mind, consultants don’t get paid to respond. Highly qualified consultants are often going to be rather busy. It would be a shame to see your project pushed aside due to an overly-elaborate RFP.
Be sure to include:
- Name, address, and contact information.
- Project scope, anticipated time frame.
- Very specific details of your needs and expectations.
The proposal should contain a very detailed account of the methodology by which the consultant expects to complete the project. Proposals should come with a relatively straight forward tone and formatting. If your RFP has been formatted well enough, each proposal you receive should look similar while the important details stand out to allow you to make a well informed decision.
- If the response is coming from an agency, look for a full list of resumes.
- Anticipated budget and cost with detailed descriptions of allocations.
- Timeline of project completion.
On the chance that none of the initial proposals appeal entirely to your needs, send a message to those who were closest with questions or additions to the proposal. The contractor will then respond with the edits or their addendums to your edits. When all of this is finally cleared up, you can move on to the final stage.
The final stage of the dance is the contract. Having gone about all of the needed details, the contractor should format a Letter of Agreement. These letters can function as contracts and should be very specific as to the details which both parties have agreed to. At some point in the letter, the client will respond affirmatively and the agreement will be sealed. The number one thing to keep in mind with the Letter of Agreement is that it absolutely, positively must be specific. Details left out can create huge problems and tensions.
The benefits of “suiting up” for these kinds of agreements is obvious. The very direct and clear agreement is an absolute necessity. Both contractor/consultant and client leave with a very lucid understanding of what is expected of them. The possible negative outcome is that the formality of the agreement leaves much to be desired in a long-term working partnership. If you’re looking simply for someone to fulfil requirements, look no further than this understood dance. If you’re looking for an insight into the benefits of less formality in contracted work, stay tuned for the next post in Suits and Tee-shirts.