Dancing with the devil you know

Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in Facilities Management, Featured, Innovation, Leadership, Site Improvement | 4 comments

I have often had the opportunity to make decisions about which vendors or contractors to use during my career and, like many, I chose the easy way out – I just extended the contract or agreement.  In hindsight, I have to say, I missed a great opportunity.  I continued to dance with the devil I knew rather than with the angel I didn’t.

On one occasion, however, I took a different approach by inviting several vendors to compete for a contract.  We did a very thorough specification and evaluation based upon what we needed, backed it up with research, and articulated it in such a manner as to be able to compare apples to apples.

After we narrowed our selection to three vendors and had them perform for us, we evaluated the results – which showed that we should go with a new vendor.  The decision actually gave us exactly what we needed at a very significant cost savings.  Add to this the fact that the new company was also local and gave us almost immediate response to our issues, and you can see why it was a very satisfying outcome.

Of course, we had to expend the effort, tackle the process, and assume the risk; but in this instance, we reaped the benefits of our “gamble.”  Our new vendor had the attitude to go above and beyond to make us happy (a function of new-client euphoria, I suppose, but clearly beneficial for us).  This success changed my perspective about hiring new people and reviewing vendor contracts.  Should we pick a new vendor every year?  After all, there seemed to be great benefit to all this.

What causes vendor-selection paralysis?

The oft-quoted statement attributed to Albert Einstein certainly fits here: “Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”  And the truth of the matter is, to pass up the opportunity to consider a new hire or new vendor when it’s time to renew is insane because it is one of the seminal times that we can make a real difference.  What else can you conclude if, for the most part, we continue to do the same things and expect change?

We find it easier to continue with the same contractors, the same vendors, and hire people that look like the people that we hired before.  We cite time, limited market, a “known” budget, and myriad other “reasons” in order to justify not taking advantage of the opportunity to make real differences to the bottom line.  In short, we continue to dance with the devil that we know.

We willingly miss the other side of the coin, though, by not dancing with the angel that we don’t know but should.  If you are looking for improvement, you have to change something.  You have to be willing to take the risk to allow change to occur because, without risk, there is no reward.

So consider who else can do that work the next time you have the opportunity to renew a contract.  Look at what are they offering and how can they help you meet your goals.  Take the opportunity to find a partner in your quest for efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation.  When you have the opportunity to hire, purposely seek out people who have a different perspective than you do or, for that matter, anyone else in your group.  Look for people who have experience in different industries but share the same values.  You just might find someone that can catapult your group to the next level of performance, thought, and innovation.

“Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”

Frederick Wilcox


  1. Always good

  2. So many times has the drive
    (by the financial wizards) to find a cheaper option forced a change from those contractor / suppliers that Facilities and Site Managers have built up a working relationship with come back to cost us in the long term.
    I now add a possible loss of (goodwill) contingency to all my Project costings this now gives me the opportunity to explain the value in sticking to what is proven but may not in this instance be the cheapest option against the time taken to complete inductions(as one example)for new contractors into the work environment that is our responsibility.

  3. Terry,
    Your points are good and in my opinion may work in some instances and with some vendors. However this method greatly reduces the potential for a true partnership and the tenure that is needed to establish contractor/vendor congruity with both you and your staff and your systems and protocols.

  4. Painfull but absolutely necessary. Has always proved to be highly beneficial and worth the effort.

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