At a previous job I worked with a great product photographer who gave our company superior service at reasonable rates. One day a competitor approached me with guarantees of comparable service at a lower cost with a value-add DAM solution at no charge. Valuing my relationship with our current photographer, I informed him of the offer which he promptly met. When I went to my boss with this success he immediately told me to fire our current vendor and sign a contract with the new one. His rationale? – Why hadn’t the original vendor approached us with a better business proposition before? In the view of my manager, the photographer had been fleecing the company before being forced to change his ways. We successfully transitioned to the new vendor who provided us with comparable service.
I’m ambivalent about how this situation played out. The original photographer was loyal and was not excessively expensive, yet the new vendor was honorable and did not lowball to get the business; he merely quoted at the lower end of current market rates. I found my manager’s reaction to be disproportionately extreme, he got pretty angry and indignant, but I’ve found that his response is typical of many business people.
What does this have to do with in-house teams? I’d say that we are vulnerable to the same fate as the loyal photographer. If an outside agency offered my internal clients, upper management or procurement department better terms than I and my team were providing, I don’t believe, even if I was able to match it, that they would stick with the in-house model. Our team would be viewed as having become complacent and might possibly be perceived as being disloyal in not attempting to increase our efficiencies and value to the organization.
Given this reality, it’s imperative that, as in-house designers, we constantly look for and implement ways to enhance our value to our companies and then document and communicate our successes. This is achievable without compromising our working conditions and long-term sustainability. In other words, I’m not advocating adopting a sweatshop commodity-driven mindset. What I am saying is that along with meeting our company’s expectation that we provide great deliverables we must also constantly find ways to do what we do more quickly, cost effectively and strategically.
We must be proactive. Are there improvements that can be made in the management of our projects, in our workflows, in how we’re staffed? Are there opportunities to provide value added services? Could we be assisting clients with the routing and approval processes they’re challenged with? Might we be able to support our clients in dealing with their external marketing services vendors? Could we assist procurement in the creation of contracts with outside printers or new media development firms? Are we actively advertising our successes and educating our companies on how we contribute to our companies’ bottom line?
If we don’t consistently engage in these practices, you can bet that an outside provider will up the ante and threaten the existence of our teams. Should that occur, shame on us.
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