What Independent Consultants Need to Know about Getting Noticed and Engaged by Big Companies
A contract with a large enterprise is a good way for Independent Consultants to start or expand their business. Large companies will often turn to the same vendors for services, providing you with an opportunity for steady work. Higher value contracts, name recognition and the potential to acquire work from multiple departments are all reasons independent consultants may want to add a large enterprise to their client roster.
David Cassar, Vice President, Client Services - Enterprise Solutions says that it is not difficult for independent consultants to get in front of large enterprises. "Most contractors that MBO sees that engage with larger companies have relationships with someone in the company and expand that relationship with the organization through referrals. Getting into a large enterprise has not been the challenge for consultants; the challenge has been meeting the contractual requirements such as insurance, and payment terms."
To prepare independent consultants for what to expect from engaging a large enterprise, Cassar offers the following advice.
One Handshake, Multiple Sign Offs. At a large enterprise you will often have a key contact that you are working with to get the business. This is often the person that has the need for your services. This may be the head of a department, region or business unit. However, the client that needs the skill you provide is often not the one who will pay the bills. After you have sealed the deal, your client may have to run your contract through the organization's bureaucracy. This may include senior executives, procurement, human resources, legal and more. It is important to approach the process properly. Don't begin work until you have a final contract blessed by the organization's process. Ask about the process during your initial discovery meetings with your client. If possible, include additional approvers in on pre-contractual discussions. It will be much easier to finalize a contract if you are a known entity.
Snail Mail or Pony Express. When contracting with large enterprises, independent consultants should be prepared for extended payment terms. Large enterprises may have payment terms of 90 days, with some up to 120. A common challenge for independent consultants and small firms is cash flow. It is critical to know going into a contract with a larger company that you may not receive payment for several months. The timeframe for the first payment may be even longer as accounting works to get you set up in the payment system. Unlike working with smaller companies, you may not have much negotiating power to change payment terms. Before deciding to work with a large enterprise, make sure that you have a cushion that will enable you to wait for payments. Further, ensure that you have operating capital that will allow you to manage the ongoing timing of payments.
Define your deliverables. Don't neglect having a written scope of work. Your scope should include the services you will provide and specific deliverables the client will receive at the end. Make sure that your deliverables have a price and value. In larger companies, many departments may be reconciling payments made with what was received, making it critical to have a written, clearly defined scope of work.
If you are looking to expand your client portfolio by contracting with large enterprises, it is important to present yourself as a credible, professional business. Cassar outlines the top three things that independent consultants should have to compete for business with larger companies.
Contracting with large enterprises can provide opportunities to grow your business and skill sets. You may do work that is more complex and challenging and have an opportunity to work across departments. Working with a large enterprise can also raise your visibility and open the door to more business.
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