The New Age Contractor

By Marilyn Sanford
Published on: March 24, 2017

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What the heck is a New Age Contractor?  When I ran my custom business, I proudly boasted “No contractors, all of our guys are employees”.  I went on to explain the implications of this:  My guys were loyal, trained, familiar with our processes and systems, accountable, on-time and committed.  I never considered a counter argument.  Largely, I assumed there wasn’t a valid counter argument.  I assumed contractors represented an opposite reality.

Getting closer to my market, speaking openly and directly with my former competitors as I test and validate my new start-up, LincEdge, I have been amazed to see that on balance the most profitable players successfully work with a network of ‘trusted partners’ – not contractors.

The inferences are that a trusted partner is not a competitor, works with the firm, is familiar with the hiring firm’s goals and business objectives, is available as much as possible and is knowledgeable about processes and priorities.  In a word – invested.  A contractor has the flavor of temporary, task specific, disengaged from business or priorities, and is perhaps even a competitor.  Both cater to the hiring business, want repeat business and gain from sharing their perspectives and knowledge.  Both indeed are invested, especially so if they are vetted and engaged in a relationship with the owner – business to business (B2B).   In the ‘contractor/trusted partner’ ecosystem, business is built on B2B relationships. Reputations are critical. Neither can afford off days or to screw up the details or to misrepresent themselves to stakeholders. But perhaps those risks are the tipping point between trusted partner and contractor.

A true trusted partner knows that they need your business as much as you need their resource. Experience shows that they are more invested, more mature and more experienced than many employees.  So, is the party line ‘no contractors’ largely a marketing play, planting seeds of concern in the buyer’s mind, which by the way was my belief?  Or is there fear of exposure or a lack of confidence in hiring an independent professional?  Or perhaps there is resistance in exposing one’s internal processes, systems, choices, employees and/or business model?

An employee relationship is skewed away from a partnership into a boss-subordinate paradigm.  There is a place for both relationships.  Given the availability of experienced employees, the boom and bust of our business model, especially in those businesses dependent on construction timelines, there is a good argument for a blend of both.

Over the next few years, we are going to see an aging population of competence and experience leave the workforce.  The marketplace is already short of competent personnel to hire.  We are already seeing fewer young people engage in the trades, and we are seeing many choose to run their own businesses, favoring entrepreneurship over employee status.  Perhaps there is a win/win in this opportunity for better efficiencies as trusted partners become ‘New Age Contractors”.  Cultivating trusted partners and supporting a more entrepreneurial workforce might lead to improved accountability and more profits.

Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn Sanford is the President of LincEdge, a software developer which supports accessing and sharing labor resources across the CI channel. She is a CPA, a CEDIA Fellow and co-founded an award-winning custom install firm whose success spanned 23 years.

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