Ever been burned by a consultant? You’re not alone. But they’re not all bad and it’s not necessarily intentional. But we do have to do our part to protect our business and our sanity. In this episode, we talk about the most common pitfalls to watch out for and how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
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Question and Challenge Authority
We’re doing things a little bit differently today, so fair warning, I'm going to be telling some stories! However, they're important to set the stage for the message I want to convey.
When I was a teenager, I had a pretty big problem with authority. And while it didn't serve me well back then it has certainly served me well as an adult. So mom, if you're reading this, sorry, not sorry.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to have a problem with authority too when it comes to the consultants you work with. While they are the experts and you definitely need them to grow your business, I want you to be sure that you know enough about what you're passing off to know if they're doing a good job. Or at the very least, not be afraid to speak up when something doesn't feel right to you. Don't just take them at their word.
Now, I'm certainly not a conspiracy theorist and I don't think everyone is out to screw each other over. But I have learned that many of these consultants, especially developers, will do things the quick and easy way without considering how you're going to manage it all on your own later.
Look, I'm not mad. It makes sense from their point of view but as the CEOs of our businesses, it's up to us to do our due diligence and protect our interest. I know because I've been through this shit more than once. If you've listened to the intro of my podcast, then you've heard me say, I'm sharing the things I learned the hard way, so you don't have to.
After being the only employee of a seven-figure eCommerce store for three years I've worked with a lot of developers, SEO agencies, marketing agencies and more. While I knew a good amount of things about eCommerce, I didn't know all the things, so I had to trust in what these people were doing because they were the experts. I learned pretty quickly that I needed to make sure I was doing my own research and sticking up for myself.
Trust your gut and recognize red flags
A great example of this was the first website we had for the business. I wasn't technically the eCommerce manager yet and I had a ton of other responsibilities in my existing position. I wasn't at all involved in the initial decisions or set up because the company had used a consultant to do that. She had a particular developer she worked with at the time and I had no direct access to him. Red flag number one.
Additionally, he was based in India, so we often struggled with the time difference and getting things done quickly. The site they built was on Magento and it used a pre-built theme – very similar to what you experience on Shopify. When they customized the theme to fit our branding, instead of using the pre-built theme options that allow you to alter the colors and fonts, they hard coded everything. When I tried to tweak something all of the hard coding overrode that and nothing worked.
There was also a time when I asked about adding videos to our products and they sent me a quote for some ridiculous number of hours that it was going be expensive, and we were just getting started. So I decided to do a bit of my own research and see what I couldn't figure out. Turns out the theme already had the ability to add videos and if they had ever given me the documentation, I could have figured that out much faster.
You shouldn't need a developer to make small edits to your website
Here's the thing, if you are a small business owner, and you need a developer to make simple updates, like adding a banner to your homepage or updating a text color, something's probably not right. And I've already worked with numerous clients who, when they first came to me, they have these super customized hard coded websites, and they can't change anything on their own.
Hey, when you're a big ass business making a shit ton of money and you can afford to have a developer on retainer to make those kinds of updates for you – that's awesome. But why would you want to, especially if there's actually a way for them to add it into your content management system, where you go to make those edits on your own? Or you could give it to a team member who doesn't cost nearly as much as a developer.
The other place I see this happen a lot is with the Klavyio email marketing platform. I've worked with multiple clients who had their initial setup done by other agencies and turns out that they actually fucked it up. One of those clients ended up with all of her emails going into the junk box and another one of my clients waited months to have her migration from another platform completed, only to learn they didn't actually do it correctly. After she struggled, she reached out to her network to find somebody to help her and that's how she ended up finding me.
Now I'm gonna go in and fix stuff for her and I'm so happy to do it. I want to support and help these people, especially when it comes to Klavyio because I love the platform and eCommerce too.
But it’s bullshit that they have to pay someone to fix something that they paid someone else to do. It really drives me batty. It's one of the main things that keeps me motivated in this business because, as I meet more and more female entrepreneurs, it almost feels like no one's looking out for them.
It's become one of the pillars of my brand because I want to make sure badass female entrepreneurs aren't getting fucked over by shitty consultants. It’s why when I work with clients, I explain the why and the how behind everything I do, even if they don't particularly want me to.
Most of you guys just want it done for you, which I totally get. But I'm gonna teach anyway because that's how I roll and ultimately, I want you to work with me because you want to not because you have to.
How do you avoid getting screwed over by consultants?
The first thing is, you need to recognize when something isn't right. And that comes with a little bit of research and a little bit of intuition. For me, I didn't always know what the right way was, but I knew something was off. Running a website and email marketing takes work, but it shouldn't be cumbersome and difficult to do these little things.
Please know, if you need to ask your developer to change a homepage banner, that's not normal. If you see a dip in revenue or your emails start going to junk when you switch to a new platform, that's not normal. If you have Google Analytics hooked up to your site, but the data is wrong and it says you have no traffic or it's not tracking conversions, that's not normal.
Ask lots of questions
I want you to ask questions. I want you to challenge what feels wrong. Do your due diligence, try a couple of Google searches, and get a second opinion. Do all of this before you sign on the dotted line, lean on your communities, talk to other people who are also eCommerce entrepreneurs. Come to the eCommerce Badassery Facebook Group and ask your questions there, I am happy to help! You can even DM me on Instagram, whatever it is, I will definitely chime in and help.
Do the research and educate yourself
As I mentioned before, you really do need to educate yourself on things before you hand them over to someone. Ultimately, it's going to save you so much money and heartache in the end. I promise you that is true. Outsourcing is so important and you need to do that in order to scale, but you've got to own everything that happens in your business too, so don't be afraid to speak up.
Understand the “how” and the “why” behind their processes
If you're paying someone to provide a service for you, you have every right to ask them to explain their logic and process, the why and the how behind what they're doing. If you're looking for a specific functionality or a feature, and they're telling you that it's not doable, search the internet. Seriously.
I can't even count how many times I have sent documentation to my developers on how to accomplish certain things I was looking for. It doesn't make them shitty developers or mean they were going out of their way to screw me over. They can't know everything, either. Nobody can know everything.
You are the CEO and it's up to you to challenge everything and take those extra steps to get what you really need out of it. If you've ever been in this situation, don't feel bad about it, okay? I mean, it's happened to enough people that I recorded a fucking podcast episode and wrote a blog post about it.
The point here is, you need all of those people. It's how you are going to grow your business. But your intuition is strong, my friend, very strong. And doing it the quick and easy way for them is not always the right way for you. I encourage you to stick up for yourself, ask questions. Even if it's uncomfortable, that's part of being a CEO. Take to Google if they're telling you something's not possible.
I hope that this is firing you up to take a little bit more control when you are working with consultants. That goes if you're working with me too. You’re working with a marketing person or an eCommerce strategist and even if it's me, challenge me, that's your job as the CEO.