I used to hide a smile when seeing the terms “and Associates” or “we,” when obvious, single-person Firms would hand me a business card, or I would read information about “them.” We fast-forward to the worst economic times since the ‘30’s, and business models have transformed, specifically 'Us.' My rationale for utilizing the plural is simple: I draw upon multiple sources who can produce designs, act as Construction Managers, and/or are Landscape/Irrigation Contractors. Simply put, these are trusted resources that only time and actual, working relationships can and have produced - they are critical to my success. It’s ‘the’ way that I have found to lower overhead, speed production, and enable Owners to keep costs down among all facets of a Project.
By honing this list of Individuals and/or Companies, I am also getting the best Service possible for Clients through higher volume and more frequent contact with Individual Businesses. On the flip-side, I have even reaped contacts for future work. It’s just that elementary, and indeed, a win-win for everyone involved. I simply avoid newer Firms or Companies that no one on the “Ghost Team” has a relationship with and most importantly, could become casualties of the Recession. In the worst case scenario, a ‘trickle-down’ fiasco is a certainty, for the whole of the Ghost Team.
It was once a cardinal sin to express yourself as a multiple-person Firm, only to be ‘called on it’ and confess that you were an Individual. Times have certainly changed: Clients are much more money-conscious, the norm has shifted to such Business models, and Service is, in effect, more-focused in this manner. In order to ‘stay-tuned,’ enable, and communicate, I am also involved with several Social Media platforms, further facilitating active contacts, entertaining and/or incorporating newer technologies, and self-promoting the Business, on a shoestring budget. In addition, potential Clients and Owners have the opportunity to read blogs, gleaning 'personality' or 'what to expect,' prior to an initial meeting.
Billable rates are about as contentious as I have ever experienced and vary dramatically, in some cases, even month-to-month for folks who are desperate for Work. In order to effectively-compete, I have found that variances in rates, specific to each task in a Scope of Work, is the solution. This is especially-critical if multiple Projects hit at the same time. Simply-put, I shall not let Customer Service slip from my list of Guiding Principles. It’s easy enough to call one of the Contacts of the Ghost Team to ‘take over,’ either acting as an Outside Consultant or Subconsultant, taking over a portion of the Scope completely. The high degree of confidence I have in these Individual(s) insures that the transition is smooth, either unnoticeable or clear for the Client. Either method (Outside Consultant or Subconsultant) lightens the load and allows for additional marketing, accounting time, or other Business tasks to be accomplished.