Leadership retreat – Selecting the best vendors to deliver peak performance (Part 1)

One of the inevitable things about corporate retreats is that, at some point, you must engage third-party hands. That places an enormous responsibility on you because you will be virtually relying on the competence of a person, persons, or organization that don’t work with you on a day-to-day basis. You are basically sticking out your neck with the hopes that whoever you engage for your event will deliver as expected. This can be a nervous duty to discharge because even on their best days, great vendor get it wrong. Whilst the choice of vendors might appear complicated, it can be deconstructed by employing some techniques commonly used by human resources managers in deciding whether to hire certain talents. You are basically scouting for great talent, even though it won’t be on a permanent basis – the processes are similar.

1.Check for Competence
Even for arguably established brands, as a rule of thumb, do your due diligence. You must conduct your research to see through the smoke screen regarding what a vendor says it can do and what they can actually do. In a world where propaganda has been used to greatly blur the line between perception and reality, it’s only proper to interrogate every claim to know whether it checks out. Reputation is what people say they are, character is who they really are. Go through their platforms on new media and look for customer reviews, ratings, and feedback. Look at their client portfolio, are there top organizations that have also engaged them for similar services?

Nothing should be off the table when vetting a vendor, whatever concession or negligence on your part might end up being penny wise but pound foolish. You don’t want to find out on the day(s) of the corporate retreat that the vendor is incompetent or lack adequate resources to execute your task. Some vendors are shell companies who merely exist to receive gigs from client only to equally outsource the heavy lifting to another vendor. The challenge with this is that contractors are not necessarily team members, they are an aggregation of common economic interests – the required culture that forges cohesive and significantly productive work is typically missing.

2.Check for Compatibility
After getting a fair picture of the competence of a potential vendor, you then juxtapose it with not just your organization’s expectations but your brand values too. This is the subtle difference between competence and compatibility. Thus, it’s very possible for a vendor to be competent but lack the preferred nuances that are consistent which your organization’s ideals. Branding is just about possessing a different business nomenclature; it’s about having a unique selling proposition – it’s the big distinguisher between one vendor and another. Finding a match means finding the why beyond the finding the what. Two vendors may be operating in the same industry but their strategic and operational execution may vary.

For example, Vendor A has a history of working with top organizations, known for looking the part at events, a flexible return/refund policy, keeping to time and exuding professional courtesy. Vendor B are equally renowned, requires full payments before service and don’t have their aesthetic game on lock. Any person looking to hire from these two vendors clearly has enough information to make a solid decision. Whilst they might offer similar services, they are worlds apart when their respective comparative advantages are placed side by side. Your objectives for a leadership retreat must always match the specific skillset and service offerings of a chosen vendor. A vendor can be good but not good for you; there must be a culturally fit.

3.Check for Creativity
This criterion goes a step extra; beyond being competent and compatible, it is about creativity in developing a custom service. You want to find out if a potential vendor can curate or develop an experience that is peculiar to your organization. At this stage, what is question is not the vendor’s work ethic but their capacity to deliver a signature event. For most vendors, they have a common playbook for all their clients; it’s just rinse and repeat with a little or no creativity. It’s not out of place to demand branded deliverables if you can afford it. Custom services also mean that the training or session is a direct response to the identified challenges or objectives of the client; generic content usually has little impact because of how difficult it is to relate with. For example, some organizations require speaker or third-party training facilitators to brand their materials with the clients’ brand elements. Same goes for production of stationeries, event designs, souvenirs, clothing etc.
Watch out for the concluding part next week.

Dr. Abiola Salami is the Convener of Dr Abiola Salami International Leadership Bootcamp,The Peak Performer Recognition,The Peak Performing Woman of The Year and Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of The Peak PerformerTM. He is the Principal Performance Strategist at CHAMP – a full scale professional services firm trusted by high performing business leaders for providing Executive Coaching, Workforce Development & Advisory Services to improve performance. You can reach him on hello@abiolachamp.com and connect with him @abiolachamp on all social media platforms.

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