How NOT to Hire an Expert: The Steamroller

How NOT to Hire an Expert: The Steamroller

Sometimes when we hire expert help, we don’t end up getting what we wanted and are left with something we don’t even know what to do with. This is fairly obvious when the expert is a personal stylist or decorator (anyone remember the straw wall on Trading Spaces?), but what about in your business? What if the expert you hire is coming in like a steamroller? I like to call them “expert” steamrollers.

Typically, any expert you hire is going to come in with the best of intentions. They’ve done this for somebody before, and they know how this is going to work. Unfortunately, instead of taking the time to discover your needs and nuances and really understand the results you’re after, they arrive with a set agenda.

The really challenging thing here is that this type of expert tends to have very slick marketing. When delivering only one set thing, it’s pretty easy to package it up and put a lovely bow on it. The client gets sold a result they are interested in, but it might not be exactly the result needed. Or it’s not delivered in a way that is useful for the particular business or organization.

Then, when the expert is done and the engagement is over, the expert thinks they’ve done a great job, and the client is left with something that doesn’t add value.

Listen to Season 2: Episode 17

Why You Hire Experts

The whole point of hiring an external agency or expert is to engage with someone who has more knowledge than you do and is helping you to grow, improve, or add capacity. Pretty much if you’ve listened to any episode this season, you’ve heard me say this.

When you get an expert steamroller, you don’t achieve any of this. More often than not, you end up with an asset that doesn’t fit your business, you’ve spent time and energy on something that’s not adding value, and then you have to go through the additional resource drain of dismantling it—or trying to work with it before any benefit of the work can be felt. Ugh!!

The big question is: how do you avoid hiring an expert steamroller?

What to Look for When Hiring an Expert

First, when you’re looking to hire, be careful of really polished marketing. Credit here to Tara Newman who says, “You can tell the real experts by their crappy marketing.” And in my experience, this holds up.

When someone is really in touch with delivering high-value service, they’re caught up in the how and quality and the best way to do things. It’s actually pretty difficult for them to step back and put on the marketing view.

That’s not to say that quality services don’t have great marketing. It’s just one of those signals to be extra diligent.

Next, tune in to their ability to listen. The best external agencies and experts to hire will actually help you figure out what you need so that they know the right problem to solve. And this requires serious skill around asking questions and listening carefully.

If your expert spends 90% of the time talking, this is a warning sign of a steamroller.

If your expert asks intelligent, probing questions and spends at least 50% of the time listening, these are the hallmarks of an expert, or external agency, that is able to help you identify what you need and then apply their expertise accordingly.

Where You Might Find an Expert Steamroller

A common place where I’ve seen people encounter expert steamrollers is around technology choices, especially in the realm of websites. I’ve heard from many teams and businesses that have had a technology choice dictated to them for a website. And after the fact, they’ve had a really hard time using it.

A usual suspect here is WordPress. WordPress is fantastic. We use it all the time, but it is not the right choice for every website. Many teams who have a WordPress site have struggled with it because it was created for them without understanding how they needed to use it.

When you get handed a piece of technology that’s not configured for your use cases and doesn’t fit with how you need to work, it can be wildly frustrating. The reason this is a place where expert steamrollers are regularly encountered is because they know how to do it on a particular platform. Truth of the matter is, there are a lot of good platforms out there. The “best” one is dependent on what you’re trying to achieve with your website, the business outcomes you want, and the resources and constraints inherent with your specific business.

Avoid Hiring the Wrong Experts

When you can identify a potential expert steamroller early, you can either avoid hiring the wrong person or get really clear on how to work with them. As a client, you have the right and obligation to say no when something is not a fit. And the expert has the obligation to listen, understand, and help you find the right outcomes and the way to get there that works for you, your organization, and your team.

The fun’s not done yet! In the next episode of Leverage Your Spark, we continue talking about how NOT to work with an expert. And we’re still talking about steamrollers, but it’s when the client is the steamroller. Are you guilty?

Interested in getting more value from the experts you hire? At FieryFX, we know a thing or two about getting the most from working with experts. Plus, we’re experts in strategy, websites, analytics, smart business, and technology. Find out how to benefit from hiring an expert by booking a consult with us.

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