The Gig Life – Our Economy Is Changing, Are You Changing With It?
Things are changing all around us and it’s happening at lightening speed.
The workplace, as many of us know it, has been going through a facelift. A facelift commonly referred to as ‘the gig economy’ and despite California’s attempt to curb it via Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) it’s moving forward at the speed of light. Approximately 10% of the US workforce can be classified as a gig, and it’s growing exponentially.
What is the Gig Economy anyways?
It’s an alternative work approach in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers or consulting firms for short-term engagements.
You may be saying, “this doesn’t sound new, so what’s the deal?”
While using temporary labor may not be a new thing, what is very new is the amount of work that is now being facilitated through Gig’s on short-term engagements. (AKA freelance, independent contractors, contingent workers, temporary workers, etc.)
Gig freelancing is taking a much wider foothold in our economy. Today it’s common to find all sorts of work being packaged and facilitated through Gigs whereas before these jobs were considered only as fully employed roles. Management roles, engineering, software, events, cooking, the music industry, professional coaching and even academics are a few examples of work which is now being performed largely by the current day Gig worker. It could also mean you and I having a separate part-time job which we use to bring in extra income on the side. (AKA moonlighting)
For example, there are companies and people who do nothing but provide short term support for other companies which have a need for an interim CEO. There are just as many options for companies who want additional support in doing their product design but don’t want to hire a full time employee because it’s work that is intermittent. These are examples of where Gigs come into play.
They serve a role for a period of time on behalf of a separate organization. Once they’re done they’re off to finding their next opportunity, often times they may have multiple jobs/ projects going on at the same time.
Why are companies and people alike moving in this direction?
As our economy and technology continues to evolve we become less and less reliant on doing business face to face. For those of us who grew up in business when you were expected to be in the office for no other reason than ‘face-time’ you should be happy to know that many companies are moving away from this model. Why? We’re learning, slowly but surely, that ‘face-time’ isn’t productive. Employees can be just as productive from home, at a coffee shop or at the local water hole (not that I recommend that) rather than being shackled to their four foot cubicle for nine hours a day.
Productivity soars thanks to the usage of Gigs because it offers people the ability to do work and do so on their own accord. We often hear people who are Gig’s say they “like working this way because it’s more creative, allows for a better work/ life balance and gives them the ability to choose the work they want to do.” The benefit to the employer utilizing a Gig approach is they can reduce their overhead on costly brick and mortar facilities (estimated at $12k per employee per year) while having work completed by true experts in the field. Employers are also able to onboard new talent and off-board unneeded skills without the burden of employment taxes and paperwork.
Why it is important for me to be aware of ‘The Gig Life’?
The reason you should care about what is going on in the Gig Economy is because very soon we will all need to adjust to this new work style in order to remain competitive.
Now I’ve got your attention!
It’s time we gave some good introspective thought on how we do things at the workplace and whether or not that is the right way to do it. Perhaps your business, your department or your team could benefit from using Gigs to handle freelance work. Maybe in doing so you’ll be able to facilitate a wider volume of business which means more customers, more money and more margaritas on the beach in Acapulco. Maybe your employees are tired of seeing your face on the daily and could use a little R&R while working from home.
Either way, it’s time we all jump on the wagon because whether we like it or not the Gig Economy is here to stay and it promises to only grow as time goes on.
We’ve had an unprecedented amount of commentary and feedback on the original article published in early 2018 covering ‘Picking the Right Supplier’. Given the current economic and supply chain challenges facing many businesses in 2022 we’ve updated the article to reflect today’s business needs in an ever-changing marketplace.
When you need help in your business how do you figure out where to go to find it? Just as important, how do you make sure the help you select is the right one for the job?
The supplier selection process (finding and picking your help) is an important and vital step for any size company. Making the wrong decision can lead to countless hours of wasted time and of course money down the drain. To find the right supplier, a ‘supplier selection process’ is important to develop ahead of time, especially for small and start-up based business where decisions can have a larger impact on the state of the business.
When looking for a new supplier follow these steps to best position yourself and company for success in picking the right relationship for your business:
1. Know What You Need Before You Need It
Two reasons this is important: 1st – if you don’t know what you need how will you be able to explain it to a supplier? If you can’t explain it how will they understand what you need to then be able to successfully deliver on your behalf? When we know what we need, and therefore want, we're better prepared to explain those needs while setting expectations for what a successful partnership looks like. This minimizes miscommunication and opportunity for expectations to fall through. 2nd - Waiting till the last minute to find suppliers often leads to decisions being made which may get you out of a momentary jam but leads to larger problems down the road. For this reason it’s vital you are proactive in establishing relationships with vendors and suppliers before you actually need their help.
2. Finding A Supplier
Referrals, referrals, referrals! Once you know what you need the best approach to finding the right supplier is by reaching out to others in your industry, or local industry associations, to learn who they use, and just as important who they don’t use. Take the time to read reviews, gather intel from people you trust before you start calling potential suppliers. While sites like Thomasnet and Google can provide this information it is likely you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed with information. In the end the most useful data is those that are unbiased or comes from experience which is best collected from trusted resources. Me personally, I would rather work with someone I know, or with someone a close source to me knows, rather than cross my fingers and hope for the best by using an online search. As stated in #1, do the leg work to find suppliers proactively before you actually need it!
3. Be A Detective, Collect Useful Information
It's vital you vet all potential suppliers with the same list of needs, criteria, and expectations this way you can compare each supplier and what they bring to the table. This will help to create an even playing field when looking at a supplier’s capabilities, offering and of course pricing. Below shows an example of what a ‘Supplier Selection Criteria' may look like. Using this type of tool allows you to collect similar information while comparing against other options. It’s important to remove emotion from this process while sticking to facts. Remember – each situation may be different. There may be a time you need something quickly, in this situation ‘quick response’ usually translates to higher cost. Maybe location of your supplier or their experience in your industry is important. Each situation is different and should be viewed as so in order for you to determine what supplier is best fit for your needs.
4. Strategic Thinking & Economies of Scale
Once you know what you need from a supplier it’s important to think about other associated or cross functional activities which need to be done that could be accomplished by a single supplier. The ideal situation is you find a supplier that can do more than just one component of your needs, therefore providing more value in the long run. This also saves time because you have less suppliers and vendors to managed increasing your efficiency and effectiveness. Lastly, its not uncommon when you have one supplier doing several things for you to experience a price break as a result. The flip side may also be true – if you have one supplier dominating a particular part of your business that can also be a risk point as well. Balance is key here while consistently reviewing your relationships, needs and financial output annually.
5. Proactively Learn About Your Suppliers Behaviors
When speaking with a potential new supplier try connecting with the people you will be working with, not just the company’s salesperson. This is important because once the relationship is established most of your time won’t typically be spent with their salespeople rather those delivering the service or product. When courting a supplier pay attention to things like:
6. Economics & Supply Chain
Simply put - can your supplier withstand a downturn in the economy? Do they have a strategy in place for dealing with supply chain issues? I love working with small companies because I think it’s important to support small businesses, however I do often think about their ability to weather the storm from a business continuity perspective. Regardless of the size of the supplier, what is more important is can they continue to meet your needs even when times get tough. If they are a critical supplier to your business it’s worth spending time to learn about this proactively as you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where the economy takes a digger causing your supplier to go belly up or unable to meet its commitments. Your supplier’s inability to manage their business may just leaving you high and dry, in the process causing you to have your own business continuity issues.
In the end, the supplier selection process should ideally come down to three things, in ranked order:
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how affordable or cost effective a supplier is, or how nice they are as people. If they can’t perform, and do so consistently, the other two ultimately don’t matter. I’ve also found that paying a bit more for the right service and relationship often is worth the investment it in the long run despite the extra cost up front. As Benjamin Franklin is quote as saying, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
How many times have we waited too long to address something to later learn our procrastination ended up creating more work and heartache in the end?
This is a daily experience for many businesses pushing off activities which may on the surface seem unimportant or trivial in the moment but lack thereof in the wrong circumstances creates havoc on the business’ leaders and employees alike. Havoc also likes to bring with it a loss of time and funds for what that’s worth.
Enter the Emergency Response Plan (ERP); also referred to as an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
If you’ve ever seen an ERP, or been lucky enough [heavy sarcasm here] to be a part of the team putting one together, you know firsthand this exercise is no walk in the park. A thorough and well-rounded ERP can easily exceed 60 pages in length, we’ve seen them over 200 pages, covering everything from natural disaster planning to emergency health services and of course the latest business challenge - pandemics. Many also include Continuity of Operations Plan (COOPs) which address situations like when employees can’t come to the office but the show must go on. Sound familiar?
Gosh, ERP’s seem pretty important, right?
Exactly, then why is it so many companies, especially companies under 100 employees, don’t have an ERP in place. Not only do they not have a formal document and list of procedures to rely on when the sky falls, little to none of their employees have ever been trained in what to do should an emergency occur.
This is business gambling at its finest hour. Without a plan in place we are accepting an incredible amount of unnecessary risk.
Why do companies choose to put off business planning which includes ERP related procedures and documents? The survey says the #1 answer is ‘they didn’t think they needed it because it [an emergency] wouldn’t happen to them’. Other reasons why companies don’t have an ERP in place is they didn’t know they need one or they’re fire fighting [bad pun given the context of this article] other business needs which require immediate attention.
Whatever the reason may be which has led you to push off implementing an ERP just know this – should the proverbial crap hit the fan putting your business, operations, employees or facility in crisis mode, know that your company and or its directors could be held accountable for a lack of planning or action – especially if lives are at risk.
This is certainly a grim reality and one which isn’t fun to think about.
Let’s hope you’re in a position where you’ve been lucky enough to not experience any emergency or critical situations and therefore haven’t had to activate an emergency plan. If that’s the case we not so subtly suggest you consider the following:
Given the events of 2020 its understandable for businesses and their employees to be on edge about the unknowns ahead of us. Planning ahead of time for possible risks reduces our likelihood that risk develops into a situation which puts our employees or the company in danger. It’s always better to plan and have the plan never go into action than to be unprepared and regret it later on.
In January of this year we were contacted by a company to help create their first ERP as they had just experienced an emergency situation where an employee, we’ll call her Tina, fainted at the office in a common area. Another employee, let’s call him Josh, found her conscious but noticeably shaken up and still on the ground. Josh stayed by Tina’s side and called the paramedics with Tina’s approval. He stayed with her, providing support and comfort until the paramedics arrived; long and short Tina turned out to be okay, she had fainted due to overheating.
A couple months later I asked the company’s VP of Ops about the outcome of the situation to which she shared, “we were lucky Josh of all people found her, Josh was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) when he was in college and jumped right into action. If it had been anyone else, including me, we would have been unprepared not knowing what to do. We had no plan in place whatsoever to deal with a situation like this. Needless to say we’re lucky things ended without further incident and thankful the situation wasn’t worse for Tina. Interestingly enough, Tina and Josh now officially chair our emergency prep team.”
This company got a wakeup call and got lucky the situation wasn’t any worse. Prior to this incident they had no plan in place, no process to deal with crisis’ or emergency situations. Their business and employees were left to chance in dealing with critical moments, moments which can be the difference between life and death.
As Denis Waitley says, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
The names and situations described above have been changed to protect the identify and privacy of the company and individuals involved.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to get an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in place. The ERP acts as a guide providing step by step procedures for emergency situations. Not having a plan in place means you and your company are accepting a potential large amount of risk, risk which isn’t necessary.
Put on your activity list for immediate attention to implement step #1 in this article: Get an ERP type plan in place IMMEDIATELY; even if the plan you put in place initially is a couple pages worth of emergency preparedness, you’ll still be better off than a company that has nothing. The bare minimum requirements should include facility evacuation, emergency health and utility dangers protocols; include heavy equipment/ chemical hazard protocols should they apply.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.