IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Bringing in Contract Help

Independent workers can help supplement your team and extend your reach. By Hank Hogan

MSPS HATE TO SAY “NO” to new business. But what happens if staff is booked, the request requires something they don’t know how to do, or the location is remote? One way to get to “yes” would be to hire a full-time employee with the necessary expertise, or to fly one across the country. That, however, is “quite expensive and oftentimes overkill,” says Sean Warren, business manager for ImagIT Solutions. Based in Chicago, ImagIT provides another way to get to “yes”: contract IT services.

IT Solutions of Little Rock, Ark., uses contractors to supplement the firm’s internal team, in part because it’s difficult to find local talent, according to CEO Chris Davis. Utilizing contractors has also reduced human resource expenses, a benefit to the bottom line, he adds.

IT solution provider BLM Technologies not only uses contractors for its internal needs, but has created a nationwide contract labor division called FlexForce to support its clients around the country. To do so, Plymouth, Minn.-based BLM rigorously vetted technicians proficient in today’s key technologies located in all 50 states. According to Kevin Flaherty, BLM president and CEO, this approach allows the targeting of a specific skillset. That leads to superior results, much like using the right wrench when tightening or loosening a nut.

The price of contractor help depends upon the scope of work. ImagIT, for instance, offers four primary pricing categories: pre-paid hour blocks, service-level agreements, flat project rate, and ad hoc.

"You have to approach hiring a contractor as if you’re hiring a W-2 employee.”Kevin Flaherty, President and CEO, BLM Technologies

There can be drawbacks to depending on contractors, though. In Davis’ case, it’s not uncommon for projects or support requests to mandate an on-site visit. That can be a problem if the contractor for that client is remote, which is often the case. “Our on-site schedule is overflowing,” Davis laments.

And while BLM’s Flaherty says contractors rarely, if ever, attempt to steal clients, customers sometimes do try to hire independent workers directly. That seldom succeeds, Flaherty adds, because contractors typically aren’t interested in full-time, single-source employment. For insurance and to prevent problems, however, BLM has agreements in place to protect against poaching by clients of contractors or vice-versa.

Flaherty recommends treating contractors as an extension of your team. “From the start of the process to the end, you have to approach hiring a contractor as if you’re hiring a W-2 employee,” he says. This means keeping track of performance, doing background checks, executing nondisclosure agreements, and making sure there is a personality fit.

Another reason for keeping close tabs is that contract employees will have access to sensitive information and technology systems. As Flaherty says, “You’re letting them into the vault.”

Image: iStock

About the Author

HANK HOGAN is a freelance writer in Reno, Nev.

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