Looking to hire a particular type of service provider, but not sure how to get started? From marketing professionals to administrative help to plumbing, flooring installation, and commercial HVAC providers, choosing the right service providers can be tricky and overwhelming.


Solicit Referrals

Typically, the best place to start is by gathering referrals. Solicit referrals from other professionals in the same field. Ask vendors or customers if they know someone they would be comfortable recommending. The best-case scenario would be several people suggesting the same service provider, a reliable indicator of quality service. If you’re not happy with the referral information you collect, consider online directories like Angie’s List, which compile reviews of local businesses and service providers. Once you have a few names of people or companies, you’re ready to move on to the next steps.


Do Your Research

You’ve met people who have had some positive experiences with service providers. Next, look up the providers online. Take a look at the company website, and read the testimonials of other customers. Look for reviews that are not on the company’s website, and are more likely to be unbiased. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed and what kind.

Taking this one step further, look for former employees of the service providers you’re interested in, and reach out to them. Social media platforms, specifically those geared toward networking, like LinkedIn, can help you locate and connect with former employees of the service providers you’re researching. Former employees may be more likely to share less-flattering details about the provider, giving you a fuller picture.


Make Contact


Image via Flickr by Marco Arment

Contact several service providers to get a quick feel for whether a mutual interest exists, describing your business and what you’re looking for from the service provider. Next, schedule interviews with the providers you’re most interested in.

There are several items to look for during the interview process. Consider the provider’s level of experience. Though a provider with less experience may not be a deal breaker, you’ll want to ask about the provider’s experience level with your particular issue. How available is the provider, and does their timeline work with yours? Does the service provider communicate with you in a way that’s easy to understand and do you feel as though you can build a working relationship with them? Take note of the costs and make comparisons to determine what’s reasonable for what you’re asking.


Red Flags

If you find that one of the service providers is charging much less than the others, it may not be a good sign. Another warning may be providers who are reluctant to give references when requested. A provider who isn’t willing to be part of an interview, who runs late, appears disorganized, treats employees discourteously, or is unwilling to put estimates in writing might also indicate a problem.

You want the best possible outcome for your small business, so put in the time to pick the best possible service provider for your job.