Reading Time: 3 minutes
One of the attributes that often distinguishes construction projects from other business projects is the need to juggle multiple project vendors. It might be the electrician, the painting contractor, and the plumber. Or, if you’re a non-profit or event planner perhaps it’s juggling a florist, band, and caterer. You may even find that your role requires juggling all of those vendors while on site, at the same time.

I was recently involved in planning an event at a local restaurant. It was held in a large room used for weddings, receptions, fund-raising events, and community meetings. The evening event included a six-piece band that the venue wouldn’t allow in for set-up until an hour before the event. Have you ever tried moving a six-piece band into a new space with only an hour to set up, do sound check, and grab a bite of dinner before a four-hour show? One hour just doesn’t cut it!

Does this challenge sounds familiar? Here are seven tips to help juggle multiple project vendors.

Have one person read all vendor contracts and understand the details.

It’s tempting to want to divide duties on a large project, but there is no substitute for one person understanding all of the details – like the fine print on the restaurant’s paperwork that specifies that no one is allowed into the space until an hour before the event.

Know who you are dealing with.

When you’re dealing with others, it’s essential to understand who these entities are. You will be dealing with a person, who represents someone else. Is it a national chain with no autonomy, or the owner of a small local company? If you understand the other person’s ability to negotiate, you can structure your conversations with some empathy.

Understand your hot issues.

When you need to juggle multiple project vendors, remember that their hot issues may not be your hot issues. They may or may not share your interest in sustainability, cost control, or a pressing deadline. You need to pick your battles, just like a parent has to do when their children are young.

Put yourself in the position of others.

Think ahead about the needs of others. I recently attended a wedding and the beautiful photography site for family photos had to be moved at the last minute because the grandmother of the bride couldn’t find a parking spot and was late. Sometimes, reality interferes.

Don’t be a jerk. Avoid working with jerks.

Some kind words and a little understanding goes a long way and is usually repaid. Put yourself in the position of the restaurant owner who keeps prices lower by booking multiple events on the same day.

Think ahead – particularly for the short term.

While I have never been a huge fan of Gantt charts and detailed long-term schedules, I am a big fan of thinking ahead about the next few days or weeks. Is an electrician going to need to cut off the power to the site, thus putting the painting contractor in the dark? Do you have so many vendors arriving on site that parking will become problematic? Is the weather looking like it’s going to wreak havoc on your plans?

Look for win-win solutions.

When you need to juggle multiple project vendors, it helps to remember that all of the vendors are in business to solve problems, make some money, and do a little good in the world. Can you start with the perspective that they want to help you? Engage them on the importance of your project. Then look for solutions that let everyone be a winner.

Do you frequently juggle multiple project vendors? Perhaps you have some great suggestions and can share them in the comments.