There are many benefits to hiring independent contractors to assist with various business projects, but there are risks as well. One of the biggest is having contracted talent back out of a critical work project that they committed to completing.
Unfortunately, such situations aren’t uncommon. And while there is a lot of advice out there to help contractors break a contract gracefully without burning bridges, not all of them will heed it. What is less abundant is advice for organizations that are left scrambling when their outsourced help suddenly opts to back out of a key project.
If a contract worker has left you hanging, you have no choice but to deal with the fallout. Below, nine members of Forbes Coaches Council offer their expert advice on what to do when outside contractors fail to meet obligations at the last minute.
1. Handle The Situation As An Emergency
Handle the situation as an emergency first; then think about what to do. If you are qualified to do that work, execute it yourself. If not, look for referrals from your network. After the fact, if you had a good contract in place with the defaulted contractor, then enforce the contract’s penalty. If not, you know not to deal with them anymore, so move on. Dwelling on it will not help. – Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh, Sahar Consulting, LLC
2. Have A Plan In Place To Source Replacements
Some outsource contracts require the contractor to replace personnel to your satisfaction; otherwise, liquidated damages come into play. When a contractor backs out at the last minute, it’s always good to remind them of their contractual obligations and associated penalties. If they can’t replace personnel, then put Plan B into action as quickly as possible to source replacements. – Kevin Kan, Break Out Consulting Asia
3. Follow Up With Contractors At Regular Intervals
Always trust, but verify. If you’re working with a new contractor, you need to follow up at regular intervals to make sure the necessary progress is being made on your project. As they develop more of a track record with you and mutual accountability and trust forms, you can taper off the regular contact as appropriate. – Jonathan H. Westover, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC
4. Ask For A Formal Termination And Their Rationale
Before jumping to conclusions, ask them to present the reasons and facts around their decision to back out at this late stage. A formal commitment requires a formal exit or termination as well, including a rationale to provide understanding of the mitigating circumstances that caused this to occur. Be professional in your conduct with the contractor and decide your best course of action once you have more details. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory
5. Replace Them Immediately And Pay The Difference
You have to replace them immediately and pay the difference. Letters from lawyers, pleadings and phone calls may not work at the last moment. You need backup—an organization or someone who can help you deliver for your client seamlessly. A client may not notice the difference if the work is conducted very professionally and no timelines are missed. Find a replacement now. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.
6. Keep A Roster Of Multiple Contractor Options
If you use outside contractors, then you should have a process to effectively and efficiently onboard and brief them to set them up for success. You should be keeping notes on each project and following up so that there are no last-minute surprises. You should also try numerous contractors and have a roster of multiple options. They are not employees, so they may not always be available when needed. – Nick Leighton, Exactly Where You Want to Be
7. Build Safeguards And Screen New Contractors
Being put in a bind by a contractor on a project means one thing: You shouldn’t work with them again. To protect your work against unreliable contractors, build safeguards and thoroughly screen those you bring in to work on projects. Once you’ve found someone reliable, ensure that everyone is in sync through open communication so projects aren’t disrupted. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
8. Lay Out The Facts, The Context And Your Observations
State the implications. Then, it’s time to put the ball back in their court. I don’t believe in pushing people into a corner, but do be upfront about how their last-minute decision has impacted you and your expectation that they take responsibility. Explore ways to make it work and reach a professional and fair solution. – Chuen Chuen Yeo, ACESENCE
9. Communicate Openly And Honestly
Ask them why, and don’t ever assume that you understand until you have had a conversation. Ultimately, you cannot change someone’s actions, but you can always learn from the situation. Move on and ensure you are always building your network deep enough with the talent and resources you need so that they can be called upon for support if they are able. – Melanie Towey, Melanie Anne, LLC