“First of all, I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you guys have, and there’s no way you can do better than I can. As a matter of fact, I could teach you guys a thing or two about how to reduce costs”.

Nope, the Sourceror didn’t make that quote up. It’s from an actual meeting with a client contact just a few weeks ago. But it gets better folks, really it does.

“So that said, if I know I can do the work myself, why would I use your company and share the savings, when I can produce the same results for the company without paying you a fee?”

Well, that’s not as insulting, anyway, it borders on a business question.

So despite my intuition to ask the fellow “what’s your problem buddy”? or “how’d you get this job right out of the alligator training academy”? I sat still and played nice; although it took some discipline.

After all, this super-duper cost-cutting VP of HR (yes, I said VP of HR) had posed the million dollar question; the make/buy question. Many clients, rational, reasonable, not those who sing “I can do anything better than you can” ad infinitum, clients ask the make buy question. It’s a sensible, legitimate question any responsible shepherd of company assets would pose when considering the addition of a 3rd party resource.

It’s also the old school question. When I hear that question, I want to reach into my Sourceror's bag and pull out my dinosaur hat. Then I’d put the hat on and ask “guess why I’m wearing this hat”. The client would respond “I dunno, why?” and I’d say, “because as long as we’re thinking like dinosaurs here, I want to look like one”. I know, I’d get the gate in a lot of instances, but that’s why it’s a wish, instead of a strategy.

But the thinking holds true, because make v. buy is investigation than is required. Make v. buy relies on a monstrous multi-part, assumption upon which Mr. VP HR stakes his self fulfilling reputation.

What Mr. VP HR is relying on is that he will be able to produce the same level of result, as quickly, as efficiently, and as effectively as the 3rd party resource, because unless he can do that, make v. buy is out the window. And here’s the best part; if he “had time”. Any of us who’ve done the work we do know it’s only available to us because the existing internal resources don’t “have time”, right? He asked with a wink.

But at least that window of excuse for Mr. VP HR opens the window to the real discussion. The question is not “make v. buy” anymore, so much as it’s “what will produce the optimal result?”

Mr. VP HR’s examination is not so much a question of what’s the best investment for the company, of he’d be analyzing the decision from an output perspective, rather than a ‘me v. you” perspective. In the new paradigm the assumption that an career HR guy, one who dabbles in cutting benefits to employees every few years as his legacy for cost reduction, is likely not the best choice to optimize costs across an entire company. As a matter of fact, he’s not the best choice in any paradigm. The decision to put resources to task should never be a “we v. they”. It’s a best available athlete, best cost, best output evaluation.

So when faced with that line of questioning, you may not need to put on your dinosaur hat, but you should at least tell your clients that you have it ready.

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