Imagine you decide to tackle a challenging hike. To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, you wisely hire a knowledgeable guide. You prepare diligently. You learn about the terrain, practice techniques, and build trust with your guide. After months of preparation, you feel ready to tackle the hike. Excited and a bit nervous to test your new skills, however, you’re confident that your preparation has you well-equipped.

But partway through the hike, things take an unexpected turn. Without explanation or warning your guide mysteriously disappears. A new guide from a different group appears in their place.

How do you feel now?

Surprise, a touch of bewilderment, a sense of being caught off guard?

Questions bubble up. Did you miss a crucial turn?

What other surprises lie ahead?

Naturally, you’d seek an explanation from your guide, wondering how this unexpected twist aligns with your carefully planned journey. But they are nowhere to be seen.

Understanding the Emotional Experience for clients

Let’s step out of the hiking boots for a moment. It’s safe to say this unexpected turn of events would leave you a bit surprised and bewildered and possibly set the stage for a host of other emotions and reactions that may not serve your project.

These are the types of experiences and emotions that clients feel when a vendor change catches them out partway through a project.

As a client, know that these are understandable reactions. As a vendor, know that these are understandable reactions. The next step is – what you do to get ahead of the feelings and frustrations and how you work together to consolidate progress to date and not lose quality or focus on the project objective.

Surprise: The suddenness of the acquisition can catch our client off guard. Surprise is one of the shortest-lived emotions. It is replaced quickly, what it is replaced by can be influenced by a capable and thoughtful vendor.

Bewilderment: Our client may feel unsure about how this new development will impact their project and their working relationship. They may be puzzled as to why they were not ready for the change.

Concern: Worries about potential disruptions, changes in communication, or shifts in project priorities may arise for our client.

Anxiety: Our client teams may become anxious about the future of their project, especially if there’s a lack of clarity regarding the new arrangements.

Frustration: Our client might feel frustrated. If the acquisition wasn’t communicated well or it introduced complications to their plans, then being ready for some challenging conversations would be wise.

Distrust: Our client might question whether the vendor’s new ownership will align with their priorities. A capable new owner will be ready for this.

Curiosity: The client may have a desire to understand the implications of the change and how it will affect ongoing collaboration.

Optimism: Depending on how the acquisition is presented, the client may feel optimistic about potential benefits or enhanced resources. Ideally this is the feeling that clients are ultimately left with.

Vendor Transitions: Expectations vs Reality

Recently, we have experienced multiple examples of changes to vendor ownership and structures mid-project. How these changes are shared with clients can significantly impact the feelings the client has about the change and the continued project progress.

As with many things in life and projects, outcomes depend on how the transition is managed.

Delightful Possibilities:

  • New ownership brings expertise and resources, enhancing functional delivery.
  • Improved communication protocols under new ownership lead to clearer project updates.
  • Fresh leadership injects energy into the team, fostering collaboration.
  • Proactive communication from the new owner strengthens client-vendor relationships.
  • Improved processes contribute to meeting project deadlines.
  • A fresh perspective introduces innovative solutions to challenges.

Disastrous Scenarios:

  • Change disrupts ongoing development, causing delays.
  • Communication breakdowns lead to uncertainty and frustration.
  • Internal changes may demotivate vendor team members, affecting productivity.
  • Unclear communication erodes trust, straining partnerships.
  • Ownership transition disrupts workflow, leading to missed milestones.
  • Shifting priorities and uncertainties impact the quality of work.

An acquisition can be positive. It can bring additional resources reach and expertise to your project. It can bolster your vendor’s experience and improve their depth of skills. However, accessing that resource and expertise can prove difficult if the vendor hasn’t planned carefully.

When working with multiple vendors on a complex project the negative examples can impact other partners (especially if there are dependencies between vendors). This, in turn, leads us down the finger pointing path. Where vendor partners start to apportion blame and shirk their responsibilities rather than the more productive collaborative focus on problem solving. If we descend to this place the client and the project both lose.

How vendors introduce the new party to your project team is important. Consider the following suggestions for managing the experience from a client perspective.

  • Communicate proactively: Reach out to clients as soon as the ownership change is confirmed. Initiate the conversation and give clients an understanding of timing of the transition.
  • Clearly Define Roles: Outline the roles, responsibilities and relationships with the new ownership and the existing team. Allow the client team the opportunity to ask any questions.
  • Make a Plan: Develop a transition plan that includes timelines, milestones, and key contacts from the new ownership. Share this plan with the client, so they have a clear understanding of what to expect.
  • Meet the People: Schedule meetings with the client team to discuss the change, answer questions, and address concerns. Provide a forum for open and honest dialogue.
  • FAQ’s: Create an easy-to-access place to answer common client questions and provide clear answers. This can serve as a reference point during client discussions.
  • Continuity: Don’t just say you’re committed to project continuity and quality. Do something about it! Review the project plan and the new acquisition activities and identify any possible shortfalls or delays.
  • Transition Manager: If you have capacity, appoint a dedicated person to manage the transition. Serving as a point of contact for the client.
  • Consistent Updates: Regular communication with the client team through the transition. Provide updates on progress and any adjustments to the plan.
  • Escalation Approach: Communicate escalation procedures in case issues arise during the transition. Clients should know who will help them address concerns promptly.

6R Retail’s Approach: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

We understand the complexities of vendor transitions mid project. Whilst we strive to navigate these changes effectively, reality often presents significant challenges. In a perfect scenario, when a vendor transition introduces new expertise or resources, we would be able to integrate these into the project, aiming for improved quality and innovation. However, aligning with new leadership is a complex task, especially when values and visions aren’t quite simpatico.

So, we focus on maintaining productive intent. Keeping the lines of communication open and following up regularly when communications break down. We have faced situations where vendor transitions, which we hoped would be catalysts for project improvement, turned into significant challenges due to a lack of vendor transparency, capacity and alignment.

If you’re a vendor navigating these changes, please consider the emotions of your client and their project team. Look to not just reassure but also to take positive action. Show that you care for the client relationship through your transition.

Those who do think about this and take proactive action on it are the superior vendors. These are the ones everyone wants to work with.

Ready to secure your project’s success amidst the unpredictable nature of vendor transitions?

Contact us today to discuss how we can support your specific needs and help you achieve your strategic objectives, even in the face of unforeseen challenges.

Book your call here.