"Where 'oh Where are my Sub-contractors??!!"
A CTO's guide to dealing with a field workforce

Rahul Patel

Chief Executive Officer

• Established on-demand services platforms including Technites (on-demand handyman app), Tasknites (on-demand research) and Logistics (ride and delivery) in over 15 African countries

• 18 years commercial experience across Technology, Telecoms, Travel, Financial Services, Loyalty, FMCG, Retail and Education industries

• Specialist in launching new products, services and brands across different geographies (Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa) • 1st class honours BSc Economics graduate from University College London and Alumni of The Marketing Academy

Listen to my 12 min interview with ScottCundill.com on ""Where 'oh Where are my Sub-contractors??!!" - A CTO's guide to dealing with a field workforce"

Ken is going grey at an alarming rate - the bit of hair that he still has left, that is.

He is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at a large national telecommunications company.  He’s currently overseeing fibre installation at various sites all around the country and has his hands full trying to keep control of all the sub-contractors he needs to use to get the job done.

Ken is known for his ability to juggle many projects at once and his ‘can-do’ attitude and professionalism has earned him a good reputation at the company, but now Ken is beginning to feel that he is losing his grip on this fiber rollout project.

1. Cowboys in the industry.

Ken can’t be everywhere at once and must rely on sub-contractors to roll out the company’s fiber installations.  The challenge is that in his dealings with these sub-contractors, there are a number of these guys that are not as dependable and professional as he would like them to be.

In fact, Ken has found that a lot of these guys are known as “cowboys” in the industry because they are all talk and no walk. They promise the world but don’t deliver.

They assure him that everything is compliant and above board, but Ken can’t be really sure if what they say is the truth.  

Ken needs sub-contractors that he can rely on to do the job and help establish the infrastructure the company needs to expand the business, but some of these guys are just “bakkie brigades” that are less than reliable and always full of excuses when they don’t disappear altogether.

He’s encountered a few of these “bakkie brigade cowboys” already in the field, who have left him in the lurch, and has to regularly organise back-up plans and other damage control strategies to fill in for where these dodgy guys fall short.   

2. Real-time tracking

Because there are several sub-contractors working in various locations at any given time, it gets tough for Ken to monitor the progress of each of them.

If he’s dealing with a “cowboy” then whenever he calls to find out how things are going, the guy lies and says it’s all going swimmingly and according to schedule.  Yet, on a few occasions, he’s pitched up on site unannounced only to find that everything is running hopelessly behind and the work is sub-standard.

Moreover, if the sub-contractor was supposed to be installing fiber for a business, Ken has to deal with the added stress of a business that will now have to wait longer than expected to make use of the fiber it needs to trade efficiently.

In these instances, Ken gets it in the neck and not the dodgy contractor.

3. Pay per use

These sub-contractors also don’t come cheap.

Many of them are small operations and require half of their payment upfront before they get started, but a couple of them have taken this money and fled because vetting them properly wasn’t an option before taking them to task with the installation.

Ken has had to resort to keeping some sub-contractors on a retainer and occasionally even taken on a few full-time so he can be sure that he has some teams that he can bank on.

This causes added complications for him because they must now be paid even when they aren’t doing anything and those who are now employees will not be easy to fire if they stop delivering on their promises.

4. Uber-like star ratings

Ken spends a lot of time at the airport these days flying from one city to another to manage the various fiber installation sub-contractors. He feels like a Primary School teacher constantly checking up on the kids in his class because he can’t trust that everyone will do as they promised.

Catching an Uber to one of the sites he wishes that there was a way he could set up a process of rating his sub-contractors in the same way as he rated his driver after his arrival.

If he could rate his sub-contractors in a similar way then he would be able to gauge, which of his sub-contractors were high-performing and which were not.

5. Business Impact

Whenever something goes wrong with one of the sub-contractors the buck stops with Ken.  In one instance he hired a sub-contractor who then sub-contracted to someone else, who happened to have a criminal record.

This guy was then caught shortly thereafter orchestrating cable theft.  Despite the fact that Ken had nothing to do with hiring this guy directly, he was the one who had to take the heat and the heads of the telecommunications company were upset with him for the negative publicity that ensued when the story broke in a local newspaper.

6. Training and Vetting

Ken wracked his brain because he knew there must be ways of vetting and training these sub-contractors before sending them out into the field. It was his reputation that was at stake after all!

He wanted to pull the few grey hairs he had left out when he thought of a sub-contractor he had recently checked-in on who didn’t even know what a cable-tie was!

If only there was an app like the one he used to get from the airport to the installation site that paid sub-contractors as and when they were needed and could be relied upon to only send top-rated, reliable and vetted guys.

If you’re constantly finding yourself in the same boat as Ken, contact us, we can help you.

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