Hiring a SharePoint Expert – Dos and Don’ts

Life as a SharePoint consultant in Norway is good these days. People are calling several times every week asking if you can help out on some project. Headhunters seem to have my number on speed-dial.

Sadly, though, I can’t help everyone out. It’s not for lack of want, but with the demand these days, there simply isn’t enough time available. Add to that the fact that I’m also working for USPJA and writing USPJ journals and working with Bob to revive the SharePoint Beagle and planning the new SharePoint Magazine and already having said ‘yes’ to current clients months in advance, and the chances of me having a chance to help out is slim.

There is a downside to this as well. I don’t get to hear about many cool projects because people assume I’ll just turn it down without hearing them out. A while back, I spoke with one of the faculty members about this exact problem. It seems that approachability is a serious issue.

To help prospective clients, not just mine, but probably those of other SharePoint consultants as well, I’ve written down some tips and tricks for making sure that your chances are as good as possible. Even though I write these tips with my experiences in mind, I’ve tried to write them in a generic tone so it applies to others as well.

Regardless, take these tips as advice, not rules.

How To Hire a SharePoint Expert

These item are things that would definitely increase your chances of getting me on your project or team.

Be prepared and do your homework

If you call me to ask for advice on how to best set up your backup or structure your active directory for best performance, chances are, I won’t be worth the money I’m charging.

I am a developer and solutions architect, meaning I create stuff or figure out how stuff could be created. If you ask me to advice you on something that is outside my area of expertise, chances are you’ll either waste money or at least not get the best possible value. I don’t want to ‘taint’ my reputation by not delivering that value, so chances are I’ll turn you down or at least turn you elsewhere.

Instead, if you approach someone, take at least a few minutes, perhaps an hour, to google their names and understand what they do. You’ll likely quickly find what they have as their main focus and you know whether that person fits, at least on the topic.

Be patient and plan ahead

I am booked months in advance. If you call asking if I can help your team out for a project that is due tomorrow or even next week, you’re already three months too late.

Instead, think ahead and ask for advice in advance. If your project is due in December, call now and ask if I can help your team by assisting when they get stuck during the next couple of months. Schedule a review session in early December right now (now is September, by the way. If you’re reading this in December, think April, and so on).

Don’t wait. Stop reading right now if you think there is a chance you’ll need help later.

Be exciting and creative

You may get stuck on trivial problems. All of us have at some point. Most get stuck on some of the same problems. I’ve seen those problems hundreds of times and fixing the same issue over and over isn’t going to give me a proverbial hard-on.

Think of it like this: If you have a chance to watch a thrilling new movie or read last week’s newspaper for the 7th time, all other things being equal, which would you choose? If my options are to do something I find boring or something I find interesting, all other things being equal, guess what my choice would be?

I know, it’s difficult to make your project interesting if it’s a trivial task and you’re just paid to do just that. After all, the client is paying and you can’t just toss in whatever you want. Instead, here’s an idea: See if you may have other projects or ideas that may be a carrot if I do your other work.

Personally, I love teaching and sharing knowledge because it challenges me to take what I learn and ‘fight’ with new opinions to test that knowledge. Perhaps we could look at doing regular workshops to bring new skills to your team? Perhaps you could sponsor a SharePint event where we could share what we did in your project with the community?

Suddenly what may look like a trivial task becomes an opportunity to grow both your team and share with the community and suddenly your project may be much more exciting.

How To Get Hung Up On by a SharePoint Expert

Conversely, there are stuff that you should never do unless you want to waste both your and my time.

Don’t beg

Look, I know you’re in a squeeze and your client demands results. I want to help. Really.

However, if I say that I can’t help you because I’m busy, asking again won’t change that. I have no reason to lie about how busy I am, and in any case, if you begging would cause me to reveal that lie and suddenly have time after all… Well, I wouldn’t hire someone like that, and neither should you.

On the same page, if I’m already booked working for a client and you call to ask me to not work for that client but for you instead, then if I were to accept that, it would put your project in serious jeopardy. What happens when the next desperate soul calls while I’m working on your project? Should I just abandon your ship and go with them? Obviously, I’ve proven that I’d do so if begged properly, so your project delivery would be seriously compromised if begging helped.

Instead, move on or be patient. Ask if I know someone else that may help (chances are no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask). Ask when I’ll have more time.

Don’t forget to ask about terms

I’ve been doing this consulting thing for a while, and chances are that whoever you approach will also have a far amount of experience and know what their preferences are regarding terms.

Personally, I have a few simple rules:

  1. I work as a consultant three days of the week and on other stuff the remaining four days (no, I don’t do breaks in weekends)
    This means I’m not available for full-time employment of consulting
  2. I book contracts on a quarterly basis. 
    This means that I if you hire me, it should be for longer term projects. I usually can’t help you out one day ad-hoc. Usually.
  3. I only sell full days per week.
    I can’t help you out a couple of hours each week. The overhead of travel and unpredictability would kill productivity.

You may feel an urge to negotiate these terms. You may want to hire me for just a week. You may want to ask me to belly-dance and knit mittens, but that’s just not the way it works. You compete with other clients who are willing to accept these terms, so why would I change the terms for you?

Keep in mind, terms vary per consultant. These are my rules, others will have other rules.

Ask in advance what the terms are. If you don’t accept those terms, move on.

Don’t offer more money

Wait, what? I thought money was the real motivator here.

Think again. Contrary to popular belief, market demand doesn’t mean that you can limitlessly increase what you offer in order to secure goods or services. Within reason, of course, I would consider doing code refactoring all day if you paid me a million bucks per hour, but you also need to consider the value you are getting.

To prevent bid wars that take time and demeans all parties, I’ve set my fixed price months ago at approximately US$200 (1200 NOK) per hour. It’s a fair price for what I deliver and you know in advance what you’re going
to pay. We’re already done negotiating terms and can now move on to more interesting stuff.

Offering to increase the price introduces an extra disturbing element. Now, in addition to being good at SharePoint, I also need to be good at negotiation and sales. The negotiation takes time, of which there is a desperately short supply already.

Also, look at this from the perspective of begging. Offering more money is a form of begging. It also increases the pressure on me to increase value, indirectly saying that I’m not producing at peak efficiency unless you give me more money. I always perform to the best of my abilities, and a fair price for that is what I charge.

If the only tool you have to attempt to motivate me to work for you, even after reading this blog post, is more money, then chances are, you’re already failing in all the things I’ve said are going to land you my attention and chances are that the project won’t be a match for me.

Any Last Thoughts?

Please take these tips in the spirit they are offered: as advice on how to land a contract with an in-demand resource. Your mileage may vary with different people.

I’m not trying to sound arrogant by not jumping up and down from joy every time you call. I’m not saying you are a bad person, nor am I trying to say that your problems are less important than others. I just try to be fair and manage the time I have available in the best manner possible while still delivering as much value as possible to as many people as possible.

Oh, and one very, very, very, very, very important tip. The most important one, and a reward only for those who had the patience to read this entire thing: Don’t call me. Send me an email and ask for a time to talk. Text/SMS me. Chances are very high that I’ll be smack in the middle of something and your call will disturb me, distracting from the value I’m already tasked with providing to someone else.

So, now that you know what it takes to hire me, or someone like me, what are you waiting for? Fire off that email and we can get down to business. I look forward to hearing from you and providing exceptional value to you, your organization, team, or project.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

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