Contract Renewal Time – Football Analogy for IT Contractors
I don‘t know if any of you are football fans but there is a situation in football that is analogous to contract renewal time for a contractor.
It is when a footballer has less than two years to go on his contract.
There is a lot of posturing and it can be from the footballer or the club.
I‘m sure football fans will be familiar with what happens.
If it is from the footballer side and he wants to go to another club without the other club having to pay a transfer fee. The player will get more money himself so the player strings the club along.
The club may start ‘renewal‘ talks with two years to go on the footballer‘s contract.
The contract talks drag on for a few months. Then the player will announce that he will leave contract talks to the end of the season. He doesn‘t want it to impact on his football. He reassures the fans and club that he is sure that the talks can come to a successful conclusion when both sides have more time at the end of the season.
Michael Owen and his prolonged contract talks with Liverpool is a prime example before his departure for Real Madrid. They bought him for, I think it was, £8m. They played him rarely and then sold him for £17m to Newcastle.
With a year to go on their contracts some footballers are honest. They say that this will be their last year at the club.
Others, to protect their relationship with the fans (and probably their shirt sales and endorsements), string the club and fans along a bit more. They say that they will make a decision on their future at the end of the season. There iss a good chance that they would stay at the club, they say.
Then they go elsewhere.
Suspicious About Contract Renewal
Of course, the club and fans are starting to get a bit suspicious at the 18 month mark.
They suspect that they are being strung along.
The smart clubs tie up their players with two years to go. So, if they haven‘t signed by the 18 month mark they put them on the market whether they like it or not.
Of course some managers and clubs get fooled. They let players go into the last year of their contracts hoping that they will be able to agree something. They then end up losing the player for free.
Of course, it happens the other way round as well with the club stringing the player along as well.
Meaning for IT Contractors at Contract Renewal Time
So, what meaning does this have for contractors?
Contractors are in the same situation.
It will normally take at least a month to get a new contract.
Therefore, with a month to go the contractor needs to know from the agency or client whether they are going to renew him or her.
Going Directly to The Client
It is almost always best to go directly to the client and be straight with them and say that it takes at least a month to get a new contract and you would like some kind of indication as to whether you will get renewed or not so that you can concentrate on the work in hand.
Most contractors contact the agency, those masters of the string-a-long at contract renewal time.
They‘ll contact the agent who will say that they will contact the client.
A week later the contractor calls up the agent who says he has not had an opportunity to talk to the client, but was due to talk to him or her in a couple of days.
After another week, the contractor, who has heard nothing, calls up again and is told that the client was not available to speak to him but that he will call him up.
I don‘t think we need to finish this story.
No Renewal Coming for IT Contractor
Sometimes the company doesn‘t have it as top priority or someone there is a bit slack and the contractor gets a renewal with a few days to go.
It often happens, though, that with a few days to go it suddenly dawns on the contractor that there is no renewal coming.
It will be impossible for the contractor to get a new contract in just a few days.
Therefore the contractor is now going to be a few weeks or a few months, even, on the bench, not earning money buy paying it out.
Contract Renewal Absolute Priority
Contractors should not allow themselves to be strung along just like football clubs at contract renewal time.
This is their absolute priority.
Just as smart football clubs tie up their best footballers early so that they can concentrate on their game so smart companies should wrap up their contractor renewals as soon as they‘ve decided that they want to keep them on.
In fact more companies should do the same as smart football managers like Alex Ferguson did, who signed up footballers who are doing well to longer term more lucrative contracts even if they have 3 years or more to go on their contracts.
Renewal or New Contract Top Priority for Contractors
I don‘t know how many of you have met IT managers who have said to contractors ‘you‘ve done very well since you‘ve joined us and we want to tie you up to a year-long contract with better money starting immediately even though you have 3 months on your current contract to go’.
For contractors, once that one-month-to-go barrier is past, without a renewal, getting a renewal or another contract is the absolute priority and whatever job they are doing at the company should become the second priority.
Too many contractors have it the other way around.
Search for New IT Contract
Don‘t get strung along at contract renewal time.
It happened to me too many times in my career and I‘m sure it has happened in yours.
Use that month to look for other work.
Assume that they are up to something if you seem to be getting strung along and be pleasantly surprised if you are not.
Forget the Work
Forget the work that you are doing.
It may seem very important at the time but in a couple of years you won‘t even remember the work you were doing and in 5 you probably won‘t even remember the project.
Your absolute priority is to look after yourself and if the company don‘t understand that they need, like Alex Ferguson, to tie you up before you have a chance to go elsewhere and so that your number one priority remains your work.
They should expect you to look after yourself to make sure that your business maximises its income the same way as their company would do.
Some football clubs have an absolute deadline.
If footballers haven‘t signed a new contract with them with 18 months to go on their contract then they immediately put them on the market.
Be As Ruthless as Your Client Company
You should do the same.
If the company hasn‘t signed on the dotted line for a new contract with you by say, four weeks to go on the contract then you will start looking seriously for another contract and not allow yourself to be strung along at contract renewal time.
Be ruthless about this.
The company would do the same!
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