Why you shouldn’t always rely on a recommendation

Great Products ConsultingGeneral, Project ManagementLeave a Comment

Recommendation photo

Getting a recommendation from a friend or an acquaintance is a great way to find people or things – a plumber, a builder, a lawyer, a restaurant, a product, etc. Whatever you need, someone out there has a recommendation for you. In a previous article, I talked about using referrals to find a developer, and in today’s article, I’m going expand on why you shouldn’t always rely on those recommendations – especially when money is involved. When you’re building a platform or mobile app, you need people and tools to make it real, so you need some way to find these things. This article will talk mostly about people, as it’s a lot harder to ditch them when things go wrong – that’s what makes relying on those recommendations a bit trickier.

Not all recommendations are created equal

The first thing to remember is that not all recommendations are created equal. It depends on where the recommendation comes from. If you ask your partner or best friend, chances are, the recommendation is going to be fairly reliable. There’s a lot at stake for the person making the recommendation. They’re not going to recommend a dud – your personal relationship is at stake. If you rely on recommendations from online groups and forums where you don’t know the person, how good can that recommendation be?

However, knowing someone personally doesn’t guarantee success. What you know of someone personally is very different from knowing him or her in a professional capacity. I’ve talked to so many people who hired developers based on personal relationships – and most didn’t work out.

The next thing to note is that the recommendation may not be right for you. Imagine a friend tells you about this great restaurant – “you have to go there!” she says. “The food is great, the service is great, and they do really good cocktails”. Sounds good right? You go to the restaurant, and you don’t like the food. It’s expensive for what you get, and you have a really bad waiter.  So, it happens – not all recommendations turn out the way you expect.

That’s the risk with recommendations. It’s subjective. What worked for someone else, may not work for you. There are many reasons for this – experience in different areas, size of the project, different services/tasks required, different expectations, conflicting personalities, etc. The list is endless. So, while a recommendation is a helpful, it may not be your holy grail.

So, what can you do to make sure the recommendation is a good one?

Heard of the saying “Buyer beware”? Well, the same applies when you get a recommendation.

As with anything in life, researching the alternatives and doing some due diligence is key. Of course, the amount of effort you take to do this depends on how big a cost you’re looking at. If you buy something for $5 and it doesn’t work, then the risk of not doing any research is low. However, if you’re looking at spending at least $10K with a developer (often more), then it’s probably worth taking some time to see if it’s a good fit.

Even though you’ve received a recommendation, you still need to check them out. Look at their website – do you like how it looks? See if they have examples or case studies of work that they’ve done – is it comparable to what you’re trying to do? Search for reviews. Look at their social media pages. Interview them. Get references and contact them. Basically, you need to apply the same due diligence as if you were hiring someone that didn’t come from a referral.

Often friends or relatives will develop platforms and apps on top of their day jobs, so it’s a little bit trickier. They won’t have websites or past references to guide you. In this case, you might look at their professional background on LinkedIn. Does what they’re doing in their day job look anything like what you want them to do? How much do you trust them to do the right thing for your business?

In many cases, it might be better to look at a few recommendations and make a decision between them. This has the added advantage of allowing you to see how different people and companies do things, so you can get a feel for what works best for you. You’ll also get to compare prices, and see what approach they’re recommending.

Now what?

A recommendation is a great place to start when looking for people and things. They can save you hours of hunting around, which cannot be underestimated. The lesson here is to approach with caution.

Recommendations should only be about saving time on that first step of finding a shortlist of people to evaluate. They shouldn’t be a short cut for the whole hiring process. Given the importance of finding the right developer for your project, don’t rely blindly on recommendations. Consider the source and do your own checking.

If you want a step-by-step checklist for hiring a developer and for turning your good idea into a great product, then my Idea to Launch Checklist is your plain-English guide to getting there.
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