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Team Spirit

Making the independents loyal.

Using independent contractors to outsource specific tasks can be a smart business move. But most independent contractors won't have the same degree of loyalty your employees do. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make them feel like part of the company--and strengthening their commitment will likely improve their performance.

Gary Clinton, president of United Design Corp., a Noble, Oklahoma, company that designs and makes giftware figurines, says the key is in effective communication. He suggests sending regular memos or holding in-person meetings with independent contractors to let them know what's going on in the company and the importance of their role in the process. You may also want to provide training to help them do their jobs better and include them in company social events.

Clinton stresses one important point: Always respect the line between employee and independent contractor. "Independent contractors must be truly independent," Clinton says. If you treat them too much like employees, the IRS may conclude that they are employees, which opens you to a wide range of potential liabilities.

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Team Spirit.

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