Why hire a business consultant? Simple: Capable executives and business owners encounter periods where outside advice and skills become important to dealing with changing business conditions or to achieve specific outcomes. Leaders hire an outside resource because:
They Want an Outside Perspective
Often times, clients have a perspective on how to solve the problem they are facing but want to make sure that what they’re thinking is correct (or that they aren’t so close to the challenge that they’re missing the obvious answer).
Because consultants have worked through this problem in the past with someone else, they can really provide a perspective based on what they’ve seen work (or not) before. And given this experience, they can often bring new and innovative ideas or possible challenges to the table that clients probably wouldn’t have been able to see on their own.
They Need Additional Horsepower
The problems companies need to solve are really important, but they don’t have the manpower to focus on them. Companies have to focus on their day-to-day operations. Hiring new employees to fill these gaps doesn’t always make sense because many of these projects are one-offs. By using consultants, companies don’t have to pull their employees away from their actual jobs.
They Want Specialized Skills
Getting access to a specialized skill set that might not exist in-house by engaging a group of professionals that have deep expertise. These highly specialized people would not only be expensive to hire, but the company might not have enough work to keep them busy year round. Thanks to consultants, companies can bring in that skill set on demand when they need it.
They Want a Safe Zone
Sometimes, when companies are working on a challenging problem or a controversial project, it can be hard for them to make decisions or take the necessary actions without getting wrapped up in emotions or politics. So, they bring in consultants to provide an unbiased perspective and do some of the uncomfortable work for them.
What to look for in an outside resource
The first step in choosing an outside consultant is to clearly define the outcome that the consulting team must deliver in order for the engagement to be a success. If possible, the outcome(s) should be quantifiable. Once a clear definition of success is documented, score the prospective consulting resources along these dimensions:
- Does their resume demonstrate success and maturity?
- How relevant is their experience to your needs?
- Do they have something special, such as a unique process, a key piece of experience or knowledge, that is a great fit for your company?
- Do they deliver quantifiable outcomes?
- Will they transfer/cultivate needed skills so that your organization will continue to benefit from the engagement after they have completed the assignment?
- Do they dig out insights, or come in with answers?
- Will they speak up, even when unpopular?
- Do YOU get along with them?
- How do they fit in with your management team, and others?
- Is there back-up? (Are they part of a firm?)
- What’s the total cost – consulting fees + travel + time commitment from your staff
Why consulting projects succeed
Many factors may affect the success of management consulting projects, but ultimately they fall into five categories:
- Top management support for consulting,
- The commitment of client team members,
- The presence of a client/sponsor,
- The competence of a consultant, and
- The consultation protocol which includes clearly defined goals, methodological compatibility, standardization of procedures, and the client’s participation.
Hiring a consultant is how savvy business leaders who are dedicated to future proofing their business compliment their leadership skills, grow their internal capabilities and cultivate a high-performance organization. The key to success is using consultants to gain and propagate a sustainable competitive advantage. At the end of the engagement, your organization should be smarter, more skilled, and enthused to take the experience and build on it.
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