The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Hiring a Consultant
Updated: Aug 16
A consultant can be useful to use in your business over a relatively short term period of time as they can help you move your business forward as they can take an objective view of your business and have no preconcieved ideas. The consultant can usually draw upon a wealth of experience and knowledge to advise you and be involved in your business to help you achieve your desired outcomes.
Before hiring a consultant, you have to ask why do you need one?
Do you have in-house expertise that you could use?
Can you free up a person’s time to allow them to do the work?
If you can’t answer these questions then perhaps you do need to call in a consultant.
Where a consultant can be useful is for the following situations:
a) The organisation has no in-house expertise in the subject matter
b) You only need someone short-term to complete a project
c) You cannot free up an employee’s time as they are working on other projects
d) You have previously attempted to do the work in-house but have failed
e) Disagreement within your team on how to proceed so you require unbiased opinion and facilitation to come to consensus
f) You require an objective perspective
DO NOT use a consultant to do your dirty work such as removing people from a process so that they are surplus to requirement for reduction in headcount, this is your responsibility. The majority of consultants will walk away from you if you do try to use a consultant as a hatchet person as they do not want this sort of reputation as consultancy is based on trust and respect for people.
Check out the consultant's website and check them on social media, specifically LinkedIn as it is on this platform that the majority of consultants can be found. See what content they put out and the responses they get and who is in their network. You will get a feel for them and it will help you to narrow down your choice of consultants that you want to talk to.
Consider the consultant’s value to you, do not simply choose based on the lowest cost consultant. Consider the value of the consultant’s work to your project. The value the consultant can bring is the amount and quality of work that will be done for your project in relationship to the price you will pay for the service. The lowest price consultant may not be the best value for your project.
Can you develop a long-term relationship with your consultant? A consultant who is involved during the development of the entire project may be worth more than one who will quickly disengage from the project.
The consultant will have a contract for you to sign, this will be based on the agreed plan and will also cover things such as payments, dealing with disagreements, etc. Ensure that you read through the contract and get them to clarify any points that you are not sure about. There may be things that you want to add, so you need to talk to the consultant and reach agreement. Once you have signed ensure that you have a copy of the agreement for your records.
How can you help the consultant?
Before bringing in your consultant into your organisation consider the following:
a) Know what it is that you want to achieve and that the rest of your team are on-board with it
b) Agree the scope of work and do not have scope creep as the consultant will be entitled to charge extra for unagreed work.
You can help your consultant further by helping them to understand your organisation, about your product or service, who your market is, the organisation chart, any documentation pertaining to the project that the consultant is going to be working on. Also give them an idea about your staff e.g., do they work independently or do they work as part of a team. Tell them about your culture and values.
Do not limit the consultant to just recommending action, they have to be involved in implementing their recommendations. Ensure that they fix the causes and not the symptoms of any issues that they are dealing with. Do not become dependent on the consultant, it is your business so learn from them and begin to implement things yourself on the project.
Ensure that both you and the consultant have an agreed plan and nondisclosure agreement in place, this protects both sides, especially if there is a disagreement.
How Consultants Charge
There are several ways that consultants use to charge for their services. This can be by the hour and part thereof, which can be viewed as frustrating for the business as it can be perceived that the consultant has done very little and is being paid for it, e.g., if a consultant is writing a manual this can take weeks to complete but all the business sees is an expensive manual, they do not take into consideration the time it takes to put a manual together and it requires thought for it to make sense.
The consultant may charge by the project, this is seen as a better option for most organisations as they know what the cost is from the start and so long as the organisation does not have scope creep then there are no more costs involved.
For bigger projects with lots of variables such as implementing a quality management system which affects the whole business the consultant may charge a fixed price per month, so it is similar to a charge for the project except on a monthly basis.
In some cases, the consultant may charge by the costs saved in time and money. This is where they will take on a project to make improvements to your business and will charge by taking a percentage of the cost savings this could be a 50/50 split where the consultant takes 50% of the savings and the company keeps 50%. This can be of benefit to the company as they will see savings that they were not aware of and after the consultant has completed the project the company will continue to benefit even after paying 50% to the consultant so the money will be recuperated.
A consultant can help you move forward faster but you do need to work with them and remove any roadblocks that may appear in order for things to run smoothly. With help from the consultant you may be able to distrupt your industry which can place you at the forefront.
There are many tales of how consultants have saved the company with their recommendations.
There are tales of how the consultant added no value they just rephrased into consultant speak what the client told them.
There are tales of a Consultant discovering a major weakness in the CEO’s leadership skills and exposed it to key leaders, which is very unprofessional.