When one thinks of a consultant, typically the first image that comes to mind is of a suit-clad idea-monster; machine-gunning thoughts on how your business could be better, charging a huge “consulting fee” and leaving your head swimming but with no real, tangible solutions. This mindset does nothing but create more work…work that now you must do— and you paid someone to give you these tasks! It’s hard to think of how bringing in an “idea guy” can be good for your business.
I think we all remember the scenes with the two consultants named Bob from the movie ‘Office Space.’ So afraid of real work, their solution to eliminating a long-time staff member was to “fix the glitch” in payroll, stopping future paychecks. “..so it’ll just work itself out naturally.” Effective? Yes. Ethical? Not by a long shot.
The Reality of Consulting
A professional consultant worth his salt will come in to listen first, then provide complete, actionable plans to solve the problems facing your business. A good consultant will provide assistance in executing the plan, assembling the right team of vendors and contractors, offering project oversight and ultimately delivering measurable results. When you hire a consultant, you should be looking for ideal talent and traits you’d want if you were staffing permanently, minus the full-time staff expense.
“But isn’t consulting expensive?”
Well, that depends on a several factors:
1. Are you hiring a seasoned professional? Do they have experience solving these types of challenges before? If not, will they consult an outside expert to gather the appropriate level of information to make sound decisions?
2. Are you looking for a patch-job or a long-term fix? The “quick fix” might be easy and get the job done, but if it leaves the door open for the same problem or worse yet, new problems to arise, the “quick fix” no longer seems “quick” or a “fix.”
3. Are you over-hiring? Not every job requires a multinational, Fortune 50 consulting firm. If your organization has isolated issues needing outside counsel, or the expected revenue cannot justify the expenditure, it’s advisable to get quotes from local, knowledgeable operators. If you’re still unsure, set up a meeting with the smaller firm or independent first, he or she should be able to help you determine the level of complexity and if it’s a job requiring a deeply-resourced big agency. It’s well worth paying their much lower rate for the initial consult than approaching it in reverse.
In the end, finding the right consulting partner for your business comes down to your in-house knowledge and capacity to execute. If you find important projects continually pushed quarter after quarter it’s probably time to bring in a pinch hitter to help bring your team around the bases. Hiring a consultant doesn’t need to be overwhelming.