For many companies, hiring a consultant is an expensive purchase. Get it wrong and you can waste time, money, and patience, but get it right and your organisation can benefit greatly from the experience. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of hiring a consultant.
- Know the challenge you are trying to solve. Understanding the challenge or problem you are trying to fix and the issues causing it will help you define the type of support and expertise you need. It will also allow you to have a meaningful discussion with your consultant to see if they understand the issue and the approach to help resolve it.
- Do you actually need a consultant? Before you rush to engage a consultant, consider if you already have the expertise to resolve your problem in-house. Are your staff too busy with the day job to recognise or fix the problem? If so, can you back-fill, second or engage different support to release your in-house expertise? Giving the opportunity to one of your own team may improve morale and demonstrates good leadership.
- Define the scope of the services you require. Having a clear understanding of what you need the consultant to deliver and knowing what outcome(s) you expect to achieve are critical to the success of the engagement. Involve your consultant in defining the solution and approach to achieve these aims. Don’t fall into the trap of dictating the solution, after all you’re buying in their expertise, knowledge, and track record. If you are not sure, your consultant can often assist with this process as it will help them to define and price their services.
- Engage your consultant in the right way. Don’t fall into the trap of employing the same processes to engage a consultant as you would to recruit an employee. Consultants are employed for their expertise, experience, and track record of delivery, not from a CV and a list of standard interview questions. Consider what skills and knowledge are relevant to the scope of the project and have a specific conversation about how they would approach your problem and seek examples of where they have succeeded before.
- Are they a good fit for you and your business? More often than not, consultants will have to work across your entire organisation, engaging with your staff, suppliers, and customers to obtain information and gain support in achieving your outcomes. Consider the problem and what reactions there may be across your business. Consider what sort of personality traits you need from your consultant to get this done and whether they have the right approach and style to succeed.
- Ask for a proposal and engage with a contract. Formalise your arrangements before starting as it will save time and unnecessary stress later. Ask your consultant for a written proposal which sets out their approach, timescales, deliverables, and their price. The latter may be a rate or a fixed price depending on the nature of the work. Does it reflect your discussions? Engage using a consulting services contract as this sets out everything in black and white and defines the expectations and arrangements for both parties.
- Manage the relationship! Be prepared to work with your consultant, give feedback and support them with any issues arising during their engagement. This will result in a much richer relationship and smooth the path to a successful delivery of your outcomes. Make sure they are paid on time, in accordance with the contract. Nothing spoils a relationship more than late or missed payments.