From time to time most businesses require the expertise of external consultants. The varied perspectives that consultants bring to a project together with their expertise and experience can be the difference between successful completion of a project and floundering in the doldrums. But how do you make a selection when there are so many available? In this article we look at the dos and don’ts to make that process easier.
- Make sure you do a thorough background search. This will include the potential consultant’s work history, education and qualifications as well as reviewing testimony from previous clients. Find out as much information as you can so that you are making an informed choice.
- Check out their client list. Is there a particular industry or field that they mainly work in? Often businesses select consultants on the basis of their expertise in a particular area and this can take you down the path of simply replicating what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it pays to look at consultants from outside your industry as they may bring different techniques and a new methodology that hasn’t been used before in your field. So try and be flexible depending on what it is you want to achieve with the consultant’s help.
- Review their work. Most consultants will have some published examples of their work available. These could be articles, blogs, webinars, podcasts or YouTube videos. Check that their style and presentation is a match to your organisation.
- Have a face-to-face interview. It’s essential that you first meet the consultant face to face before making a final selection. You will be working closely together and you will want to make sure that you are comfortable and can have trust in the relationship. An interview is also a good opportunity to go over some of the finer details such as terms of engagement and payment arrangements.
- Be clear about the project brief. Once you have made your choice of consultant it’s important that you develop a clear project brief that identifies their roles and responsibilities. And make sure you review it on a regular basis.
- Go with the first consultant you come across. Time may be short, but it pays to shop around in the marketplace so that you can be confident the consultant is a good match for you and that you have secured the best deal possible.
- Skip any of these steps! It’s likely that the reason you are looking for external help in the first place is because you have an urgent need that cannot be met internally. This may well be driving you to just get on with it, but it will be a false economy if you try to curtail the selection process. Many businesses have made some very expensive mistakes because they didn’t conduct due diligence when selecting consultants.
Consultants are a necessary part of commerce. They provide a fresh perspective, helping you to achieve projects and grow as a business in ways that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. Taking the time to select the right consultant for your business will increase your return on investment.