People & Human Resources

Consultants: Love them, hate them

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Consultants can be so helpful – and such a hindrance if not used properly. Here are 10 tips to getting the most out of your consultant.

Consultants can bring a wonderful perspective and set of skills and strategies to your business. But many are not helpful, waste time and money and take you in the wrong direction. Maybe they lack experience, maybe they are just not right for your business.

 

Good consultants are efficient and effective – and they focus on results. They will want to save the client’s money and will encourage client independence, providing professionalism and integrity.

 

Get the most out of consultants by following a simple, powerful briefing checklist.

1. Don’t believe the hype
Obtain names, contact details of previous clients and talk to them.
Check references to see how the consultant has delivered similar work or services to that which is proposed for your business.

2. Be clear about outcomes
Be specific about what you want to achieve. The clearer and more specific you are, the better. It should be a meaningful business problem.

 

3. Separate outcomes from solutions
Focus on the actual problem to be solved – avoid “we want you to do…”

4. Off-the-shelf or tailored?
Ask the question; “will this be an off-the-shelf service or strategy or something tailor-made for you?” If tailor-made, who owns the solution?

 

5. Negotiate time and cost
Clarify key timelines, and most importantly agree on the milestones.
Determine the payment by time spent or preferably the result delivered. Make sure there are no “hidden” costs, and clarify what kind of internal resources will be required.

 

6. Clarify all roles
Make sure you establish clearly who is the consultant, because the person you first meet may be the sales or business development manager, not the consultant who will do the work. Maybe there are several people. Ask for clarity on all the roles, and similarly you need to be clear about who exactly is the client. It is critical that you clarify what you expect from each other, and you need to ensure you approve the procedures and processes to be used.

 

7. Ensure understanding of corporate culture
Brief your consultant on your corporate values, the political structures, key current issues in the organisation and the way you do things. You want to make sure the consultant avoids generating any resistance.

 

8. Anticipate problems
Consultants will likely experience a range of problems that you will need to try and anticipate, given you know the business and the people they will be working with or speaking to. Try and develop contingency plans and anticipate additional costs.

 

9. Agree on reporting procedures
The report requirements should be determined up-front. Who, when, how, and on what? Agree on a two-way feedback process and always be up-front and honest.

10. Follow-up available
Accessibility once the job is complete is also important. You don’t want to work with a consultant who vanishes after the job. And where problems occurred you need to do some investigation into why and whose fault. And even though at the start you may not want to have or budget for any follow up, at least negotiate the fee arrangements regarding follow-up in advance.

 

 

 

Eve Ash is a psychologist and managing director of Seven Dimensions, and co-producer of the Ash.Quarry Productions video 10 Essentials for Successful Induction (Take Away Training series) www.7dimensions.com.au

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Watch the video:10 Point Checklist For Briefing A Consultant

 

To read more Eve Ash blogs, click here.

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