Finding the right business consultant
Without the benefit of a trusted referral, engaging a business consultant requires very careful consideration. Here are some essential things to think about before making your choice.
When evaluating a potential consultant, you need to put them through a comprehensive selection process – just as you would an employee or business partner.
Expertise is important, but it needs to be coupled with a compatible personality – someone who is concerned with improving your business, not just their bank balance.
Consider the criteria below before engaging a business consultant to ensure you find the right person.
Any potential consultant ideally should have worked for a number of different organisations. Look for a mix of experience in:
- Business size: If the consultant has worked with small business they will be more likely to understand your business and be able to work creatively with fewer resources. Large organisations, although bureaucratic, tend to have more money to spend, so if your consultant has worked with big companies they may have had exposure to some great ideas that they could implement for you.
- Type of work: Business consultants might have a variety of experience in everything from sales and marketing to financing and business growth, or they might specialise in a specific area. Make sure their experience matches up with your business’s needs. In addition, the nature of their previous work will also shed light on their ability to make certain changes in your business.
For example, there is a huge difference between having used a system or process and having implemented, improved or managed it. If you require your consultant to implement a business system make sure they have had experience implementing previously. Experience in both is ideal.
"A good consultant will listen to your requirements, consider your business circumstances and customise their service to best suit your needs."
There are some consultants who have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. They will try and tell you it has to be done a certain way, not because it has to be but because it’s what they have always done, or because it fits in with their templates. A good consultant will listen to your requirements, consider your business circumstances and customise their service to best suit your needs.
Equally a good consultant will guide you appropriately and if they don’t agree with your approach. They will explain why and list the consequences of proceeding in your original direction, propose alternate suggestions and possibly even provide you with examples or other resources for you to make up your own mind.
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Within minutes of meeting your consultant you’ll get a sense of their consulting persona, and whether you’re compatible. Do you really want a consultant who talks about themselves excessively? More likely you’ll want a consultant who is genuinely interested in your business, asks what you want from the process, and gives you examples of similar work they have done previously.
Remember that this person will be working with you (and others in your business), so if they give you the impression that they are doing you a huge favour by taking you on – then run! If you think you would have trouble working with the consultant, are you really going to get the maximum benefit of their expertise?
Other happy clients
Most consultants will have a number of testimonials on their websites. Why not ask the consultant if you can speak to someone they have done similar work for? A consultant who has genuinely satisfied clients should be happy to provide you with a contact. One other tip: beware of recommendations on LinkedIn. Do you know how well the referrer actually knows the consultant?
When a new process is implemented there is a concerted effort by the business and consultant to make it run well. This may require diverting resources from other areas of the business. This usually isn’t sustainable long term. During implementation, ask your consultant for advice on ongoing management.
Take the time to carefully choose your consultant and you will be rewarded with a more beneficial experience for your business.
Other than word of mouth, what are your tips for selecting a good business consultant?