Consulting firms provide valuable advice for your business and operations. Finding the perfect match between consultant and business can be a daunting task. Consider all the factors involved that make a consultant the right fit for a particular business. A business requires a person with a high level of expertise. In addition to this expertise, the consultant must possess a stellar reputation and proven experience in the appropriate industry.
The consultant must offer all of the services that the business requires and there has to be some flexibility involved here. Many times the business cannot be aware of all the services needed until the consultation process is underway.
The reputation that consultants and firms develop is the best tool that a business has at its disposal. When choosing a consultant, a business should select at least five consultants or firms that provide the general services that they are seeking. Then the business can thoroughly research that short list. Research should encompass speaking with businesses in the same industry that have employed the consultant that the business is considering. The value of reputation in the consulting business cannot be overstated.
When researching a consultant/firm, a business should ask:
- Did the consultant fully honour the contract?
- Did the project achieve its goal and meet the expectations of the business?
- Were the consultant’s expectations realistic?
- Did the consultant alter the initial plans substantially in order to complete the project?
- Were regular reports clear and helpful? Were there any surprises?
- Did the consultant arrive at reasonable findings, conclusions, and recommendations?
- Did the project progress smoothly, without miscommunication?
- Did the consultant work well with the business’ owners and/or employees?
- Did the consultant have to perform the services underfunded?
- If applicable, how long did it take the result to cover the cost of the process?
- Did the consultant provide useful information?
- Was the consultant able to teach your employees effectively?
- Would you hire this consultant again?
- Would you recommend this consultant to another business?
Take advantage of other sources as well. For instance, many consultants publish industry articles as a form of marketing. Reading these articles can give a business great insight into the consultant or firm that they are considering. If the consultant has been a part of any high profile projects, there is often a great deal of media available, both print and online, that speaks to their accomplishments.
After research, the next step is the interview process. The process of interviewing consultants is similar to the process of interviewing potential employees. Consider both personal manner and professional style in addition to the substance of the answers. Discuss financial arrangements and ask for a proposal and references. Then begin the second phase of research using those references before making a final decision.
When interviewing a consultant/firm, a business should ask:
- How would you describe the challenges we face?
- Have you worked on project where you faced similar challenges?
- What did you learn from the experience?
- What would you do differently if you could repeat the experience?
- What are the initial problems you anticipate as we begin to work together?
- How can we best address these problems early on?
- What experience do you have working with a business similar to ours?
- Describe your work process. How will you integrate with our employees?
- What strengths do you possess that will prove particularly effective for this project?
- Are the other members of the consulting team? Who are they? How do you propose to divide tasks among the team members? When can we interview them?
- How can we evaluate your success in solving our problem?
- What is your availability to complete this project in the specified period?
- Will you be using other consultants or subcontractors?
- Approximately, how much will this cost?
- What should we know about you and your experience that we have not asked?