For businesses that don’t do it often, hiring a consultant requires entering a foreign territory that can seem both intimidating and risky. However, the following rules of thumb can help ensure you’re on the right track.
Before hiring a consultant, it is imperative that you evaluate your business’ needs to make sure that a consultant is even needed in the first place. Could this job be better handled in-house by just shifting around job duties and reprioritizing here and there? How big is the learning curve for a potential consultant to get up to speed on your business?
Once you’ve determined that a consultant is indeed the right way to go, you will still need to define the consultant’s job duties so that all parties are clear on the parameters of the business relationship. It helps here to consider what your desired outcomes are.
Knowing your end goal will help the consultant know what actions are and are not off limits when new obstacles pop up while working with you.
Sometimes businesses get in the routine of requiring unnecessary qualifications for their employees and consultant while overlooking other qualifications that are in fact more pertinent to the services needed. For this reason, it’s important to evaluate on a case-by-case basis what qualifications you’re looking for. Try to consider all types of qualifications, including education, professional experience, reputation, and personal strengths.
When interviewing potential consultants, try to figure out what their approach and style will be and whether it will work well within your company’s way of doing business. No matter how qualified a consultant is, you won’t accomplish much if you can’t work well together. Do you think the consultant will take the necessary time to understand the issues at hand before offering up solutions? Will the consultant offer you an individually tailored solution instead of one of his or her company’s standard solutions?
The consultant’s experience working with similar companies within your sector may have a lot of bearing here. Talk with potential consultants to evaluate their limitations. Remember the reason you are looking for outside help instead of internally in the first place. The consultant shouldn’t be expected to know everything about your business, but he or she should have the proper amount of general technical knowledge needed to properly assess the issues your business is having.
You want to have a general sense that the consultant has the necessary tools for the job. This means looking at the consultant’s company as a whole. Some questions to consider are:
Lastly, you can tell a lot about a consultant and his or her company based on their conduct and deals with you. Based on the information you’ve given the consultant, does his or her offer and solution make sense? Is the consultant using the correct timelines and objectives? What rights have been granted to your company in the services contract? Under what scenarios might the contract be canceled? Once you've found a consultant that's the best fit for you and your business, create a consulting services agreement and start the hiring process.
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