Anyone can put the position “Consultant” on their business card just like anyone can say they are a speaker, an accountant or a home inspector. The truth is that there are more bad consultants out there than good ones just like there are few competent REALTORS in each market who truly understand the business.
I’ve invested in the best consulting education on the planet (if you even knew there was such a thing). I’ve read enough organizational development, psychology, and strategy books to have a doctorate degree. So what? Just because you know theories, processes and algorithms doesn’t mean you know how to consult or deliver value to a client to drive performance in their organization.
In a recent meeting with a group of executives the question was asked…
How do we work with a consultant?
You may have employed many consultants in the past but that doesn’t mean they acted in your best interests or knew how to consult.
Before I get into the details let me explain How NOT to work with a consultant. I’ve made these mistakes before as a rookie and since stepped up my game to be the very best I can be for my clients.
Don’t pay by the day or by the hour
A consultant’s job is to solve the problem in the least amount of time for the least amount of money with the least hassle. Charging by the hour or by the day is unethical because a consultant can take more time than necessary to rack up the time card and be paid more than necessary. Also, the last thing you want to do is go back to your leadership team later to ask for more money because the project is incomplete.
Instead, pay according to the conceptualized significant contribution to value. The value can be calculated by the (tangible benefits + intangible benefits + peripheral benefits) times the annualized benefit and the payment can represent a fraction of that value as a one time fee.
Don’t assume a consultant does something to you
If you say to a consultant, “This is your show” and are not jointly accountable for the results then don’t engage. Clients who say this shouldn’t engage because they are compliant, and not committed to collaborating on the project. The green light to move forward may be lip service to move forward when actually there is a personal agenda or motive that is keeping progress from happening.
Instead, the consultant should be a collaborator on the project in which active communication is necessary before, during, and afterward the work is finished.
Don’t withhold information
You can’t expect progress when there is vital information necessary to calculate true costs, necessary resources, and important documents. This could but not be limited to a strategic plan, outline of operations, existing and future budgets.
Have the consultant work sign a confidentiality agreement. If the engagement isn’t built on a relationship of trust then then don’t expect breakthrough results.
How to Start a Consulting Relationship
Consulting is a process, not an event. Almost every conversation about consulting work begins, how much and how long? The answer a consultant should say is, “I don’t know, let me ask you a few questions that involve…”
- What are the objectives you would like to accomplish?
- What metrics will we use to define success?
- What is the value we can both anticipate?
There are far too many consultants that come with pre-packed programs, out of the box solutions, and regurgitate what you already know. The challenge is finding the right one who asks the right questions based on your need and helping you get to exactly where you need to be in the end.