Rules to Hiring Your Next Consultant (Part 1)

by Nicholas George on April 27, 2011

Hiring a consultant is easy if you don’t care about the results.  Surprisingly, many companies have hired consultants that have cost them a lot of money and produced little of what they hoped to achieve.  Luckily there are six rules that can help make sure you hire the right person to get the proper results.  I developed these rules with a good friend and business associate, Roy Gawlick.

Rule #1 – Define the Problem

Detailing the problem you are trying to solve or the results you’d like to achieve helps to determine who can help you best.  Use these questions to help summarize the problem for the consultant and for you:

  • With what do you need help? Why is this problem important?
  • What is going wrong? What is going right? What results would you like to see improved?
  • What are the costs and benefits of action – and of inaction?
  • Is this an urgent problem? What are the time constraints? What other constraints do you face?
  • Who are the key players and decision-makers?
  • What resources (funding, equipment, suppliers or customers, staff with particular abilities or corporate memories…) are available to help implement a solution?

Remember, if you have a difficult time defining the problem, you will have a difficult time identifying the solution, and the right consultant.  But don’t try to make this step perfect. What you really need is a starting point, so do the best you can with the time you have. You may even find that you need one consultant to help define the problem and a different one to find the best solution.

Rule #2 – Be a Good Client

Make sure the consultant’s key contact with your organization has the authority to approve or reject work in progress, and to arrange support within your organization. If your organizational groups are not all on-board, it will be hard for the best consultant to make any real progress.

  • In your organization, who suffers, and who benefits, from the current situation? Who will suffer or benefit from change? What incentives are there for individuals or groups in your organization to support the consultant? What incentives are there for them to oppose the consultant?
  • Will your staff have or make the time to help the consultant identify issues and implement solutions? Or are they too caught up in their regular duties?
  • When the consultant needs approval for an issue that will affect groups differently, how will your organization make the decision the consultant needs?
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