Based on a study conducted by Munich School of Management, 9 out of 10 times,
consultants fail at their jobs miserably.
This isn’t because they’re incompetent or their execution was horrible. And it’s not that
the job was too difficult and could not be done in the first place.
Then what is it?
It’s usually due to the client’s inability to manage and deal with the consultants they hire.
It’s easy to paint the consultant as the villain, especially when you hire them to literally do their job but end up not getting any of your goals or KPIs met. It can be even more intimidating to hire one now that the world is also dealing with a pandemic, and finances are tight.
Luckily, this article is here to show you how to decrease your chances of falling into that dreaded majority and get the most out of your consulting experience.
First things first: What kind of expert do you need?
You don’t want to hire a consultant just for their “expertise”. You want a consultant for
the kind of expertise they offer.
Consulting is a broad term; there are subcategories within this domain. Therefore, the consultant you hire will have a set of “core expertise” within the “consulting domain” that they are particularly good at and have experience in. And of course, depending on the kind of expertise you’re asking for, each one of them will charge you differently.
Instead of getting into a research-frenzy on all the different subcategories of consulting,
here’s a simple, two-line breakdown of the types of consultants you will most likely
The Executive, the Strategist, the Technical Consultant, the Business Analyst, and the
Spoiled for choice? If you want a quick answer: The Executive will be your best bet.
Executive Consultants are big-picture thinkers and will understand you on an executive level. They aren’t only quick to understand your business’s needs, but they may also know the right people who can get the necessary jobs done for you.
Furthermore, what you need to take away from this section, is that the first step you can take to ensure your money doesn’t go to waste, is to know exactly the kind of value you want your consultant to bring to the table.
Now that we got the first important step out of the way, it’s time to move on to the next –
and equally important – step: dealing with your consultant.
Follow these five rules of dealing with a consultant to a “T” …
Each Party Must Hold Themselves Accountable (for Their Part and Yours)
How many times have we dealt with “that employee” who can’t seem to take their job as seriously as you would want them to? Having a consultant like this is a recipe for disaster.
Everyone involved in this should know their place, including you. That means taking the right kind of action to reach your goals and being proactive with your job.
A bad consultant would send an email to a client, and once you follow up with them on the client’s response, they tell you “I sent the email. What else can I possibly do?”. A
good consultant follows up by email, and if they don’t get an answer, they follow up by phone. And if they still don’t get an answer, they follow up in-person.
See? Accountability; being responsible and stepping up to the plate.
You Can’t Get Anywhere Without Transparency
Your consultant needs to be clear with you about the expectations they have set for your business. This comes with understanding your mindset as their client. This is usually where the problems start; it’s not that your consultant has no experience.
Sometimes, they have the expertise needed to get your business running but have never dealt with a client with your mindset before. In other cases, it could be a simple question of personality; maybe they’re just downright shy.
This is where you step in. In order to solve this problem, the best way to handle this is to be concise, clear, and specific about your version of a successful outcome and share that with your consultant. What do you expect to see as an outcome of the consultation?
What is your definition of “success” and “failure” in this particular project? What are the key results that you expect out of this consultation?
Putting measurable objectives is also another way to bridge the gap between you and
your consultant, which leads us to our next point.
Your Goals Must Be Measurable (and Relevant)
Part of being concise and specific about your goals is to define a realistic timeline and measurable metrics within that timeline. This will help you track progress throughout the consultation process, which will help your consultant better understand your expectations and work accordingly.
It’s not enough, however, to simply state that you want a particular project done within three months and expect results. It’s not that simple; what about the things that need to be done within that three-month timeline? What are the metrics that need to be met throughout those three months?
If you’re not breaking the timeline of the project into different metrics and subprojects
(more on that in the next rule), you’ll end up getting to the end of the three months either
a) not having achieved a single goal or b) finding yourself unaware of what changes
were made during those three months because your and the consultant’s focus was all
over the place.
In addition to that, make sure your KPIs are relevant to the project. If your consultant
gets you that report in three days when you asked they get it in two days, don’t give
them a hard time about it. Time is not always a relevant KPI. Slowness isn’t a sign of
incompetence, it could be that the consultant is really good at what he or she does, but
just needs a little extra time.
Remember; keep your KPIs relevant. Keep your KPIs measurable.
Break it Down into Phases
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous rule: if you want to make this “setting
measurable objectives” thing easier on you and your consultant, one thing you can do is
break it down into phases.
Let there be a Phase One, Phase Two, or however many phases you want, a Phase
One Hundred if you’re that ambitious. As long as you have your objectives grouped up so that your consultant knows where to place their attention each step of the way.
More importantly, make sure each phase brings value. This is so that, if you should find yourself needing to stop the project for whatever reason on, let’s say, Phase Three of the project, then you will not have lost a thing. You know why? Because at least you got value out of Phases One and Two, right? It’s not a total loss after all.
Last but not Least: Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up.
Don’t just let your consultant run wild after giving them measurable objectives and breaking your project down into phases. Your job doesn’t end there.
Follow up with them. Meet up with them every week and discuss what they have done that is moving the project forward and getting you closer to your KPIs.
Keep in mind that a common – and unfortunate – pattern amongst consultants is that they tend to leave things until the last minute. These weekly meetings that you’ll set up with them aren’t just for you, but for them as well.