Research shows that internal projects or other changes within a company are implemented faster and are more effective & successful, when using an external consultant. It is not a coincidence that for large, multinational companies, working with consultants is a standard practice. There are, however, many companies which have started out as a small family business and have then developed on a much bigger scale. For such companies, the decision to seek “external” assistance often presents a challenge.
How to select the right business consultant? How to be sure that he or she will give us the added value that we are looking for? There are always risks, but here is some practical advice, which can help you in choosing the best consulting services’ provider for your business:
- Scale of the Consulting Company – choose a consulting company whose scale matches that of your business – a company for whom you will be a valuable client. This will increase your chances of receiving more attention, using the skills and knowledge of experienced consultants, obtaining better pricing conditions, etc.
- Specialization – decide if you need a highly specialized consultant, for example someone dealing only with ISO implementation, Accounting Services, etc., or more of a strategic consultant, who is able to see the big picture and assess the current state of your company as a whole, thus helping you to address the problem areas in your business through an integrated approach.
- Experience and Recommendations – look through the website of the selected consulting company and inform yourself about the number of projects they have completed, their experience in different industries (and your industry specifically), as well as their experience in different types of projects. Contact some of their clients and try to get first-hand information about the consultant’s work. Getting a positive feedback from clients is one of the strongest and most objective confirmations of the service quality that a consulting company provides.
- Team – besides experience in previous projects, the consulting team that the company employs is another factor of great importance. Research the number of consultants that the company has, are they full-time employees or freelancers/subcontractors whose main activities are outside the consulting company. The higher the number of full-time, in-house consultants, the more serious the company – this shows that they are generating enough revenue through consulting to maintain a large, well-qualified team. However, not only the number of consultants is important but also their quality and previous experience. Try to establish what other companies they have worked for and how many years of experience they have in the field of consulting.
- Personal Observations – if you have already performed the above-mentioned research and are now choosing between several companies, the next step is to organize a meeting with each of them. Prepare yourself well in regards to formulating your company’s needs, as well as questions to test the potential consultants. During this meeting it is extremely important for the consulting company’s representatives to truly earn your trust and to convince you that they:
- Have the required consulting experience and team;
- Understand your needs well and have a clear vision how to help you;
- Use proven methodologies and business approach;
- Are genuinely interested in your company and in long-term cooperation;
- Are a responsible and honest partner who will put your interests first, even when this is not to their financial advantage;
- Fit your mentality from a personal point of view so that you can feel relaxed and motivated to work with them.
- Financial Terms – of course, the financial terms offered to you are also important. Always require a written proposal with details about the scope and cost of the services, a timeframe for their completion, and a list of team members who will be working on the project. All these factors determine the price of the consulting service and when you are certain that you will add value to your business, the price you pay is no longer the deciding factor for selecting the best business consultant.