Finding a consultant is kind of like choosing a therapist. The right one can bring a wealth of guidance, support, and expertise. But if you settle for one that doesn’t “click” with your business, it could lead to more grief and money down the drain.
For every business that grows, there will come a time when it needs to bring in some expert guidance, to avoid growing pains. Fundraising, product development, marketing strategy, HR, you name it!
Problem is, there are a lot of advisors and consultants out there. How do you find the right one for your specific business needs (and doesn’t rip you off).
If you’re a small business with limited resources, this is an expense you’ll need to get right. Here’s a checklist of questions to help properly vet those third parties.
This one seems obvious, but that’s cause it’s important!
Is their consultancy very new, or have they been in the game for years?
Did they previously run their own business, or led a particular department?
Have they faced similar challenges to what you’re facing now?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. A relatively new consultancy could bring fresh ideas that your business is lacking.
Alternatively, a tried and true approach could provide the stability that your business needs.
It all depends on what gaps may be present in your in-house team, and how to best fill those gaps.
Once you’ve identified your goals, discuss this openly with your potential consultant, and find out how much support they will need in order to achieve it.
How familiar are they with your business?
How much will you need to share to bring them up to speed?
Do they require hands-on support, or do they prefer more freedom?
Who is actually doing the work and who will be your main point of contact?
They’re here to help - you don’t want to be doing more than you already are!
Consultants usually balance their time between different clients. Understand how much time and effort they can dedicate to your business. Ask them directly:
What’s their process?
How do they normally tackle tasks?
What is their preferred reporting structure?
How often will you guys touch base?
What happens if targets are not met?
Work with them to understand whether they’re the right fit for executing a plan that will ultimately result in your success.
If you’re launching a new product, or even just a growing business, you will inevitably experience change.
Get a firm understanding of how they work when there are deviations from the original plan.
Will there be additional fees if things change?
How will they approach roadblocks that are out of your control?
Most likely, you’ll need someone flexible and adaptable.
Ideally, you’ll be sounding out a few people before making a call. Don’t be tempted to just go for the lowest rate! Pick a person with the right combination of experience, workstyle, and price for your budget.
It’s crucial to look into a potential consultant’s credentials, perhaps even speak with their previous clients.
It could also benefit you to have them assessed by somebody else in your industry. Turn to your network for peers who may have gone through something similar, and ask if they’d be happy to share some thoughts about your candidates.
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