Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Choosing the right consultant for your business

Once you’ve made the decision to hire a business consultant to boost flagging sales or help set your company on a new path, you may think it’s just a simple matter of picking up the phone and calling one in. However, be aware that there are many companies today offering business consulting services and not all of them are what they seem. 

It’s crucial that you take your time when choosing the right person for you, or you could just be throwing good money after bad. Here is how to go about making your selection:

  • Get references: Look on internet forums or speak to other local companies to listen to the experiences of others who have recently hired consultants. What kinds of problems did they encounter, and what did they wish they had done differently? Find out which consultants have helped achieve good results on more than one occasion and which ones have been less than effective. This will give you a good initial idea of who to consider and who to avoid at all possible costs.
  • Thorough vetting: It may seem tedious, but when you have selected a short list of consultants you think may work for you, you need to set up meetings to talk to them about what they might offer you. These conversations should be able to tell you a lot: Did they listen to what you wanted, or did they just fire off some ‘quick’ solutions right away? Did they seem to understand the issues you presented them with and ask thoughtful questions, or did they just ramble on with stories of past clients? If the former in both cases, they may be legitimate, if the latter – hire them at your peril.
  • Billing: Find out how you will be charged for these business consulting services. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest service, as there may well be a reason why they need to charge so little. Instead, look at the payment structure. Are you able to agree a fixed amount upfront, or are they proposing to leave things open for additional costs later on? If the latter, beware, as many less reputable consultants will attempt to maximise their profits by bringing other ‘advisers’ into the project, for which they will charge extra, or charging for unspecified additional services. Generally, I would say it’s always best to agree from the outset exactly how much you are going in for.
Above all, don’t be put off by the potential pitfalls as a good consultant really can bring enormous benefits. As long as you are careful and follow recommendations from trustworthy sources, you should soon see your business change for the better.

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