Working with consultants can be a huge boost for your business. When you’re small or just starting out, your resources are stretched and there are plenty of areas of expertise where it’s simply not sustainable to make hires. You need a topical application of insight to get a project started, not an in-house expert.
For some specific projects even the big firms will turn to consultants: reviewing your long term strategy is something businesses do every twelve months at most. They’ll be looking for strategy consulting firms too rather than hiring employees to use on a once a year project.
Today we’re looking at how you can find the consultants you need to make sure you get the right help at the right price.
Knowing What You Want
The most important thing you can do is have a clear sight of what you want to achieve. Going into a meeting with consultants without knowing what you want out of it could end up with you spending a large amount of money over a long period and having no way to know at the end whether it’s been good or bad for your business.
Before you start looking, take the time to crystallise what you want out of the experience, writing down aims with quantifiable success and failure states. If all you want to do is ‘grow your business’ it’s almost impossible to assess whether or not this has been done meaningfully and this can make a fractious relationship with your consultants! Think about how you’d like to grow your business and by how much? A 50% increase in footfall? A growth in revenue? More sign ups to a newsletter or subscription? The specifics matter.
A consulting relationship is a personal one. You can expect to be working closely with consulting and getting advice that may conflict with your deeply held convictions about what is best for your business. This relationship needs to be founded on trust and mutual respect and the best chance you have of that is by getting personal recommendations from peers who you also trust.
When you’re looking for consultants, ask around. Talk about the experiences your peers in the business community have had, and if you can, the mistakes they feel they made as well the successes they enjoyed. This is a good way to understand the reality of the consulting ecosystem available to you and form realistic expectations based on.
Don’t settle for the first consulting firm you find. Audition and interview as you would if you were hiring: they will be used to the practice of pitching for their services so give them the opportunity to impress. Ask questions, have conversations and try to get a sense of the personalities involved as well as the expertise on offer. This gives you the chance to find people you can work productively with, even into the long term!