Hiring a consultant can be a tedious and difficult task if done without an idea of what you are looking for. Every website you visit can promise everything you believe you need, or just provide jargon filled data that does not make sense. When looking to hire a consultant you should go in with an idea of what you need help with and have already done some research on what type of information you need to know.
Be clear on the information you require, analyzing and know which processes need the most attention. Some consultants are trained in warehouse processes, while some are more experienced in financial processes and systems. Although there are ones that can look at process maps of the entire business, you may require just to streamline one area at a time.
Some critical questions to ask when hiring a consultant are as follows:
- What is your biggest success is thus far? – then follow it up with asking them what is their second biggest. Many companies will have a script for the first question, it’s how they react to the second question that will be interesting and tell you what you need to know. If you are confused on why it’s a success, do not be afraid to ask them to explain. It will help you understand how they, and their consultancy will work.
- After hiring a consultant, how will the arrangement work? A good consultant will involve various members of staff and management in the process of analyzing the business and then working out improvement plans. Anyone who says they can handle it on their own, can’t. Handling it on their own will not give them the insight they need into your business and how you operate. Once they have answered this, ask them what input they require from you, the client, in order to make it work.
- What additional courses, classes, and certifications do you have and found to be helpful? Business is a fast changing, constantly evolving field, and a qualification from 5-10 years ago may hold knowledge that is outdated. A consultant that has taken additional courses over the years and has kept their knowledge up to date is more reliable than one who continues to use their outdated knowledge.
- Do you have a formal system or just come up with it as you go along? Even if you run your business by the seat of your pants, hiring a consultant that organized and meticulous will help to improve your business. Therefore, a consultant that does not have a formal system in place that can measure the successes, will definitely not be a good fit for you or your business.
- Will you teach you the new systems and processes? A common trap of using a consultant is becoming reliant on them, due to lack of knowledge on the new systems. For some consultants, this is a good money making business model. However, for you, it can become far more expensive than originally planned for and become a liability. By making it clear you would like to understand the systems and processes being put in place, you can limit your engagement and your expenses up front with the consultant. This can also include requesting a paper trail of everything to refer to afterwards, and adding a member of staff to shadow and learn everything.
- Be clear on the fees upfront. A good consultant is a valuable investment, but only if the expense doesn’t cost more cash than you have available. Request a fee break down up front, including travelling expenses, performance bonuses and any other miscellaneous charges. Have it made clear whether these will be part of the overall fee or be billed separately and how these expenses will be recorded. If your business has never dealt with expenses records before it will be good to know how the expenses will be presented. If you have a set budget, then let the consultant know upfront and request alerts when the expenses are close to that limit.
With the answers to these questions you can rest easier knowing the consultant you hire will be suitable for your business. Do not hire someone like yourself, hire a consultant to bring in a skill set you don’t hold and who can help your business move forward. Once you have finished your interview with the consultant you should feel excited and eager to start working for them and know this is the one you need to hire.