Apr 17, 201812:51 PMOpen Mic
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6 questions to ask consultants before hiring them
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Imagine that your company has decided to launch a new product line in a few months. Or perhaps you’re scaling from startup mode into full operations with a continued focus on growth but need to make sure that your products, services, and business processes are optimized.
Either way, whatever your situation, you’ve decided to hire a consultant to help you through the change process. These are the top questions to ask consultants before hiring them.
1. Why should I trust you?
People ask us this question frequently, and it’s a good one to ask any consultant. If your company hires this consultant, you and your employees will be working with them closely for an extended period of time, and they’ll have access to sensitive company information. As such, it’s critical that you trust them on the five ways that really matter: technical competence, ethical conduct and character, interpersonal skills, transparency, and accountability.
For example, when I’m speaking to someone about CrossGen Solutions and they’re interested in hiring us, I share specific case studies that highlight our track record of success so that they feel confident in our technical ability to complete the project well. However, I also cite specific examples about how we demonstrated transparency and accountability, how we navigated the sometimes-tricky interpersonal situations that arose during those engagements, and how we exceeded the requirements of our engagements to provide outstanding service.
2. What expertise do you have?
Though the especially savvy consultant may have answered this question when asked, “Why should I trust you,” ask it anyway. It’s important to have a clear understanding of a consultant’s key service offerings and areas of experience before you hire them so that you’re well informed about what they do and don’t know.
Oftentimes, consultant teams may have one primary area of focus or expertise, but they have experience in other areas. In my experience as a business leader and project manager, I’ve seen how consultants are more successful when they have a diverse array of skills and knowledge sets from which to draw. Rarely does a management consulting engagement only require one skill set, like project management. More often, managing a larger initiative requires strategic planning and people change management for the initiative to be most successful.
In short, multidisciplined expertise is important because it increases the likelihood of success, and it’s important your company look for such diverse experience in any potential consultants with whom it may work. In fact, it’s so important that when we hire new senior consultants to join our core team, we require them to have expertise in at least two of our key service offerings.
3. What would your approach be for this consulting engagement?
There are many different approaches to management consulting or business process improvement, and none of them are wrong. However, it is important that your consultant have an approach for their engagement with your company and that they’re not making it up as they go. When your organization invests $10,000 to $1,000,000+ for the expertise of a consultant, you want to make sure that the business transformation or initiative implementation isn’t haphazard or half-baked.
One way to ensure that your organization is working with the best team available is to ask for their approach for each of the eight levels of goals that a consultant can help fulfill. Not all consultants may think it is their job to assist with higher-level purposes of building consensus and commitment, facilitating client learning, and improving organizational effectiveness. So, when you ask them what their approach would be to make sure your organization is more profitable and efficient as a result of the engagement, for example, your company will quickly be able to weed through the consultants who won’t be as effective.