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May 8, 201812:30 PMOpen Mic

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5 tips to find a consultant your company can afford

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Imagine your organization has decided to completely overhaul a one of its integral business processes, like underwriting an insurance product or reconfiguring your mailroom. To make sure the business process improvement (BPI) effort is successful, you want to bring in a consultant to help with the initiative. However, after doing some initial research, your team is concerned about how much you might need to invest to get the expertise you need. Never fear, here are five tips on how to find a consultant your company can afford, on almost any budget.

1. Determine the specifics of the engagement.

By clearly determining what needs to be done, your organization will help avoid scope creep. Scope creep often occurs when there are unclear requirements or there is a lack of planning before the initiative begins. Basically, when scope creep happens, the engagement begins to go outside the initial boundaries set forth in the contract. At that point, an initiative often incurs additional costs since additional work is required, especially if there is no clear limit to what should and shouldn’t be included.

The more detailed information you can give a consultant about the process you want to improve, and the more clearly you can articulate exactly what you’re looking for, the more accurate quote they’ll be able to give, and the more easily you’ll both be able to manage the engagement. It will also help give you a range for what you can expect to invest financially in the consulting engagement.

If your organization is having trouble determining what the scope for a particular project needs to be, it’s possible to bring in a management consultant to help determine the scope for an engagement. While doing this is an initial investment, the upfront planning will undoubtedly save time, money, and frustrations later.

2. Proactively communicate your budget.

Once you have clearly determined the scope of the engagement, your team needs to decide on the budget. Even if your scope is somewhat unclear, it’s much easier for a management consultant to stay within budget if they know what your budget is before providing a quote or proposal. So be sure to clearly communicate to them what money you have allocated for the project and what your upper limit is.

By knowing your budget for the initiative, consultants can be transparent with you about what $10,000, $50,000, or $2 million could accomplish, and everyone will be on the same page going into the engagement. You’ll also be able to compare quotes more easily and see what scope of services you’d receive for the budget you have.

3. Look for consultants who utilize local talent.

One of the best ways you can reduce the expense in almost any consulting engagement is to work with a company who utilizes local talent. By working with local talent, your organization will significantly reduce its expenses since the firm won’t be billing as much for travel time or mileage, nor will they be passing the cost of their flights, hotel stays, and dining onto you. If your initiative is a particularly large one that requires lots of in-person contact time, this will be especially crucial.

There are many consulting firms who will bring in consultants from across the country or offshore, even if they have a local office. It’s important not just to work with a consultant that has a local presence, but to know that the specific people with whom you will be working are based in your local area.

Most local consulting firms do not use the multilayer management structure found in the major national/international consulting firms. This results in rate differential of $650/hour type rates for senior consultants flown in from out of state versus local senior consultants with rates between $150–$250/hour with comparable or better expertise and experience. This also supports our local economy as salaries and taxes stay local compared to those dollars going out of state. Buy local!

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