Consulting: Expectations vs. Reality

In business, there will be a time when you need some specialist business advice, and this is where most people turn to consulting.

Equally, they could turn to any business advisor, mentor or person that is winning to help, but what should you expect from a consultant and what will happen in reality?

This is the key question.

You are considering hiring a consultant because you have a skills gap in your organization, or maybe you want a qualified expert to validate your ideas, or you may just want someone to be a sounding board for your ideas.

This is where you have to be very careful in relation to what it is exactly, that you want from any business advisor…no matter what title they go by.

A consultant is a subject matter expert (the other definition of the term SME) and that might relate to a legal or taxation problem you have in your business, that needs a solution.

You may also want to hire a sales trainer, to help equip your sales team with advanced selling skills to learn how to climb up the value chain in your customer base…or it could be anything where you would want, in my view, a fixed and measurable outcome.

Contrast this with say, a business mentor, who will be on hand to help you out during the lifecycle of your business.

Now, both of these definitions can and will change because business mentors are subject matter experts in their own right and consultants can provide long -term business advice.

Confused?

You needn’t be a everything in the business world is interchangeable and that means the skills of individuals and that applies to business advisors, of which “consultants” fall into the business advisory category.

The first thing you must absolutely do is to define the scope of what you want to achieve:

If you require a specific solution to a problem, then you will operate a consulting agreement to set out the scope of the problem and the outcome you desire.

This will enable you to find the right person through the right evaluation.

If you require on-going advice, then the same applies.

The biggest problem with companies hiring business advisors, consultants, mentors and the like is the lack of clarity concerning the reasoning behind the hire.

So, make sure you are very specific as to what problem you have and the outcome that you expect.

Now you can start the process of hiring and the only criteria here, is to make sure your consultant has a clear track record of performance in their chosen field and they have experienced the type of business problems that you are experiencing, or are likely to experience.

If you are a small start-up, then it is extremely unlikely that you would look to the top five management consulting companies to help you…although they probably could give you some key advice – that is because it is extremely cost-inefficient as they are used to working with publicly-listed companies and large enterprises.

To ensure that your expectations meet the reality, it is essential that you take firm control of the process, beginning with the specific reasoning behind why you need a consultant and the outcome you expect…this cannot be stressed enough.

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