How to choose a consultant
Many businesses need both general and specific business support, training and consultancy services at some time or other.
Finding the right type of consultant for your business can be both time consuming and costly, all the more so if you get it wrong.
Consultants can provide advice on your to make your business more successful (either by using new processes, altering existing processes or by giving advice in particular circumstances). Usually consultants are brought in to deal with a specific problem or task, although it's not unknown for a business to use the same consultant on a continuous basis for many tasks over a long period of time.
From experience, consultants are most effective if you know what you want to achieve before they start. If the consultant knows where you want to get to it can often give them enough information to plan the route (for example using a consultant to manage a particular task, such as the launch of a new product will tell them that they need to look at the marketing and possibly the production and logistics as well). Many consultants specialise in vertical markets, for example they may be specialist food industry consultants or marketing consultants.
It is important that you have set the objective and also a time frame for the project, this will lead to you setting a budget for the consultant. What ever you do remember that the objectives should be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time limited) and that what you want the consultant to achieve should be clearly defined if you do not want to run the risk of the job not being done, the consultant staying longer than anticipated and costs rising out of control.
Before you meet the consultant try to create a brief or specification. This should include a description of the business, what it does, it's size and structure. Also included should be details of the problem or task that you want the consultant to look at, what results you are looking for, when the work should start and finish, how and when any reviews will take place and the type of person that you feel you are looking for as a consultant (including types of experience etc).
It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding a consultant to manage a project for you or top solve a problem but remember that it's your money that you will be spending, make sure that you get the right person for the job and that you believe that they can complete the job to time, budget and produce the right result and you will be on the road to a successful use of a consultant. Fail in any of these steps and you could be learning a very expensive lesson.