They get a bad press, consultants. They’re sometimes thought of as being people who charge a lot of money to tell you what you already know. People worry if they’re getting any value from consultants.
However, genuinely qualified and talented consultants can bring real value to your business. If you’ve wondered how, there are a number of ways they do it, and a number of benefits they bring.
Typically, consultants have trained extensively in their chosen specialism. This means that they should have a level of expertise greater than is available to you in-house. For example, these days creating your own website is pretty easy using free and easily available software. However, building a website that achieves your corporate objective is another matter altogether. It needs:
- an architecture that encourages easy navigation
- branding that reflects your corporate brand and is applied creatively
- to be set up so that Google likes it and places it near the top of its search engine results
- future-proofing so that, as the company changes, it can cope.
In this instance, it’s probably quite clear how much value they bring. In truth, it should be similar on other projects. If not, you should appoint different consultants.
As consultants are specialised, they have probably seen other companies in a similar situation to yours and can quickly identify the most beneficial course of action. They know what has worked and what hasn’t. They’re able to identify the likely pitfalls and obstacles round the corner and can advise you on how best to avoid them, or deal with them if they are inevitable. Avoiding such problems can save you huge amounts of money and time.
Often, when receiving advice and recommendations from inside the business, a senior leader needs to filter any particular biases or agendas that person may have. For example, if sales are faltering, the Marketing Director may well say that it’s the fault of ineffective sales people. In the meantime, the Sales Director will argue that there simply aren’t enough quality leads being created by marketing so it’s no wonder the sales people can’t make more sales.
Any consultants bought in to analyse the situation will be entirely objective in searching for the truth. Their interest is not in protecting one director or another. They will be interested in helping you to understand where the problem lies so that you can resolve it (and employ them on future assignments).
As consultants do this every day, they develop a toolkit of processes, guides and templates that help them to achieve their results quickly. They have no interest in re-inventing the wheel. If you were to do this on your own, you’d have to invent these tools from scratch.
Even better, on each assignment, they can review the effectiveness of the toolkit and keep modifying and improving it. This means that they should be able to achieve the objective in a fraction of the time it would take you.
5. Learn from them
A useful side-effect of bringing consultants in is that you yourself learn from them. As you watch them work and hold your regular reviews, you get a close understanding of the key issues, how they approach them, what tools they use and how they reach their conclusions and recommendations. This is invaluable for your own personal effectiveness in the future.
6. Keeps you free to focus on other issues
Bringing in consultants to deal with a certain issue can free up much needed time, leaving you, as boss, time to focus on all the other things that affect your company’s success.
While consultants don’t always have a great reputation, there’s no doubt that good ones are worth their weight in gold. If you’ve shied away from using them in the past, perhaps it’s worth reconsidering? And while they’re experts in their field, remember that the best ones will work with you, not for you. As stated by management consultant Peter Drucker, “my greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions”.