Why Not Hire a Consultant?



When shouldnít you hire a consultant?

Consultants arenít the all-purpose answer to every situation. In fact, there are far more situations where you donít want a consultant than there are ones where you do. The reasons why you might not want to hire a consultant fall into three broad areas.

Is there someone available within the company (even in another business unit) that can bring the needed expertise?

This is the most common reason not to use a consultant. There are two major advantages to having someone within the company do the work. The first is pretty clear, lower cost. The second advantage is the fact that they will understand how the company does business and what sources of information will be available. This can speed up projects and makes it very likely that the solution will work within the current company structure. The downsides: -- Will you truly get an independent perspective on the project? Will their knowledge of the company constrain their thinking and cause them to miss breakthrough ideas? Does the individual really have the capability and time to do the job well?

Do you need the particular activity done frequently throughout the year?

If the answer is yes, then this is something that you need to develop the capability to handle within your company. A consultant may be helpful to establish this function, but you will save money in the long run by having an employee do the work.

Will bringing in a consultant cause me long-term morale problems?

Whenever you bring in someone from the outside to add expertise to your company, you run the risk of alienating current employees. These employees may believe that they could do the project every bit as well as any consultant could, but at a far lower cost. Whether or not they really have the capability, the reaction can be "I know our business and I am smart, so why are they bringing in this high priced talent when I am here?" Since your business will be around long after the consultant has finished their project, this can be an ongoing hidden cost to the job.

How do you decide if this will not be a problem? Look for the following:

Consultants that clearly have expertise

You want a consultant with credentials that clearly show that they have the experience and training to bring something new to the company. Being able to point to real world accomplishments done by the consultant is a major plus in selling the value of this effort to your employees. It is important that everyone from the consulting firm that interfaces with your employees has depth of experience. It is hard to convince your employees that the consulting firm really is bringing needed expertise when the people they deal with are inexperienced. Ask the consulting firms you interview about who will be working in the cubicles with your people, not just who will you see in the board room for major presentations.

Consulting firms that understand and know how to make teamwork function.

Consultants that think of themselves as sharpshooters there to find out what current management has done incorrectly are sure to turn off current employees. Those that approach the assignment as an opportunity to bring additional resources to the assistance of current management are much more likely to be accepted. Watch for signs of the consultantís attitudes in this area. Your people will pick up on cues from them. Have the consultant be part of a team with your employees if at all possible. This way recommendations from the consultant are much more likely to be implemented with the enthusiasm and drive to make them succeed. Just as interpersonal chemistry can be vital in hiring the right employees, it is an important consideration when hiring a consultant.

So donít be too afraid to bring in a consultant if your instincts tell you it is the right thing to do. Just ask yourself a few focused questions and find the right consultant for the job.

Click here for some thoughts on when might you want to bring in a consultant.