As a CEO before I became a consultant 10 years ago I had very little time for consultants and did not have a high opinion of them. One of the things that has always stuck in my craw is seeing a consultant who has never actually carried a bag conduct sales training. Some have very little if any experience in the field as an outside salesperson. Even more concerning is to watch a consultant give leadership or business acumen advice when that consultant never has had to meet a payroll or run a company personally.
Consultants can provide real value on many occasions but they can also be your worst nightmare. Consultants have inspired some clichés, such as: “A consultant will ask you for the time and then steal your watch,” and “Two things you don’t want to watch: Sausage being made and a group of consultants trying to solve a problem.”
Worst NightmareConsultants can become your worst nightmare in many ways.
The Value of an Experienced ConsultantThe right consultant can provide tremendous value to your firm. Just having an unbiased, outside pair of eyes look at your firm can reveal things that you as president and your executive staff can’t see. This is not uncommon, because you’re caught up in the day-to-day operation of your business. Also, a consultant does not have the emotional, compassionate attachment to people and processes that you and your management team have developed. As a result, the right consultant can help you identify and resolve issues that have gone unnoticed or ignored.
Consultants provide value not because they can do things you don’t know how to do, but because they are able to devote the necessary time - that you and your team may not have - to address many issues your company may face.
Training and employee development support are two areas where consultants provide exceptional value. The consulting industry is a huge, growing industry that is fast approaching the $100 billion mark. A market of this size attracts many players. While there are many professional, competent and trustworthy consultants out there, there are also some who may not be able to live up to your expectations. A survey by Sales & Marketing Management magazine found that more than 75% of the business executives who responded felt that consultants are necessary for business success. These same survey results concluded that more than 50% of the firms utilizing consultants were dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied.
There are some highly qualified, highly effective consultants specializing in your industry. The more you are able to define your expectations, the better your chances of being pleased with the results. Do your homework. Go beyond reading their bios. Ask specific questions about their personal business experience. Ask how many employees they were responsible for, what was the largest revenue stream they personally managed in their business career and even ask if they ever had to meet payroll or started a company from scratch.