When you’re running a business, you may find yourself running into decisions where you simply don’t have the expertise necessary to make an informed choice – but the buck still stops with you! It’s not practical to try and become an expert in everything (some CEOs try and they suffer burnout – and badly). One option you have – especially early on when your business is small and you haven’t assembled a full team – is using consultants.
Consultants aren’t a perfect shortcut, but they can be an effective one, as long as you know what you need, can quantify the results so you know when you’re getting it, and know where to find good consultants. If you want strategy consultants it’s no good Googling “strategy consulting firms London” and going with the first result, you need to know you’re getting the right help for your needs from someone you can trust.
The first thing you need to do is set goals. If you don’t know what you want from your relationship with consultants, you have no criteria to judge who is right and wrong for you. Decide what you want for your business, but also how you want the relationship with your consultants to play out. How much authority do they have over your business? Are you looking for conversation or a lecture? Do you want information or advice?
You also need to think about how you will measure the impact on your business. If you’re hiring market research consultants to provide data and insight that will inform your marketing, think about the kind of uplift you’d want to see in terms of engagement and revenue when you put their advice into action.
Look for Recommendations
This is the time to turn your contacts in the business community. Whatever network you’ve built – and networking proactively should be a regular activity, precisely so it can pay off in situations like this – it’s time to go to it and ask about your fellow business owner’s experience with consultants. There is no better indication of quality than a personal recommendation, not least because your peers can also talk to you honestly not just about the results they got but about the whole experience, allowing you to judge if you think that sounds like a productive working relationship for you.
Don’t Commit Early
Most consultants and specialists have an array of ways you can sample their work, allowing you to decide if it’s the right option for you. From white papers and case studies to interviews and trial sessions, don’t commit too soon. Get a full flavour of what’s on offer and make an informed decision.