Hiring a Consultant? Shun the 24-Hour Turnaround and Other Hype.
If you live near the beach, it’s faster, easier and cheaper to build your house on the sand, but that does not mean it’s a good idea. You’re going to end up building it again when the foundation is washed out from underneath you.
The same goes for hiring consultants who promise a super-speedy turnaround. They may be fast. They may even be cheap, but the end result will probably be disastrous.
About a year ago, I made a consulting pitch on behalf of my company to help a new business venture. My firm ultimately didn't get the job because I quoted higher prices than did the other outfits the entrepreneur spoke with, and my proposed time to complete the initial process was twice as long as what he had anticipated.
I tried to be as honest and accurate in my bid as possible. But sometimes it’s hard for an entrepreneur to not be dazzled by speedy and affordable solutions. Recently I ran into him again, and he divulged that his venture still didn’t have legs because those speedier solutions didn’t pan out.
Any good business strategy takes time to develop, whether it’s for branding or lawn care. Strategies are complex and, when created correctly, should attempt to predict and account for all possible outcomes.
Consider key questions.
If you follow a strategy developed over 24 hours for doing anything more complex than driving from Chicago to Los Angeles, you’ll probably get lost. When a consultant develops a strategy for you, always ask the following questions:
1. Does this strategy address my specific needs and goals? Most speedy strategies are canned, generic, off-the-shelf solutions that apply generally to every company but specifically to none. You need a strategy that addresses your unique business challenges.
2. Is a plan for implementation included? Every business works in a specific way, and all strategies need an implementation plan that ensures success. It's best to have a tailor-made plan designed for the way your business functions.
3. What research was conducted while this strategy was crafted? Don’t be afraid to ask how the members of the team came up with their strategy. How much research could a team complete for a rush job? Research is the foundation of a solid strategy, so be sure your plan got the attention it deserves.
4. Who worked on the strategy and what are their qualifications? As a general rule, my firm doesn’t work with one-person consulting firms unless the individual consults on only one area of expertise. I want a team of professionals who are qualified to address every aspect of my strategy.
5. How does this strategy address potential issues the company will likely face? Think through at least five problems the business might encounter and find out how the proposed strategy would address them. No implementation is flawless, but a good strategy will have a plan for dealing with possible issues.
Develop a plan.
After asking the above questions, you’ll likely find that any strategy that took, say, 24 hours to create is not up to snuff. Before accepting the next proposal from a consultant, consider these tips to ensure the strategy developed will meet your expectations:
Understand your goals, and assess whether the strategy will be crafted with your company's unique needs in mind.
Make a realistic budget of what the project should cost and beware of any promises to produce a plan for dramatically less than the proposed budget.
Be realistic about the amount of time your project should take and don’t accept any bids promising results in an impossible time frame.
Develop a set of metrics to measure the success of the project and ensure that the strategy can comply.
It’s true that hip shots may occasionally hit the mark, so some strategies crafted in 24 hours might, too. But the vast majority of them will not help you hit your target. If you’re seeking a strategy that you hope to use for any length of time, you want to hire an expert marksman -- not the fastest gun in the West.