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Definition: A person engaged to provide professional advice or services for a fee, but not as an employee of the business that engages him or her .
When it comes to marketing and management, many entrepreneurs are on firmer ground than when venturing into accounting and law. But nobody knows everything, even about general management and marketing. There's nothing wrong with admitting that you don't know everything and seeking outside help in an effort to improve your company's weaknesses as skillfully as possible. In narrow disciplines, such as managing mergers and acquisitions, marketing to ethnic groups or implementing new technology, the use of an experienced specialist makes even more sense. And even if you feel there's nothing you don't know about a topic, hiring outside experts will allow you to do things you would not ordinarily have time for and do not want to hire permanent employees for.
Hiring a consultant is different from hiring almost any other kind of employee, and it's different from purchasing most outsourced services, too. For one thing, consultants are expensive. They can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars a day. Make sure you know what the consulting fees will be and exactly what you'll get for paying them. Consultants should provide a more customized solution to your business problem than most outsourced providers. Make sure any consultant you hire asks lots of questions about your needs and listens to your answers. Be sure your description of your needs is specific, and avoid consultants with preconceived notions about solutions.