Fledgling businesses and small companies often find themselves wondering whether to hire or outsource work. Hiring full-time staff can create complications if the staffing need is not long term. Consultants can assist with change initiatives, new systems implementations, specialty work, and other, short-term project needs.
Businesses with limited budgets can make the most of their finances by establishing strong relationships with high-quality consultants. It is important to find consultants who will embrace your brand’s mission and vision and become a valuable member of your team. Understanding how to hire, onboard, and regularly work with a consultant is an important piece of the business owner’s puzzle.
HIRING A CONSULTANT
Understand your goals before you hire a consultant. Identify the problems you need to resolve and how you expect the consultant to address and accomplish the issue. Clarify the time frame and budget allotted. It is also important to identify potential barriers that might influence the completion of the project.
Identify the type of consultant that will best help you complete the task. Identify the skills and experience you believe are necessary to accomplish your goals and will establish a successful relationship with your team. As you compile a list of potential consultants, conduct due diligence prior to offering a contract. Check references and engage in sufficient conversations with each prospect to ensure you understand what they bring to the table.
Take the time to establish a clear relationship with your new consultant. You may find a particular consultant will be beneficial to your brand on a fairly regular basis so it is best to lay the foundation for that potential, ongoing relationship. Explain clearly the scope of the work and address any questions the consultant may have. Establish a clear timeline, budget, how you will communicate, how often you would like updates, and so on. Be sure to introduce the consultant to anyone on your team with whom he will interact and clarify expectations for those working relationships.
Manage each project for best results. There are responsibilities that simply can’t be delegated. A consultant is rarely meant to have full control of a project. Actively manage each project by establishing regular check-in procedures, when and how drafts of the work should be submitted for review and expectations for troubleshooting potential problems. Compensate the consultant on time and negotiate costs of any deliverables added once the project has started. Also, keep in mind that a timeline may need to be adjusted if there are unforeseen complications that arise during the project.
Provide an official “ending” for each project. Think of it as an exit interview of sorts. Meet with the consultant to provide feedback on the work delivered and to hear any feedback the consultant may have on the deliverables as well as the entire process. Be candid about what worked well and where there were challenges. Brainstorm things that will help both parties work more effectively together on future projects.
One of the more valuable assets of consultants is that they are used to jumping into new work environments on short notice. That being said, a purposeful onboarding process can benefit the entire team, especially if the consultant is to be engaged in a complex assignment or will be with your business for a relatively extended time.
Organize first-day logistics beforehand so you are not wasting your consultant’s time on the first day as they figure out how to get things started. Provide a security badge and parking pass, as required. Have ready for the consultant any login information he might need to access relevant systems and either one of your company’s secure computers or access to your IT specialist to configure his computer if need be. Arrange for face to face meetings with other stakeholders in the project. Also, provide a workspace that allows whatever level of privacy the consultant may need to focus on the project.
Provide a big-picture view of your company’s objectives and priorities and how the consultant’s work fits into that picture. Make sure that everyone is on the same page as you begin the project and is aware of any actions that have been taken on the project prior to the consultant’s arrival. This type of understanding will help your consultant as he strategizes his approach to his work. It also helps everyone keep established timelines and budget expectations in mind.
Provide a sense of the organizational culture of your company. The more connected a consultant feels to the organizational environment, the more comfortable he will be delivering on the project. Treat your consultant like a new-hire and include him in staff lunches, social functions, and any team building activities in which your regular staff engages.
Don’t wash your hands of consultant oversight after the initial day. Onboarding should be an extended process to keep tabs on your consultant’s progress and any challenges he may come across in his work. A formal established onboarding process will help you develop strong relationships with consultants and increase the possibility of continued or future projects.
WORKING SUCCESSFULLY WITH CONSULTANTS
The most effective consultant-business relationships are established through ongoing communication. In order to build mutual trust and respect, continuous efforts on your part are necessary throughout the project timeline.
Take notice of consultants’ work styles and personalities. If they do not mesh with your corporate culture, they are probably not the right fit for future projects.
Be open with your team as to why you have decided to engage a consultant. Help people understand how they each fit into their role in the project. Reinforce that the consultant is there to work with your established team and to bring a different set of skills to the table, not to replace anyone.
Establish specific, measurable, and achievable goals then stick to them. Measure progress towards those goals and clarify any expectations as needed along the way.
Manage your project but don’t micromanage. Consultants are used to quick starts and are better able to handle change than established employees. Begin the feedback process early in the project and continue it regularly throughout the time the consultant is with your company.
Keep the lines of communication open and establish channels expected to be used for that communication. This will help to avoid misunderstandings of any sort and will ensure that information is provided to the proper people when it should be.
HIRING A CONSULTANT
Understand your goals
Identify the type of consultant
Take the time to establish a clear relationship
Manage each project
Provide an official “ending”
Organize first-day logistics
Provide a big-picture view
Provide a sense of the organizational culture
Don’t wash your hands of consultant oversight
WORKING SUCCESSFULLY WITH CONSULTANTS
Take notice of consultants’ work styles
Be open with your team
Establish specific, measurable, and achievable goals
Manage your project
Keep the lines of communication open
The experts at Strategy Driven Marketing understand that your current team can only work so many hours a day. We partner with other business to help them avoid burn-out of their team members or disappointing their clients with missed deliverables. SDM can help in areas your team doesn’t specialize in or simply doesn’t have time for. Let us use our years of marketing and business strategy experience to help your team create revenue-producing results. Contact us today to get started!