So, you've got a decision to make. Is this when your company or agency needs to hire a consultant---or not? Here's a short list of guidelines to help you think through the subject before you make a decision about a consulting arrangement:
HIRE A CONSULTANT:
When you need help clarifying thoughts and taking action on an issue. Clients in the weeds or in the fog of indecision often don't see the clearing in the distance. A consultant can take you above the fray and help you gain a more global perspective. Help you see that the clearing and clarification may only be a few ideas and actions away.
When you need the perspective of an expert or specialist on a particular challenge or opportunity ahead. If the resources to solve the problem or optimize the solution aren't under the roof, clients can tap into the expertise or specialization of a consultant. The value of learning what does and doesn't work from an outside pro is invaluable. They've been there. They've done that. And they've lived to tell you about it.
When you need an objective assessment of the status quo. Sometimes a client needs an honest diagnosis, with no bias attached. A consultant's vantage point detects the blind spot, the weakest link, or the elephant taking up too much square footage in the room. Or uncovers overlooked potential. Or assets buried but readily available. Just waiting to be discovered, deputized and deployed.
When you need prodding beyond the problem to the possibilities. Internal strife and strain can be symptoms of a company or agency struggling before a breakthrough. In the role of an antagonist, a consultant will ask "Why" enough times to help you identify the impasse. In the role of a protagonist, a consultant asks "Why" enough times to help you resolve. Recover. Rebound.
When you know it will cost you more tomorrow if you don't address the concern today. Often today's crisis is the decision a client didn't make yesterday because they decided to put it off until tomorrow. Instead, be proactive. Hire a consultant ahead of the curve, in order to avert a costly catastrophe down the road. Today's consultant's fee will be offset by tomorrow's savings. That's just plain good business.
DON'T HIRE A CONSULTANT:
When you're unwilling to engage in a 360 review of the matter. Unless a client operates in solitary, a consultant knows there is always another side of the story. Another stone in the system to turn over and look under. A few more individuals in the office to interview. If thoroughness makes you queasy, don't hire a consultant. But why would you be satisfied with anything less than thorough?
When your final decision is driven only by the price. If you select a consultant based on the fee alone rather than the value the professional brings to the project, you may not get the services you really need. The worth of wise counsel is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. And finding the match that suits your needs is more important than the price tag. Why not make an informed selection instead?
When you're trying to propel an uninterested third party by proxy. Underwriting consulting services to hone and heighten the skills of another party may be a functional arrangement. But it's dysfunctional if the third party has no intention to improve, is not accountable to the underwriter and has no skin in the game. The consultant in the middle becomes a frustrated footnote. In an exercise in futility.
When you need an arbiter, a mediator or a lawyer instead. Sometimes the better and best practices advised by a consultant are a day too late, and a dollar too short. At that juncture, a conscientious consultant quickly sizes up your dilemma and steers you promptly in the direction of other experts. Helping you seize the next day. Keeping you from losing your shirt in the process.
When you already know what to do. You trust your gut. Your intuition is spot-on. Plus you've got a great track record on this issue. And the trophies to prove it. While there's nothing wrong in seeking a consultant's perspective to confirm your instincts or validate your experience, right now it's probably a waste of your time and money. So this time, spare yourself some change. Get going and get on with it.
But keep that short-list of consultants at the ready. Just in case. Who knows? Next time you may really need to hire a consultant. Or perhaps you'll need to fire one first.
Follow @JoeMazzu3 on Twitter & Instagram. Visit intentionalconsulting.com to learn more about his business serving nonprofits.