Many papers have been written about the cooperation with external specialists or consultants. When working together with a consultant there are many topics to take into consideration. In my opinion there are some very important “connections” needed before starting the business cooperation. I’d like to point out five of them.
- Choose a consultant you trust
- Never lose your (corporate) identity
- Choose your consultant based on
- his or her experience
- ability to be innovative
- Let the consultant inspire you, not lead you
- The consultant should stay for the implementation
Your insight on these topics is welcome. Please feel free to react with other, more important topics.
1. Choose a consultant you trust
If you want to select a consultant for a job, it is very important that you feel a connection. The consultant should be a person you trust 100%. If there is no trust between you and the consultant the investment will be lost money. It makes no sense that a CEO or a HR Manager selects a consultant to help a department leader. It doesn’t matter what level. If the leader of that department doesn’t accept the consultant he will never implement the ideas of the consultant. On the contrary, very often the leader will do everything to prove that he or she was right about the consultant. “The consultant was okay but had no feeling with my department” Avoid this statement. Make sure the leader and the consultant are on the same page.
2. Never lose your (corporate) identity
Thinking outside of the box is not the same as exceeding limits. These limits can be moral, physical, economical, financial, scientifical …
A consultant should always fit in your company culture. Make sure the consultant stays inside of your limits. However, new ideas should be embraced. Let the consultant think outside of the box. However don’t break with your company identity. This is a very difficult topic. Renewing can very often (by unwilling leaders) be perceived as breaking with the identity. Thinking outside of the box is not synonymous with thinking outside of the boundaries.
Example: Down in the Nineties a company was resisting against the salesmen having a mobile phone. This was expensive and not needed. In the meantime, the competition was working already with mobiles and was able to have shorter response time. This is a strategic failure and it’s not crossing the limits of a management. In Social Media you very often see this cartoon. It represents the reality for many salesmen.
3. Choose your consultant based on his or her:
If you want some support in strategic questions, ask the right person. Ask a specialist in the field of your business. Don’t be hesitant. It takes more guts to ask for help then to continue struggling with topics. In the US and in Germany, companies are wide open for senior people to share their experiences.
Everybody accepts that for your bookkeeping; you go to an accountant because he’s a specialist. If you hire personal, you use some HR agency to support or even do your administration. Nobody believes this is showing weakness or incompetence.
Why consider yourself incompetent if you have core business questions.
Don’t forget: the world is changing continuously; it’s hard to catch up. Focus on your core business.
Question: Why are companies hiring a sales trainer that doesn’t have any connection or relation to their business? A specialist in the field of your business can bring much more value to your team. I’ve followed sales trainings myself in the past and I really can say; every time I learned something new. Honestly, if I would follow one session today, I would probably pick up some new ideas. But always I had to convert the “news” to my own needs.
Why bother your team
with this conversion?
A Training should
be directly implementable.
3.2. ability to be innovative
When talking to a consultant try to find out what he believes can be renovated or renewed in your business. What experiences does he have with other companies and what would make your company grow. Maybe the consultant did already implement a procedure at a previous customer.
If the answers please you, start the cooperation. Maybe try first for a small project. And later go for a big topic.
Example: In my neighborhood is a company selling TV’s, videos, computers, housekeeping stuff … The grandfather started the business in the 70’s based on his quick service, the stock of parts and he came at customers’ home repairing the washing machine, the television… all this within hours/days. The company was growing fast, based on this business model. About six months ago the grandson announced that the shop will be closed. Reason is they missed the online sales programs. So what happened is “shoppers” come by and look, feel, smell, taste… and go home to buy it in the internet at the cheapest price. I believe it sucks because who’s doing the repair now since the company is gone. The grandson had no idea how online shopping worked and believed that the company would continue to be successful, based on the good service. What a wrong judgement and easy to pinpoint after it’s done.
When working together with a consultant try to figure out what level of integrity the person has. The consultant should keep the strategy exclusive for you. Especially when the strategy was developed for your company and you paid him for developing that strategy.
Things are different if the consultant comes with a strategy or idea and implements this. He offers a solution developed not during your payment terms.
Question: Did the consultant develop the idea for somebody else and making double money now?
4. Let the consultant inspire you, not lead you
Always keep control over the direction you’re going in. A good consultant listens to your wishes and tries to find answers for you. He doesn’t take the lead. He doesn’t force you in a certain direction. He comes up with proposals or he gives a fair critic on your ideas. He gives the second opinion. He holds the mirror in front of you. Be prepared for some negative criticism. A good consultant is not afraid of pointing out a problem. He will help you finding an alternative or look to find a solution, together.
5. The consultant should stay for the implementation
Don’t pay lots of money for ideas that you don’t even believe in (see topic 2). Especially not, when it comes down to implement these ideas. If the strategy is something you can believe in; then go for it. 100%.
Too often the consultants are no longer in house on the moment the defined strategy will be implemented in the company. This can be for various reasons.
Don’t let the reason be money saving.
You came a long way to develop this strategy together with that consultant and you paid already for it. The worst thing that can happen is that you’re alone with the problems of the implementing. For sure there will be obstacles on your way to implement the strategy. In that case it’s always good to have the (co-)architect of the plan on your side. At the end it may be necessary to adapt the plan to new circumstances.
Don’t be afraid of hiring a specialist for a specific field of your business. You can’t be the best in all fields of a business organization. However, when hiring a consultant, make sure there is this connection with the department of your company. Connect with the listener, the inspirer who thinks outside of the box but within your company boundaries. Finish the project together.