Getting the best from your external consultants – our top tips
Make the most of having a consultant join your team
The idea of hiring independent consultants to project manage or audit your business may seem daunting at first. We understand. Change can be scary – especially if you’re nervous about what consequences outside opinions might have for your company.
Nonetheless, we encourage clients to regard hiring an external consultant as an excellent opportunity to innovate and freshen up their organisations. When it comes to interim solutions, the clue is in the name: the consultant won’t be around forever, so it’s doubly important to make the most of their expertise while they’re there. But what’s the best way to achieve this?
It is crucial for both business and consultant to be clear about the scope of the project, as well as on the expectations from the client’s side. Unrealistic goals will hamper your progress and may even cause friction among the team. Thus, clients should set out the consultant’s remit clearly before they arrive and communicate their expectations again during the onboarding period. That way, any confusion or grey areas concerning the consultant’s scope – not to mention the client’s goals – can be avoided.
‘Having a clear scope for a project is super important to be able to add value from day one. I recently worked with Mhairi on an interim assignment. She did a fantastic job of communicating the deliverables, and I felt confident in my understanding of the project ahead of working with the client in order to hit the ground running’
Access to systems/technology
The consultant’s time is limited, so it is doubly important for them to hit the ground running from their first day on-site. They won’t want to stand around awkwardly while access to back-office systems, email or other relevant IT is set up for them. Not only will this reflect poorly on your organisation – it wastes valuable time, not to mention money. Make sure you’ve addressed any such issues well in advance of the consultant’s arrival.
Regular communication and roadmap
Why did your company decide to bring in outside help in the first instance? Think about your objectives carefully, then – with the consultant’s input – come up with a well-defined roadmap as to how the project will progress, plus any milestones that you need to reach along the way. Regular check-ins and open dialogue will be essential for identifying any challenges quickly; this will also allow you to track your progress, ensuring that the consultant’s time on your project is well-spent.
Who are the key stakeholders in your organisation? Consultants need to know who they’ll be interacting with so that they can begin to build positive relationships as soon as possible. Multiple people from your company may have to work with the consultant, so be sure to brief these staff members about the project ahead of time. This will mean that no one from your business will be caught off-guard, and they’ll be well prepared for the scale of the task. Too often, firms fail to get everyone on board before taking on outside help. Not only can this make the consultant’s life difficult, hindering the project’s efficacy – it can damage trust within the organisation.
‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do’, as Steve Jobs memorably said. ‘We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.’ Bear this in mind when hiring a consultant. On the most effective interim projects, consultants will be able to speak freely, with their experience and skillset fully leveraged to drive things forward.
At the end of the day, consultants are there to do a job. You know that, and they know that – so why invest anything more in the situation?
Actually, while a business relationship is of course essential, clients tend to get the most out of consultants when they click on a personal level. Even if it might not seem strictly necessary at first, try to invite the consultant to the office for some key meetings and arrange to have lunch or a drink with them afterwards. If you can cultivate a personal relationship alongside the professional one, your consultant is more likely to be invested in your project, going over and above the deliverables. Furthermore, a positive experience could lead to a more long-term arrangement – they may prioritise working with you ahead of other clients in the future.
We are always happy to help clients find executive interim solutions for their business. If you need to make a temporary hire – or are wondering how best to engage a consultant for your business –feel free to reach out.