“I don’t believe in spending money on consultants. I prefer us to do the work ourselves and develop our own capability”.
Those were the first words to me from the new CFO at our first meeting. I had turned up to brief him on the piece of consulting work for which I had been hired by his predecessor. Not a great start.
Consultants get criticised for charging too much, telling you what you already know, using jargon, overcomplicating problems, death by PowerPoint and recycling solutions for different clients. If you are using consultants who really don’t add value then don’t waste money on them. You do need to stop and think, however, about what it is that will add value for you.
People hire consultants for these sorts of reasons:
- To provide clarity where there is uncertainty or complexity;
- To provide expertise the organisation doesn’t have;
- To analyse, diagnose or review;
- To provide solutions to specific challenges and situations;
- To validate or provide a structure or roadmap for an idea;
- To identify or help implement business process improvement;
- To bring in an experienced “outsiders” evaluation and point of view;
- To develop capability inside the organisation.
People usually hire consultants based on recommendations from someone they trust. That can be a good start but your needs might be quite different so how do you choose? Things you should consider include:
- Compatibility with your culture and team – can they work with you and people in your organisation but still be sufficiently independent to tell you what you need to know?
- Ability to execute – Can they explain how they will help you to get to where you need to be – look beyond billable hours and deliverables to the provision of a clear road map. If they can’t do that you might be better looking elsewhere.
- Credibility – a proven track record, verified credentials and validated case studies are excellent indicators of success. In case things go wrong look for membership of a professional institute with a code of conduct and a complaints process.
What about the CFO who didn’t value consultants? Well… after four successful assignments he realised that consultants can add value and help build internal capability at the same time and he hired me again years later. Business relationships are built on performance and trust. That is what really matters.
This article is by Phil Guerin, Immediate Past President, IMC New Zealand.
Andrew Marr is a current IMC New Zealand council member and treasurer.