It is perfectly okay for you to ask the question, who is the subject matter expert here?
What are the credentials and why would I continue to read to read this?
The short answer is this, I am the President of a 21-year-old consulting firm that specializes in business process management. My area of practice lies in the contact center space. I have consulted with several hundred companies with contact centers.
Some with 5 stations others with 15,000 stations. Global, local, regional, national.
The second part of the question should lead to a pretty quick ROI.
As the CEO of this professional consulting firm, I also spend at least 50% of my time demonstrating why certain functions, tasks and projects are better suited by outsourcing. And, in this 21-year tenure we have never been shown the door by a client. We have never been fired – for any reason.
It will be my pleasure to discuss our capabilities, but this is about your business, not mine.
Before you hire any consultant, make sure they fit your specific needs. Keep these questions in mind as you reach out for their services:
- Define whether they are professional consultants or in between opportunity consultants.
- Does the consultant/group understand my industry or possess knowledge specific to you needs?
- It is important the consultant understand the business of consulting.
- It is helpful to understand the functional industry you hope to work with i.e., contact center, accounting, training
- What is the exact deliverable for the assessment and what is the anticipated completion date?
- Do they have the resources, internal or external to deploy recommendations?
- Are their recommendations and past performance credible representations of capability?
- Are they accessible?
- What are the deliverables and when?
The adage “a consultant is someone who will borrow your watch, tell you what time it is, then send you a bill,” is a very unfortunate axiom – to a professional consulting firm.
The fact that the reason consultants don’t tell consultant jokes is because they don’t like them and everybody else thinks it’s funny, and suffers from the same kind of misplaced judgment.
But the fact remains undisputable. Those two points above came from the market – not the consultant.
It is the perception of the market that creates the culture based on the actions and performance of the consultant. This might seem like a very wide swath painted with a very wide brush, and frankly, it is. But perception is reality. You know – action > consequences.
How many consultants have you/we/I met that are really between job opportunities and decided to give consulting a try while they look? I can’t quantify the number, but I will contribute an anecdotal guess: a lot of them. That does not make them bad people, or even bad consultants, but it does little to enhance their credentials as a professional consultant and inspire confidence.
Please notice that I have made a distinction here, with the mention of professional consulting firm. Since that distinction is already made, allow me to drill down on what that means, to you, the “suit” of the business.
First, Mr./Ms./ “Suit” of the business, it means this:
It is my job to consult and it is your job to listen.
If you choose not to listen to your consultant then you have no place to look for failure or success. Which puts you back in the spot where you started, talking to yourself.
Ask yourself this one question: when did I become the smartest person in the room? Someone somewhere, somehow ripped the objectivity out of your system, therefore your business culture.
NOTE: Many of these philosophies are substantiated in the book Marketing Myopia by Theodore Levitt; Harvard Business Review; 1960. I highly recommend downloading and reading
A good consulting firm, first and foremost, must know its limitations, and how to work with them to your advantage. Ask yourself, and them: Is your professional consulting firm a subject matter expert in the area you need focus – or do they have access to and a relationship(s) with a subject matter expert(s)?
It is also critical that the consulting firm completely understand the scope of work and has communicated that clearly to you. Getting out of scope is the bane of a consultant’s existence. Good ones will do it and better ones know to charge for it. Events can change the scope of a project, and sometimes with regularity so be prepared to at least have the discussion.
For instance, I am a subject matter expert in a few areas, notably contact centers and the math of politics. Invariably in a contact center I run into politics – someone is threatened and rather than bring it up they begin to try to game the system. I make it clear to my clients there will be a 10% add on charge if they decide to have me fix it.
And, believe me, it is worth every penny!
According to a great article provided to us by John Locher, a consultant himself, the smart business Suits are minimizing their risk when selecting B2B professional services.
So, part time, in between opportunities, or professional consultants, be sure to look for that consultant that best fits the specific needs of your business processes.
And the big one for you: has your Strategic Leadership Team bought in? Are the “suits” with you?
Bottom line, asking the right questions and listening to the answers will make your relationship with a consultant successful and profitable.
If you want to ask me those questions that need professional consultant answers – contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org