The word ‘consultant’ elicits images of a well-dressed, officious, impersonal business person licking their lips at the prospect of charging exorbitant hourly rates to those who come knocking. Is this really the case with consultants in 2017 or just a perception spilling over from the 90’s / 00’s when consultants were a dime a dozen, making choosing a consultant even more difficult?
Thanks to the advancements in communication (including social media and portable technology) immoral and unscrupulous businesses can’t get away with what they used to – particularly in the community sector where it’s all about people and relationships.
Remember, consultants are people coming into your business from the outside with a specific expertise to help you achieve your goals. So, it’s not just about whether they will deliver on their promises, it’s also about making sure they are the right fit so you can work effectively with them.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to do your homework so you get what you need from a consultancy relationship to ensure you maximise value, service and desired outcome.
Detailed below is what you should expect (and demand) when you engage any consultant to support you and your business.
Choosing a Consultant
Consulting in the community sector is all about people just as it is for the service providers who provide direct support to people across Australia. As with any relationship, it’s important to find a good match and work with an organisation who understands you, your business and what you’re trying to achieve.
We’ve heard some horror stories from clients who have experienced negative, costly support from consultants and ended up receiving poor service with a less than ideal outcome. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Ask them how long have they been operating for?
- Ask yourself whether they understand your needs?
- Ask to speak with some clients. Did they have a good experience / outcome?
- Check the fine print in the contract. Do you have any built-in assurances?
- Will they be accountable?
One of the most important factors that will shape a successful consultant outcome is structured communication. Having an ongoing dialogue ensures that expectations are clear and timelines are met. Working in partnership will always get you a better outcome than someone just ‘developing documentation’.
Every business offers different pricing, services and value. Do your research and make sure you’re not comparing apples with oranges. Value is often built into your experience and process that will support your best outcome. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Check their credentials, website and history – make sure everything checks out, be comfortable with what they stand for and that you are inspired with confidence.
If you’ve gone through this process and you’ve ticked the boxes, you can move forward with some level of confidence. Remember, it’s your business and it’s up to you to look after it.