How to Choose the Right Business Consultant

How to Choose the Right Business Consultant

Your business relies on technology and computing systems that are becoming more complex every day. Choosing the right system and how to pay for it can make you more competitive in the marketplace. Why not find someone who has done it successfully? That firm should have business and technical experience and expertise. Why not hire an organization that specializes in optimizing work flow process and can increase the bottom line?

When hiring a professional business consultant it’s important to give them the same scrutiny that you would give any other professional. Ask any prospective business consultant these questions before you commit to any instructional plan or business training sessions.

1) What are your credentials?
Where did you learn this? What degrees do you or your team holds? There are a lot of initials that can follow people’s names that mean nothing, and there are many bogus institutions offering people “degrees” in every imaginable topic for a price. Before you hire ask about their credentials and find out what their credentials mean. Be aware that some credentials have more worth than others. A good business consultant should have at minimum an MBA and ten years experience. If you are hiring them for a specific area of your business like technology an engineering degree and associated experience should also be mandatory.

2) What kind of experience?
Beware of people or firms that have little, none or the wrong kind. Dig, ask for references. Would you hire a business consultant whom had never run a business? The same goes for computer consultants who haven’t worked in your industry.

3) Is the business consultant an independent or are they subsidized?
For instance, they may be affiliated with or sponsored by a particular company. If so, the affiliation or sponsorship may slant the person’s presentation in a way that’s unacceptable to you or turn into a parade of products that you don’t want to buy or they blind you to making a better choice.

4) Define your goals.
Define your business or technology goals before you begin looking for consultants. This will give you a list of the skill sets required. For example, your goals may be to reduce IT spending while increasing service levels. These are great goals. The first goal helps the bottom line and the second keeps the workers happy and productive.

5) Make a list of education, experience and skills.
Compile a list of business and technical skills needed. An Example list:
1. Business degrees required.
2. Technical degrees required. See “How to choose the right computer service”.
3. Business experience in my industry.
4. Accounting skills. Do they understand Cap-Ex, etc?
5. Familiarity with our current technology.
6. How long have they been in business? Will they be around next year? They say most business fail in the first five years.

6 ) Insured?
Are they insured with General Liability and Workman’s Compensation insurance? Who pays if they slip and fall at your office?

7 ) References or success stories?
Do they have customer references? Any success stories you can follow up?

8 ) Meet with the business consultant you’re considering and personally evaluate him or her.
Look for the following in the face-to-face meeting:
• Are they organized?
• Do they dress and act in a professional manner?
• Do they have knowledge of your industry?
• Do they present a clear outline of their services?
• Are they personable and knowledgeable?
• If you have staff that will be trained, do you think they will enjoy learning from the trainer?

You may not be able to initially meet with someone who’s providing the service or working from a remote location, but you can still interview them on the phone.

If the prospective consultants can answer all of these questions properly then you have found the right ones. Now you can make a well informed, better, choice.

Written by Robert DelGarbino, BSIE, MBA August 17, 2008