By Gene Russell, Manex President & CEO
Are you looking for extra bandwidth, some additional expertise, broad multi-company experiences, subject matter expertise, communication ability, training ability, organizational skills, certifications that no one on your staff has, ability to document, ability to create near-term and long-term wins? If so, you’re probably thinking about bringing in a consultant or consulting firm. Will it pay off for you and create an ROI or will it be an impediment, demoralizer, or simply a bad expense?
The key is doing your homework and really thinking about your needs relative to the very large pool of individuals, niche firms, and small to mid-sized consulting firms. If you are thinking about a large multinational consulting firm and can afford it, you aren’t reading this blog post. Or are you?
Everyone sells, and consulting firms are no different. In this short piece, I provide some personal advice from the consultant’s perspective on how and why to look beyond the pitch.
One of the key questions always on potential clients’ minds is “does the consultant have enough real-world experience to apply their knowledge to my business environment, culture, and situation?” Certifications are not always the most reliable tool to get at that question. Look at the consultant’s case studies or success stories and make sure you receive an accurate bio of the consultant and/or their team. The consultant’s publications can also be useful as well as public speeches.
Make sure you are choosing the right skill set. If you are searching for a strategic planning consultant, don’t hire a lean expert. If you are considering a multidimensional firm, the same applies to which consultant does the project.
The Right Advice
Often a consultant is trying to sell a repeatable project they have done over and over. The consultant must be more interested in your current issues and future opportunities than closing a deal with you. One size does not fit all. Often this approach is evident on the consultant’s website without them fully realizing it.
If the consultant has a bias to one or two approaches to every issue, then this will most likely be the approach used with your organization. Make sure you screen for this bias. In many cases, certain tools will be common, specifically in certification programs like lean, 5S and food safety for example. However, the consultant’s approach must consider your size, culture, and other unique features of your business. You and your team must like the consultant. They must seamlessly gel with your organization without causing disruptions.
Finally, regarding the right advice, will you be able to do it on your own after the consultant is gone and the last check to them has been written? This is key to gaining true value from the consultant. You may wish to bring the consultant or consulting firm in for other projects in the future, but you should not be paying for “Ground Hog Day” projects.
How do you do all this? Generally, I find that if the consultant does not ask enough of the right questions, you should be concerned. Second, ask for references and look at those case studies. Also, are they independently surveyed for quality and customer satisfaction and/or impacts? Are they willing to share these stats? Are you comfortable with the assigned consultant and are they going to be easy to work with? The last thing you need is a drag on your business while the consultant is working. Time is money. Bad, unrepeatable advice is even more expensive.
A great consultant can solve immediate problems, set the client up for long term success, train for leadership, draw out the true mission and vision statements, lean out the company, solve supply chain issues, get the client certified for a major OEM client, prevent HR issues — just to name of few of the projects I’ve seen this quarter. Please contact me if you want to discuss or explore any of these ideas further. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Gene Russell is President and CEO of Manex and has over 30 years of senior executive strategic planning, operational management, and consulting experience in the manufacturing and technology sectors. With his extensive knowledge of manufacturing operations, he has developed and implemented key strategic initiatives for companies, allowing them to improve performance and achieve profitable growth.