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Considering appointing a consultant? Here are some important questions to ask

For small business owners, in the absence of a trusted referral, when considering appointing a consultant or service provider to your business, there are a number of questions that you should consider asking. In this article I provide you with some evaluation criteria that can assist you in arriving at a well considered decision, giving you confidence that your new consultant or provider of service is up to the job and delivers on the outcomes you are seeking.

Working relationship

The initial meeting with your consultant will reveal their consulting persona, from which you will be able to determine whether you are compatible. Do you really want a consultant who talks about himself or herself excessively? More likely you'll want a consultant who is genuinely interested in your business, enquires what you want from the process, asks lots and lots of questions to truly understand your situation and objectives, and gives you examples of similar work they have done previously. Remember that this person will be working with you (and others in your business). If you think you would have trouble working with the consultant, are you really going to get the maximum benefit of their expertise?

Experience

Any potential consultant ideally should have worked for a number of different organisations. Things to ascertain include:

Type of Work: Business consultants might have a variety of experiences ranging from general management, business processes, human resources, sales and marketing to financing and business growth. Make sure their experience matches up with your business's needs. In addition, the nature of their previous work will also shed light on their ability to make certain changes in your business.

Type of Business: If the consultant has worked with small business they will be more likely to understand your business and be able to work creatively with fewer resources. In addition, having corporate experience is also a bonus. These companies, through a myriad of training programs may have provided the consultant with exposure to great ideas and techniques that can be implemented for you.

Customised service

There are some consultants who may be inflexible and have a 'one size fits all' approach. They will try and tell you it has to be done a certain way, not because it has to be but because it's what they have always done, or because it fits in with their templates. A good consultant will listen to your requirements, consider your business circumstances and customise their service to best suit your needs. Equally a good consultant will guide you appropriately if they don't agree with your approach. They will explain why and list the consequences of proceeding in your original direction, propose alternate suggestions and possibly even provide you with examples or other resources for you to make up your own mind.

Ongoing support

When a new process is implemented, this may require diverting resources from other areas of your business. This usually isn't sustainable long term. During implementation, ask your consultant for advice on ongoing management, or if their service extends to implementation.

Testimonials

Most consultants will have testimonials available. Good practice is to ask the consultant if you can speak to someone they have done similar work for. A consultant who has genuinely satisfied clients should be happy to provide you with a contact.

Utilising the evaluation criteria in this article can contribute to the selection of an appropriate consultant or service provider to your business. By engaging with a suitably qualified professional, the outcomes that can be created, and the experience along the way, can be significantly beneficial and transformative for you and your business.

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  • General Management

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