A good business consultant is worth her weight in gold.
Under the right circumstances, a business consultant can bring expertise to your company and offer an objective perspective that can be invaluable for decision making – all at a fraction of the cost of hiring a permanent employee.
On the other hand, you'll find no shortage of business consultant horror stories. From consultants who never fulfill their contracts to those who can't come close to living up to their job descriptions, you'll need to exercise caution to make sure you're getting your money's worth.
Finding a good business consultant isn't easy, especially now that the ranks of consultants are bloated with downsized workers looking for an easy paycheck. For the sake of your company's future, you need to know where to look for decent consultants and how to separate the cream of the crop from the rest of the field.
- Referrals. The Internet can be a great resource for tracking down many different kinds of information. But when it comes to finding a business consultant, Google should be the last place you look. Instead, start your search by asking your business network for personal referrals. You can continue your research by visiting the consultant's website, but give personal referrals more weight than the information that appears on your computer screen.
- Experience. Experience counts in a consulting. Ideally, you're looking for consultants that have a combination of experience in their specialization and in consulting. Although downsized professionals possess adequate expertise in their field, they are often unfamiliar with the consulting process and may simply be trying to gain a foothold in your company for full-time employment.
- Industry credentials. It's also important to consider potential consultants' experience and reputation within your industry. Industry outsiders may be capable of offering top-notch consulting services, but may struggle to inspire confidence in interested stakeholders. A lack of credentials can be particularly problematic if you're relying on the consultant to beef up your profile with investors who are knowledgeable about your industry.
- Interviews. Experienced consultants have learned how to tell potential clients what they want to hear. Don't limit yourself to a single option and settle on the first consultant interview. A better approach is to interview multiple consultants and pay close attention to the responses they provide for similar questions.