Finding a quality consultant can sometimes be like finding the right mate: it’s far from easy and there will definitely be some duds but you’ll get smarter and learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.
Fortunately if you know the right qualities to look for and questions to ask you should have little to no problem retaining the services of an individual or company who is well-versed in the area you need expert guidance in. For those of you currently shopping around here are some suggested starter points:
How diverse is their client history?
It’s great to hire a consultant with deep experience in a specific industry area. It’s even better to partner with a person or firm that is adaptable to working in a variety of sectors and open to charting new and evolving territories. The ability to adjust to diverse landscapes and transition seamlessly from one practice area to another is an invaluable skill to have in this digital day and age. Be sure to hire someone who can stay ahead of the curve and keep you on the cutting edge.
What do their current and/or former customers have to say?
Any company that values your trust will go to great lengths to maintain transparency in service and encourage constructive, honest feedback from their clients. It is generally good practice to provide references at the onset that can substantiate the contractor’s strong work ethic and track record for success. Conducting online surveys at the close of each project is another great way to ensure quality customer assurance. Any contractor less than forthcoming with this information does not deserve your business.
Is my consultant easily accessible?
There’s nothing worse than sending an email or making a phone call that goes unanswered for several hours (or worse, days). Being too busy to answer or promptly return a client’s call or message is bad business – especially when it comes to projects with high stakes and strict deadlines. Be wary of consultants who fail to respond within 2-4 hours; it’s a sure sign that they’re not serious about your business.
Will I be treated like an account or an actual person?
This is a major misstep that an unfortunate number of contractors make — and the quickest way to push great clients out the door. When shopping around for a consultant (particularly when reviewing larger companies) take careful note of who will actually be managing your project from day-to-day. No client deserves to be treated like just another account. This is typically why many business owners these days are choosing smaller boutique firms that offer a direct line and unlimited access to company leadership.
At the end of the day, choosing the right consultant, like the right companion, should not be taken lightly. Trust your instincts and judgement, and be prepared to keep it moving if things don’t feel quite right. After all, it’s your reputation on the line and you need people on your team who’ll protect it as their own.