Questions to ask when looking for a consultant

There may come a time when you feel the need to bring in some external expertise to guide you on specific aspects of your business. The problem is, there are many experts out there – many of whom look the part and talk a good game.
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If you’re a small business with limited budget, this is an expense you need to get right. Here’s a checklist of questions to help properly vet those third parties. 

What experience do they bring? 

OK, this is an obvious one but it’s not to be ignored. Have they just started off as a consultant or have they been working as one for years? Did they previously run their own business or head up a particular department and have they faced similar challenges you’re facing? 

How much support will they require?

Once you’ve identified your goals, discuss this with them and find out how much support they’re going to need from you to achieve them. Is their style of working in line with yours? Do they require hands-on support or can you step back slightly? They’re there to help – you don’t want to be doing more than you already are. 

Will their way of working allow you to achieve your goals?

Consultants usually balance their time working with a number of different businesses so understand how much time they can dedicate to your business. Get clear on how they’ll tackle your task: what’s their process? Work with them to understand if their plan will ultimately result in achieving the goals you set out. 

Are they good with change?

If you’re a growing business or launching something new, change is going to come. Get a firm understanding of how they work when there’s deviations to the original plan – you’ll need someone flexible and adaptable. 

What value are you putting on price?

Ideally you’ll be sounding out a few people before making a call. Don’t be tempted to go for the lowest rate – instead, pick the person with the right experience, who’ll help you reach your target. 

Can you bring in a second opinion?

While it’s helpful to look at a candidate’s credentials and even speak to their previous clients, it’s extremely helpful to have them assessed by someone else in your sector. Look to your network for people with that knowledge and ask if they’d be happy to give you their opinion on your top contenders.

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more insights, analysis and inspiration, sign up here.

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