Ensuring value for money when hiring consultants

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Consultants are an obvious target for cost savings. Why are you paying these people all this money? Fair question. Sometimes you shouldn’t. On the other hand, consultants are called in at short notice to do complex tasks in short timeframes and are expected to meet high standards. They do jobs that are only required occasionally, using different skills from permanent staff. Most importantly, they have done those jobs before so they know the pitfalls and how to avoid them. Consultants often do jobs that few others can do or that few others want to do. They can serve a purpose. That doesn’t mean they always offer value for money. Here are 7 ways to avoid wasting money on consultants.

Seven Ways to get value for money from Consultants

  1. Don’t hire them – or at least not until you have worked through this checklist.
  2. Take the time to identify management consultants who base their advice and support on research-based evidence rather than parroting the latest fads, and unproven pseudo-facts. If a consultant cannot offer you a fresh insight or a different perspective grounded in reality, then they probably can’t help you.
  3. Look for clear evidence that the management consultants you are considering have verified experience of solving the problems or realising the opportunities that you are facing. Can their previous clients attest to them actually helping make a specific, positive change?
  4. Run away quickly if they start spouting management babble and clichés at you. You don’t need a deep dive, to circle back, to take it offline, to capture low hanging fruit or pivot to the new normal by leveraging AI. You need people who can have adult conversations, using real words, in sentences that make sense.
  5. Confirm their ethical standards. Do they avoid recommending solutions in which they have a vested interest? Will they keep your confidences? Will their work be tailored for you or are they just recycling a generic solution? Do they commit to a code of conduct and a complaints regime external to their own firm? The Secret Commissions Act 1910 makes it an offence to pay or receive commissions or rebates without disclosing them to the customer.
  6. Are they competent to do the work you require of them? A good consultant will explain the limits of their expertise to ensure you only receive competent advice. A bad consultant may stretch to do something in which they have little skill or experience.
  7. Don’t hire consultants who seem to have decided the answer before understanding your organisation, its context and aspirations. If the solution was that simple, you would have implemented it already.

Every organisation needs to hire in expertise from time to time. The right advisors and specialists can provide the advice you need, fill a skills gap, manage a growth phase, help raise your capability, solve a problem or enable you to realise an opportunity. Don’t be afraid to get help when you need it but go in with your eyes wide open. Ensure you are getting value for money when hiring consultants. If you want to talk about consulting services please contact us for a free chat.

Phil Guerin, Consultant/Director, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2023