What to consider when hiring a consultant
As a small business, hiring a consultant is a big (and costly) step. You’ll need to go in fully armed and prepared…
As a small business owner, you’ll probably be aware that your team can’t handle every aspect of business life. For the times when you need unique expertise, a consultant can be a useful option. But they can be expensive.
Research commissioned by Zeqr found that 49% of small businesses avoid hiring external consultants because of the costs.
Going in prepared is therefore vital to get value for money…
Know what you want
The research found that one of the main issues was that small businesses felt the cost of consultants didn’t tally with what they required from the consultant.
Many consultants offer fixed-cost consulting packages or ask small businesses to sign up to an ongoing fee. Then there is the option of having consultants working as contractors on a set project or as part and full-time employees.
But many small firms often only needed to ask the consultants one or two questions. This meant that if they signed up to a fixed service, they ended up paying for services and time that they didn’t need.
So it’s important not only to know what you want from a consultant, but to also make it clear to them what you’re willing to pay for. If they can’t provide the specific answers at a cost you’re happy with, then you might want to consider other options.
Look for the best
Check around before hiring a consultant. Firstly, speak with someone you trust in your industry to see if they have any recommendations.
Then check online reviews for anyone on your shortlist. Facebook pages and other social media platforms are a good place to look as well, as disgruntled customers will often make their voices heard there.
Make sure they’ve got the right experience for your project, and are certified for your industry. Check their portfolio to see if they’ve tackled similar projects in the past.
If you have decided to splash out, make sure you know who you’ll be working with. After all, if you don’t get on there’s no way of getting a refund.
Interview them thoroughly beforehand, with one-to-one meetings particularly key.
Also, check how they work. You might get on like a house on fire, but then have totally different – and incompatible – styles of working.
Write watertight contracts
Get your legal team to go over your contracts with a fine tooth comb.
You need to specify exactly what you want from them, how much you’re willing to pay, how long it will take, and more.
Add into this a confidentially agreement to prevent them from talking about your projects to any other of their clients, and notes on protecting your intellectual property.
If you can’t find the right consultant for your specific needs at a price you’re happy with, it might mean not getting a consultant at all. Instead you could look at other ways to complete the task.
A short-term hire could help you out – bringing in someone on a fixed-term contract to solve an issue is expensive, but the benefits are that they can also work on other things while you’ve got them and they can pass on their knowledge.
Or you could consider retraining your current team or doing it yourself. This might mean lengthy research or time off for workers so weigh up the costs of these against the one-off hire of a consultant.
Again, the benefits are that once you’ve trained an employee you’ll have access to that expertise for a longer period.