Author: Darin C.A. Crouch
I have seen consultants come and go. I read about them on social media. I hear stories about them. But what should one look for when hiring a consultant? This is probably the million dollar question and the most logical answer is that that there is a specific consultant for every specific situation.
I can remember reading a book about a consultant that acted as a turn-around manager. He would be called in to bring a company back to life and it would be standard practice for this manager to cut costs, normally by letting people go. Because the reaction of workers is normally emotional instead of rational, which is understandable, this consultant would always drive to the project in a very old car. Although the logic of driving to work in a very old car under those circumstances is sound, it is up for debate if the same can be said about bringing a company back to life by cutting costs in the form of lay-offs. But that is a discussion for another time.
Perhaps you should let the following statement sink in before choosing a consultant:
Do you really believe you are hiring the right consultant when this person has never had his or her own company, who has never had to experience the risks of entrepreneurship, who has never managed a single employee, who has never had any P&L responsibility and who does not know what it feels like when ends cannot be met at the end of the month?
The problem with most consultants is that they themselves have never had to take any risks. It is easy to gamble with somebody else’s company and/or money without ever having to be faced personally with a situation which is do or die. If it was the consultant’s company, would he or she follow the same outlined course of action that was recommended?
I strongly believe that the best consultants are those who have failed and know what failure feels like. That is not to say that those consultants who have known success are not any good. I am just afraid that those successes will make a consultant over confident and the advice given may not be realistic.
I have had the pleasure of being appointed a turn-around manager for four different projects. And it is because of passed failures that I have learned from these mistakes and that I have been able to turn around projects. Failure is not something to be ashamed of. Failure is something that forms you and makes you better the next time around. It is impossible to know successes without knowing failure. You come into a project knowing how to side step the land mines of failure and this is the experience you should look for when hiring a consultant.
You may say that this article focuses on the extreme: being a consultant for a company that is barely keeping its head above water. And I would say that your instincts serve you well. (actually Master Yoda from the Star Wars series said that). However, a company would bring in a consultant because it needs some kind of help. And the help you bring in better know what they are talking about and with the latter I do not only mean book smart, but also having actually real life experience.