How to Make the Most Out of a Consulting Arrangement

      Thousands of businesses use the services of a consultant each year. Often, they seek help for challenging organizational problems like declining revenues or poor employee satisfaction. While some consulting arrangements lead to successful outcomes and new opportunities, others waste time, money, and effort.

      To ensure that your organization gets the most out of its next consulting arrangement, it’s essential to understand how the consulting process works. There are eight potential components to a consulting engagement, and each one plays a significant role in the outcome of the services you obtain.

      Obtaining Information

      Most consulting arrangements begin with the search for information. Organizations can seek all types of information, like the feasibility of expanding to a new location or offering employees different types of benefits. 

      Consultants will gather the information the company seeks and will typically provide it in a report complete with charts, graphs, and statistics. Consulting reports can stretch into hundreds of pages; many leaders don’t have time to read such reports, let alone implement the recommendations.

      Before beginning a consulting arrangement, the consultant and the organization must understand why the information is necessary. In some cases, the company may already have the data it needs from other sources or it may be seeking details that aren’t relevant to the actual problem at hand.

      Resolving Issues

      Consultants are presented with complex problems to solve, often without much context. It’s essential to remember that consultants are not employees of the organization. They don’t deeply understand the company’s products or inner workings. They’re starting from zero, trying to provide solutions to the issues that senior leadership identifies.

      Sometimes, the problem the company pinpoints isn’t the real issue. Other obstacles may be the true roots of the company’s concerns.

      Providing the consultant with more information about the business and allowing them to ask pertinent questions may uncover more profound issues that the company must solve. 

      Making a True Diagnosis 

      Company leadership might be unwilling to disclose real problems for fear that their poor decisions will impact their career. Consultants hired to resolve specific issues may find out that management has made other mistakes that give rise to the problem and need correction. 

      Managers can support consultants by being truthful when answering questions. They can also give consultants more room to understand the problem by allowing them access to other employees and managers.

      If the consultant finds that the original diagnosis of the issue isn’t the actual problem, they can redefine the issue and make recommendations to correct it.

      Proposing Solutions

      Companies often hire consultants to make recommendations. They don’t expect the consultant to handle the implementation of the solution.

      However, if the company doesn’t take action on the consultant’s recommendations, the time and effort of the consultant go to waste. Sometimes the proposed solutions simply aren’t feasible for the organization to enact or don’t truly address the problem.

      If the organization doesn’t implement a consultant’s proposed solutions, the relationship between the organization and the advisor can sour quickly. Both parties may blame each other. For instance, the consultant may say they’ve given the solution but the organization isn’t ready to take the necessary steps.

      The company may argue that the proposed solution doesn’t adequately address the problem or that the answer isn’t reasonable.

      Implementing Solutions

      Often, the consultant-company relationship ends after the delivery of recommendations. The organization may believe it is the manager’s job to implement the solution after they’ve obtained suggestions.

      However, retaining the consultant to assist with the implementation can benefit both parties. The manager may need advice on fulfilling the undertaking, and the consultant is in an excellent position to do so since they’ve provided the solution to the problem.

      The consultant will also ensure that their work doesn’t go to waste. With effective collaboration between the manager and the consultant, the company stands to gain more from the project.

      Obtaining Buy-In for Changes

      Resolutions from consultants can appear far-fetched, especially if significant changes are necessary. People are often resistant to change, especially if they’ve handled processes in the same way for a long time. 

      Consultants can obtain buy-in by considering specific questions, like:

      • What part of the solution is the client willing to accept? 
      • What part is the client more resistant to?
      • Is senior leadership ready to adopt new processes or procedures?
      • Are all employees on board with the proposed solution? Which ones are not, and why?
      • Are there other influential people in the organization that executives may listen to, even if they weren’t part of the consulting process?

      It’s helpful for consultants to find an ally within the organization who is ready to step up and implement new processes. The supporter can advise the consultant of concerns within the company concerning implementation, and the consultant can address them.

      Offering Learning Opportunities

      The consultant needs to offer learning opportunities whenever a company implements new processes. Executives must learn to cope with their problems and recognize them when they arise. 

      Consultants can offer learning opportunities by demonstrating methods of improving processes, recommending books or courses to take, and advising management of other experts who may provide additional expertise on specific topics.

      Improving the Organization’s Effectiveness

      Consultants often work on tasks limited to a specific part of the organization. Their project may primarily impact a single department. However, while the initial implementation may affect only certain employees, the rest of the organization receives some rollover benefits or changes. 

      When working on a solution, the consultant must understand how it will impact other departments. If communication between divisions is an issue, they can actively reach out to others in the organization to get their insights. 

      Actions by one person sometimes breed further actions by others. If the manager notes some of the consultant’s techniques to build a more effective organization, they may add those skills to their management toolkit.

      Organizations Must Handle Consulting Arrangements with Care

      Any company that brings on a consultant to resolve some of its most pressing problems must ensure that it accepts the resolution with an open mind. Consulting will be a waste of money and effort if the organization and consultant cannot work together efficiently. 

      Cowen Partners Executive Search | National Executive Search Firm

      At Cowen Partners, our executive recruiters are exceptionally skilled at delivering in-demand candidates, no matter the need and across all industries. Backed by a proven executive recruiting process, we have been the partner of choice for startups, corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and more, meeting unique and critical recruitment needs across the entire C-suite, including CEOsCFOsCOOsCMOsCIOs, CTOsCHROsVPs of sales, other VPs, directors, and several other leadership roles. 

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      Contact us to see why we are continually ranked as one of the best executive search firms around and why we have so many repeat and long-term clients, as well as referrals.

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