30 Aug Consultant Sings the Blues
I was challenged to delve more deeply into the topic of working with consultants by a reader who commented on my November 13th Post, “Don’t Shoot the Consultant.” I am sure that most of you have had some experience working with consultants. I hope you will all share the good, bad and the ugly by commenting on this topic or asking questions. Certainly there are many different approaches and opinions on the subject and I welcome all debate and discourse.
As for me, I hired many consultants throughout my corporate career with mixed results. Some consultants do actually consult and they have a great deal of knowledge and experience to share. But some are actually temporary workers who do not really offer advice or guidance, but they accomplish tasks that full-time employees do not have the time to do, or they serve on projects that require specialized expertise that you don’t need on a regular basis.
Managing the Consultant
In any case, clearly the consultant must be “managed.” For the hiring manager, a clear, concise “statement of work” along with a plan of action with milestones, deadlines and a plan to measure results will give you a “leg up” on getting the most from your consultant. Hold them to a budget, and you’ve taken it to the next level. If the consultant has valuable knowledge, leverage that.….make sure you allow time for knowledge transfer or training sessions between the consultant and your regular employees so that when the consultant leaves, the return on your investment consists of their work-product AND some of their intellectual capital.
Vendors and Service Providers
For marketing product vendors and service providers….if you have been working directly with a company and your client has hired a consultant who takes you a step away from your client, beware of the consultant who “sings the blues.” This may be someone who is new and not secure in their position with the client or who is, in fact, a short-term temporary worker. The consultant may inject a certain amount of negativity toward you and your service, hoping to impress the client by being “tough” on you. Worst case, they may try to “steal” the client from you, replacing your service with one they offer or with a vendor they prefer. The consultant may discredit you to the client or claim that you are to blame for any failure in expected sales results.
My advice to both hiring managers and vendors when faced with a consultant of this sort is first: do great work, no matter what. Never let your client see you sweat.
Second, do everything in your power to maintain your direct relationship with the client by following up, sending the client status reports and negotiating for direct contact by conference call on a monthly basis.
Third, consider developing an “alliance” with the consultant. Your client will appreciate and recognize you for fostering teamwork and for keeping the client’s interest and the goal as top priority.
So what else? Give us your thoughts; share your consultant experiences here…..