Choosing the Right Consultant for Your Situation - Three Questions

In today’s world, companies need strategies that are actionable

Before they can effect any value, conscientious consultants usually first have to overcome many of the stereotypes of the industry, and at the high end of the continuum stood the Monitor Group whose demise was recorded in Forbes saying that it was broke and merging with Deloitte.

​Is it time to rethink the value consultants bring? 

Could the bankruptcy of the Monitor Group be a bell weather event telling us that it is time for consultancies to provide operation-able strategies that perform and track to specific ROI’s?

Regardless, it is always good to recenter, not be in awe of the "suits", bring some common sense to how to hire consultants that will be able to relate to your business (and really add value) and to move you toward your goals.

So how does a company that needs outside help gain a true partner that matches their needs. Here are 3 simple questions that every company should ask before engaging any consultant or consultancy:

Do we need theory or throughput? 

It doesn't take much to find out if a consultant or an advisement firm deals in the esoteric or in reality. If your company has the luxury of future scenario building and blue-skying for months on end, then there are any number of groups willing to wax poetic with you.

Once, I was associated with a large company that chose a different strategy “de Jour? every 18 months and would bring in high level consultants who, in turn, would parade out their freshly minted MBA’s to be taught on our dime.

When the Monitor Group was brought in, those of us who had to make the work happen were grinding our teeth at the thought of yet another analysis and discovery process. This was epitomized one day when one of my peers left a planning meeting shaking his head. Upon inquiry, he related that the junior partner on our account had just said, “Wow, you’re actually going to try to implement our recommendations? We don’t get that very often?.*

Therein lies the problem with a lot of consultant firms and probably much of the demise of Monitor. Today companies need strategies that are actionable and people may have just stopped believing Monitor’s PR.

In my experience, companies from less than $ 1 million to $ 300 million are better served with viable go-to-market plans that deliver on tangible goals (especially with the accelerated pace of business change), except for some major “big rock? guidance issues planning.  

Do they roll up their sleeves? 

Are they consultants that don’t get their hands dirty or will they get in the trenches with you and help with the implementation? Will they work with the communications team for copy direction or, aghast!, perhaps even write a few lines to get things started. Will they talk with sales and help them to develop messaging that supports strategy and can be used in actual dialog with prospects and customers?  Will they participate in the management and employee download meetings to help "sell-in" the change?

Do they have “real world experience? 

Strategists without an intimate understanding of business landscapes cannot provide realistic consulting. Have they ever “carried the bag? and had direct sales experience? Have they led or worked closely with a distribution or dealer network? Have they worked in an ad agency?

Without some actual background in “how things get done?, how long things take, and what it takes to effect change, a consultant can have only so much value and credibility with your people (who ultimately determine whether the recommendations are ever implemented).

Make sure that the consultant has the experience and real world credibility to sell the strategy and changes into the "rank and file" as they'll be looking at the person as much, if not more, as the collegiate degree.

  * In fairness, that same company brought in another consulting group that not only turned the company around by helping us implement an aggressive move to an Economic Value Add (EVA) perspective in all aspects of the business, but even based a percentage of their fee on the resulting savings and growth. It was a wonderful experience.
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