Executive Summary: Consultants sometimes carry a bad rap for what they do. They’re expensive and actual or perceived value is not recognized in their effort. Consider what they do bring to the table that your firm cannot.
What does a management consultant do? At the heart of their duties, management consultants solve business and organizational problems. They advise, without bias, on the current policies and procedures, financial health, controls, and caliber of personnel.
Why should I hire a consultant? In construction, this service can be invaluable to a firm in gauging their present business status and what they are positioned to handle in the future. Three reasons stick out for me in helping a client:
- Subject matter expertise (SME) – many firms exist which do not have SME. These firms may be expert in business, but not in the field you’re in. Consider a firm which specializes in your type of business. So, if you do contracting or anything construction-related (equipment rental, material processing, etc.), find someone who knows its people. And it’s business. The goal is to hire people smarter and better than you with insight, based on experience and/or education.
- Time constraints – most clients have no time for things that do not immediately contribute to the bottom line of the company. In the case of a management consultant, the time it takes to comb through financials, existing controls, and to generate improvements with same, always takes a back seat to daily operations. Even lunch takes a precedent over these items.
- Third party effect – an outside consultant provides a third-party opinion. He or she can get into your business and provide unbiased analysis and advice because, in a good way, they don’t care. They care about improving your business which is what you want, but they don’t care about hurting feelings.
Buy a scapegoat. A bonus additional service a consultant can provide is a scapegoat for executive management. It is a convenient truth that the executive can affect change by hiring a consultant to publish conclusions that he or she may already know but cannot communicate efficiently without angering the staff at all levels. This decision doesn’t make an executive weak, it is simply an alternate method of message delivery.
My story. I’ve discussed possible consulting projects with generalists and subject matter experts. I much prefer the specialized service providers – the ones that know my business. If nothing else, it makes me feel more comfortable when they arrive on site and talk right, are dressed right and can approach my people with an immediate sense of equality and mutual understanding.
I once had a consultant who was advising me on severance packages and recommended that when dismissing folks, it was best to do it with a guaranteed six-month salary. That may have worked in the venture capital funded industry they dealt with regularly, but in the cash-strapped industry of general contracting, this was the last thing I would ever do, or could ever do!
Find someone who speaks your language.