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Ask Spinnaker: How Do I Get the Most From Hiring Consultants?

Aug 31, 2018

Written by: Shawn Sweeney

Got questions about trends, insights, and challenges related to Spinnaker’s areas of expertise? In this regular blog, we’ll tap into our Spinnaker team of experts and do what we do best: Roll up our sleeves to find you the answers you need. In our first-ever “Ask Spinnaker” blog, we’re tackling a question we often hear:

Question: How do I get the most from hiring consultants?

Shawn Sweeney, Spinnaker Managing Partner:

This question is really about value, and getting the most bang for buck when you invest in partnering with a consultant. It’s a question we hear often, and one I even asked during the many years I spent hiring consultants myself. Admittedly it took me some time to figure this one out back then, but here’s what I learned: There’s even more value in hiring consultants than you realize! Let’s start by looking at that.

The Value of Hiring Consultants

You hire consultants to help you solve a problem. That’s your main goal — and your most valuable one, of course. But in truth, you will get much more value than that! When hiring consultants, you’ll also get:

  1. Focus. You get the complete dedication of your consultant team focused on your problem 24/7 for the length of the engagement until that problem is solved. There’s tremendous power in that! Even for your highest priorities, how much time are you and your internal team able to give? Your competing priorities and multiple responsibilities means you just can’t focus on one thing. But your consultant team can — 100 percent focus, 100 percent of the time, is exactly what we’re there for.
  2. Experience. When you partner with a consultant like Spinnaker’s team of experts, you’re getting access to talent and experience in a specific, specialized area. That’s incredibly valuable. Chances are it’s experience you don’t have in-house, can’t find in today’s tight labor market, or can’t afford as a full-time hire. When hiring consultants like Spinnaker, you get deep, direct experience relevant to your business and the challenge at hand. At Spinnaker, in particular, we know what it’s like to sit in your chair, because we’ve spent most of our career doing just that.
  3. Unbiased perspective. Your consultant team has fresh eyes that aren’t tied to any political agenda, and will bring a completely unbiased perspective to the problem-solving process. Consultants won’t fall into the same ruts created by past company experiences and cultural challenges. An added-value benefit of hiring consultants is helping you overcome organizational resistance to the path forward, because sometimes an external opinion carries that extra weight you need to get everyone onboard.

Maximizing the Value

So, how do you maximize all that value and get the most from hiring consultants? We have 5 key steps:

  1. Be clear. What are you trying to solve, and, most importantly, what does success look like? Be extremely clear, because the better you define the answers to these questions, the better chance you’ll achieve that success. A good consulting team like Spinnaker will validate these answers, and perhaps even help you better understand them.
  2. Choose wisely. When hiring consultants, choose wisely! Select a firm with experts and expertise that aligns to what you’re trying to solve. Is it strategy and benchmarking? Or is it implementation? Different firms have different strengths. When hiring consultants, beware of firms that claim to do it all — in my personal experience, if someone says they do it all, they’re not particularly great at anything.
  3. Start smart. Set aside time to get your consultant team up to speed. What will they need to be successful? Block off the time to start smart. When you invest the time up front to get your consultant team prepped, just watch what they’ll be able to accomplish!
  4. Be demanding. Regular check-ins are integral to the success of a consultant engagement — but there’s more. During your check-ins, be demanding. Yes, demanding! Ask the tough questions. Don’t worry about ruffling feathers. Trust me, you’re better off asking during the engagement than at the end. Be a tough customer, and your consultants will perform more effectively and efficiently to achieve the best possible outcomes.
  5. Get referrals. Secure specific recommendations for the consultant team you’ll be working with — the actual team, not just the firm. When hiring consultants, you’re making a critical hire that will significantly impact your business, and likely your budget as well. Your due diligence will pay off in matching you to the right team to help you solve your problem and achieve the success you need.

We want to hear from you! Got questions about trends in your industry? Want to know more about best practices in a specific area? Need advice about a challenge you’re trying to solve? Send your questions to info@SpinnakerConsultingGroup.com, or post a question for Ask Spinnaker to our LinkedIn page by tagging us at @Spinnaker Consulting Group LLC. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves to find you the answers!