There is no reason you should ever hire a consultant. Trust me, I’ve been a consultant for most of my career and I’ve worked alongside some of the best consultants in the business and for the best consulting firm in the industry. If you find yourself wanting to hire a consultant, stop right now. Or just burn the money you would have spent hiring a consulting firm.
Consultants exist for one reason – to improve the condition of clients. Consultants help people. They serve people. They are, after all, in the professional services industry. Most importantly, consultants partner with clients to solve a problem.
When you hire someone, that person reports to you. They take orders from you and they do what you tell them to do (or at least should do what you tell them to do).
Consultants don’t take orders and they don’t report to clients. Consultants are partners to solve a problem.
If you have a task you need completed or a role you need filled, you may be tempted to hire a consultant. Most major consulting firms will happily bill you to perform a task or to fill a role. But they are tricking you. They aren’t consultants.
Consultants solve problems, they don’t take orders.
Most of the time, what companies really need are employees, contractors and service providers. Do you need a technology system implemented? Hire a contractor or a service firm. Do you need someone to execute on your marketing plans? Hire a service firm.
Don’t hire a consultant.
There is nothing wrong with having work you need done and contracting it out to service firms, staffing agencies or employees. But there is a something fundamentally wrong with hiring a consultant instead of partnering with one. You will lose out on transforming your business. And you will waste valuable resources.
You should work with consultants to solve business problems. You should partner with someone who cares about your business, your people and your outcomes. You should create a deep, real relationships with someone who can help you. Not someone you are going to order around and handoff your to-do list to.
There is no Oath of the Consultant or a body of ethics consultants must adhere to. So, there is no way to enforce partnership or to focus on outcomes instead of inputs. This is why it’s so hard for leaders at companies to work with consultants. And why outcomes vary from person to person, project to project and firm to firm. The only way to protect your business is by knowing who you are working with and why.
Leaders understand how important it is to have the right employees. Employees make business great. And service firms (like attorneys, accountants, HR, marketers or any other mission-critical tasks) must deliver real results.
Consultants aren’t easily graded. So, they are lumped together with other service firms or employees. And they are treated the same. They shouldn’t – but they are. They are given a desk with the team, a company laptop and go to staff meetings. They are treated like employees or contractors. And it hurts the client/consultant relationship and ultimately provides a major disservice to the client.
Consultants must be partners not subordinates. They must focus on outcomes, results and improving the condition of the client. Any other focus is purely unacceptable. If a consultant is focused on anything other than solving problems, kindly stop working with them. If a consultant acts like an employee or a service firm, offer to hire them as an employee. It will be cheaper, too.
If you have a long list of tasks and projects, work with a staffing firm or hire some more team members. They can knock it out of the park and make a difference in your team’s day to day. But if you want to transform your business and solve your problems, partner with a consultant.
Never, under any circumstance, hire a consultant, though.