Many business leaders are reluctant to hire a consultant when they need one. In my 15 years as a CEO, I used consultants sparingly, and usually to handle something new to the organization such as ISO9000 certification or lean manufacturing initiatives.
Question: Why are businesses afraid to hire a consultant?
Answer: There is a misunderstanding about the purpose, meaning and value of a consultant. Four barriers generally keep companies from reaping the potential benefits of a consultant.
Barrier No. 1: Outsider Threat
Business leaders may see an outsider coming into the organization and making suggestions for change as a threat. They may feel, if they agree to make changes, they’re admitting what they were doing previously was wrong. A mature leader has to accept the fact that, sometimes, an outside perspective is needed in order to grow. A consultant is a fresh pair of eyes to look at the business without the emotion that comes with ownership.
Barrier No. 2: Inside Expert
Many business leaders feel that they know more about their business than an outsider, and they don’t need any help. A company leader usually knows more about their business than their consultant – that’s true. However, that’s not always an advantage. They disregard any advice given because the consultant doesn’t have the depth of experience in their area of expertise. However, many times, the change needed does not require industry specific knowledge. It requires openness to new ways of doing business that allow for more productivity and increased revenues.
Barrier No. 3: “That Won’t Work Here”
Many business leaders are reluctant to apply what has worked for other organizations in their own company, citing unique qualities of the service, product, culture or other item that makes it impossible for the suggestion to work. However, one of the main benefits a consultant brings is the knowledge of best practices across all industries, many of which can be applied to organizations of varying types and sizes.
Barrier No. 4: “We Don’t Need to Change”
Sometimes, the business is only as healthy as the attitude of its leader. And, if a leader is unwilling to listen to constructive feedback, the company may be in need of a new leader to survive. The advantage of a seasoned consultant is the ability to ask probing and sometimes uncomfortable questions that challenge the status quo. The knowledge of what needs to be done is often there, it just has to be analyzed and validated.
So, what should a consultant provide? Confidential and honest feedback to help redefine and achieve goals; a source of new information and ideas; a facilitator of gathering internal and external feedback; an unbiased viewpoint not swayed by internal politics or history; and the freedom to make decisions for yourself, given their input.
You can get the most out of the relationship with your consultant if you both agree on discretion, expectations and deliverables at the outset and with regularly scheduled checkpoints along the way.
Martin Harshberger is the founder and President of Measurable Results LLC, as well as the author of “Bottom Line Focus.” He has extensive executive management experience in Fortune 500 companies, as well as start-ups and mid-sized organizations across all industries. For more information on Martin, call 662-844-9088, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bottomlinecoach.com.