Business works best when employees and employers work together for
the good of the company. Employers who recognize that their
employees are their most important asset keep them in the loop,
make them part of the company and don't treat them as an
power in your employees does not reduce your authority or your
level of control in management. Employee people power means
that your employees can participate, that they are appreciated,
and that your employees know where the company is going so they
can be a part of the team.
What Consultants Want You to Know (But You
by: Jan B. King
Iíve been both a CEO and a consultant, so Iíve seen from both
perspectives what goes right and what goes wrong when a consultant
comes in to a company. Generally the CEO or the manager who hires
the consultant tells the consultant what he or she wants.
manager is frustrated with something that is happening at the
company and expects the consultant will have the expertise to
ďjust fix itĒ. While the manager needs to set the expectations,
of course, the consultant rarely gets to voice what he or she knows
would make the consulting engagement more successful for both.
Here is what your consultant would love to tell you about making
him or her successful working on your behalf:
1. Please Do Your Homework before I Come In
Too many owners and managers hire a consultant and then stop
thinking. They present a list of general problems and expect the
expert to conjure dramatic results. This approach almost always ends
in frustration and many, many billable hours.
Instead, you have to take the initiative and stay involved.
Discuss your needs, problems, and parameters in candid terms from
the start. Set a budget or schedule upfront for each project a
consultant tackles. Save your skepticism (or your staffís) for the
interview process; once youíve chosen a consultant, give him or
her the benefit of everything you know and access to all important
One of the biggest costs in hiring outside expertise is bringing
the consultant up to speed on your companyís operations. If you
can prepare reports and numbers internally, you can help the
consultant stay away from data gathering and other basic reporting
functions; keep the consultant focused on analysis. You can tabulate
numbers yourself; youíve hired the expert to help you move forward
from there. When you hire consultants, keep in mind that their most
important skill should be critical analysis and problem solving.
Another point to consider is that many consultants have a steep
sort of half life as to enthusiasm for a project. They are
consultants because they like variety. In other words, their best
thoughts and greatest creativity come early in their relationships
with clients. Being prepared from the start allows you to take full
advantage of short attention spans.
2. Please let me stay focused on what I came in for and keep the
distractions and new requests to a minimum if you want me to stay
within your original budget (or expand the budget).
A consultantís expertise is so welcome in certain environments
that they number of projects multiplies beyond the hiring
managerís original intent, but often with their knowledge. The
original project may be just the tip of the iceberg of problems
within a company, some of which are best solved by a consultant but
many of which are best hired within the company after working with
the consultant to develop a plan.
Like any outside contractor or vendor, consultant services are a
commodityóand consultants want to sell as much of this commodity
over as long a time as they can. Thatís their understandable
inclination as business people. However, itís your understandable
inclination as an owner or manager to minimize the amount you pay
The consultant may be right to say there arenít quick fixes to
serious problems, but donít let that lead to open-ended
engagements. Most consultants agree that restructuring involves two
phases: a design phase, in which new ways of doing work are
fashioned, and an implementation phase, in which the new ways of
doing work actually are put in place.
Have the consultant schedule
these phases. This helps set up an exit strategy for the consultant,
which is an important cost control tool. In addition, the consultant
will see the project as a limited engagement, rather than open
3. Please set regular times to meet so that I have access to the
person who hired me to get clarifications and not waste your time
(and not waste my time).
Set regular times to meet (weekly or monthly) when the consultant
will review conclusions, answer questions, and challenge you on
better ways to run your business.
Make sure these are working meetings. Avoid meetings that turn
into administrative updates. By meeting with the consultant
regularly, you can compartmentalizeóand better controlóthe
amount of time you spend with him or her. It also forces the
consultant to be succinct and not draw on too much of your time. In
this context, you can expect more from a consultant than from an
employee. The consultantís attention should focus squarely on
problems youíre paying him or her to consider, not on operational
Remember that you are paying bigger dollar amounts for this help,
so you donít want a consultant to be billing you for time in your
office unless you are using that time wisely. Too many times
employees donít understand how a consulting arrangement works Ė
they want the consultant to be available to them during their
Consultants shouldnít be at your company every day
where they can be distracted. They should only be there in order to
meet with other people. Otherwise, they need to be doing their
analysis in the peace and quiet of their own offices.
Donít Kill the Messenger
The manager or CEO who hired the consultant may be very excited
at the beginning of working together and feel like he or she just
unloaded their burden onto some capable shoulders. Then the
consultant prepares an analysis and the recommendations all rely on
additional work to be done by managers and employees inside the
The recommendations may also involve actions that arenít
fun to carry out, such as demoting or terminating non-performing
employees. They may call for additional reports or extra meetings.
Expect that the consultant will come to some conclusions you wonít
like immediately, but they may be the only way to end some long-term
In conclusion, when you keep consultants disciplined and focused,
you can use them to great advantage. Be clear on the purpose of
hiring the consultant and what you can and canít expect their work
to produce. Up front clarity will lead to a productive and valuable