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When to Hire a Consultant

By Tami Reiss, CEO, Cyrus Innovation

Tami Reiss, CEO, Cyrus Innovation

Wondering if it is the right time to hire consultants for your company?

If you think that consultants are people who only express their opinions but aren’t worth an investment because they don’t really DO anything, then you’re mistaken.

"Each individual or group contributes different skill levels within the realm of strategy, process enablement, and execution that results in improvisation of a company's operations"

Recently, there has been an increase in the population of consultants who actively contribute to the businesses that hire them. Thanks to the financial advantages that include not having to pay benefits, et al, there are many more reasons to hire a temporary workforce.

Below are three scenarios when employing outside help may be the right decision for your company.

SCENARIO #1: WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO

This may seem weird. How can your company not have a vision or direction? It’s not so much that it doesn’t have one, but that it probably has many.

Management can’t choose one option over the other because each individual has an emotional attachment to their chosen project. There are benefits of following any of the proposed plans, but there are situations when none of them stands out as a winner.

Management consultants like McKinsey, Deloitte make their bread and butter in situations like this. They spend months analyzing all the inputs and options in an attempt to produce objective data that will help the executives to arrive on a consensus on the path forward.

Similarly, IDEO is often called in for situations like this wherein a prototype driven agency like them uses design thinking practices to let customer feedback advice a direction for the company.

Even if the company you work for knows where it’s going, it may still need consultant.

SCENARIO #2: WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, BUT NOT HOW TO DO IT

Congrats! You have a vision and maybe even the product-market fit, which again is just not a core competency for your team. You’re sitting on a gold mine but you don’t have people who know how to use a pick or shovel.

You need someone knowledgeable to come in and teach you a new process. Maybe it’s a marketing requirement where you are supposed to hire an agency to teach you how to write a press release and create a social media campaign. Often it is the software development firm that comes to the rescue as you partner with a development shop that will connect you with software engineers to build the application.

The goal here is to absorb all of the knowledge you can get from the consultants while adopting their processes into your own to become more proficient in the skills that you have been lacking. Engagements like this hopefully lead to developing and nurturing more effective teams within the company.

Conceivably, the product your company is building is within its wheelhouse. You’re all good, or are you in.

SCENARIO #3: YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO AND HOW TO DO IT, BUT CAN’T DO IT WITH YOUR CURRENT TEAM

We have all been on projects that are behind schedule. Who hasn’t been told at some point that there aren’t enough resources to complete all the tasks on time? Hiring people and scaling up a team can actually take months.

This is where you would want to call in an expert, someone who can hit the ground running and get things done. Because they are only temporary, you need not be concerned with issues such as cultural fit.

Sometimes this is referred to as “throwing bodies at the problem”, but I think that it is more than just another person to help. You should select someone with competence in the area you are working on, someone who will actually improve your team’s delivery rate.

The scenarios above are obviously generalizations. Consultants come in all shapes and sizes or as we like to call them “areas of expertise”. Each individual or group contributes different skill levels within the realm of strategy, process enablement, and execution that results in improvisation of a company's operations.

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