I was recently asked by a medical practice manager how Operational Strategies differs from other management consulting companies. It was a fair question and one that I could easily answer, but it led us to discuss how to filter prospective business consultants to find the one that’s right for your situation. Consultants seem to be on every street corner these days. How do you choose one to trust with your business? The following are some basic questions to consider when hiring a consultant.
1. Does the business consultant have actual work experience in your business or industry? It isn’t enough to have read a book and or learned theory. If you are bringing in a consultant to complete the bi-annual operational assessment, make sure he knows what he is looking for. A template of questions is not enough!
2. Has the consultant actually owned a business and thus has lived and breathed your experiences? It is difficult to provide recommendations if you haven’t been there/done that.
3. Has the business consultant been in the C-suite before to understand the politics of your position? The politics of an organization creates the culture and environment. Each organization is unique but has similar experiences. One must know how to wade through the sharks to keep from being bitten. Make sure your business consultant has been in an executive leadership position before.
4. To what code of ethics does the business consultant adhere? There is no organization that monitors conduct of consultants. It is important to know to what affiliations your potential business consultant holds himself accountable.
5. What is the business consultant’s philosophy regarding the consultant-client relationship? What is the average length of time the consultant works with a client? It is important to know if the consultant wants an unending engagement or if her philosophy is to work herself out of a job when your business can move ahead on its own. At the same time, you want to know that if you are doing something like a business software implementation that she will be there from beginning to end.
6. Is the consultant a generalist or a specialist? Neither approach is necessarily wrong, but the approaches are different. The important thing is to ascertain the competency level of the consultant. For example, I am a subject matter expert in healthcare revenue cycle but would never present myself as a finance management consultant.
7. If the consultant isn’t skilled in a particular area, who is their backup? Many consultants will have a group of strategic alliances that can be called upon as resources for their clients.
8. What do prior clients say about the consultant? It is as important to check references on a consultant as it is to check them before hiring an employee. It is your responsibility to do due diligence when contracting a consultant.
9. What are the expectations of the consultant regarding you, the client? Everyone defines success differently. Make sure that you and the consultant are using the same terminology for the success of the determined scope of work.
10. Are you comfortable with each other? It is imperative that there is rapport between the client and the consultant.
It is relatively easy to find a consultant for your business. The hard part is making sure that the consultant you choose is truly a good fit for your organization. Consultants cost money, but a good management consultant will pay for himself over and over again. Each consultant is as unique as your organization. Choose the right one for you.