Let’s face it, anyone can try to be a Jack (of all trades) but there is literally not enough time in the world to Master everything.
That’s why our world economy was and still is built on the concept of comparative advantage, where the ability of a party to produce a particular good or service at a lower opportunity cost than another.
The key word here is opportunity cost.
Business owners picks the business they go into because they either have the ability or knowledge how to do something better than the next man on the street.
However, as any business owner would know, a business is not built on a single competency.
The first step towards true success lies in knowing your weakness and playing to your strengths.
The second step, hire someone who is much better in the area that you are weak in.
There are bosses that always hire people who is weaker than them to fulfil their needs to feel superior.
Successful leaders hire people who are surpass them to bring their business to greater heights.
In a perfect world, we can hire the best people we want and can actually afford to maintain their salary as a fixed overhead.
In reality, there are times where it does not make financial sense to hire the best as a full time staff, provided in the first place, this person is for hire; as we ascertain above, people who are good in what they do, often become business owners like yourself.
The good news is that their services are still up for hire even if they are not.
Why Engage Consultants?
As such, smart business owners hire consultants to help the business grow.
To some, consultant is a bad word; there is a saying that consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time.
What they don’t tell you is that good consultants build a clock for you so that you have the ability to tell time on your own going forward.
The key to telling time accurately lies in having a good clock; and a good consultant will help you ensure that your business operates like clockwork while you focus on growing the business itself.
Key Things To Consider In Your Search For A Consultant
We will touch on a few basic points when choosing the best consultant for the job.
1. Consultancy Firms or Freelance Consultants
There are a horde of consultants in the market and one of the thing to consider is whether to contract a consultancy firm or to use a freelance consultant.
If you choose to engage a consultancy firm, you will be assured that the consultants you will be dealing with are already pre-screened; background checks are done and track records of the consultants are verified.
This does not mean that individual consultants do not meet the mark, it just mean that you will have to do your own checks and evaluation.
There are definitely good freelance consultants out there but the only way you can be very certain of their capability and fit is if you have a reference you trust who has engaged their services before in a similar area of consultancy and in the same industry.
If you are looking for a consultant for the first time and only has cold references, ceteris paribus, engaging a consulting firm would be a better decision.
2. Identify The Right Subject Matter Expert
Now that you have narrowed down the consulting company you would like to interview, how to pick the one that is most best for your project.
This is the stage where the ball is in the client’s court. In order to ensure that the consultant can convince you that he or she is the best person for the job, they first have to know your area of needs.
There are instances where client are vague in their requirement and expectation and they ended up with the wrong consultant on board.
It is of utmost importance that the client first know identify their needs and it need to be specific.
Once that is done, interview a few consultant and evaluate their proposed solution to your needs.
A good consultant understands that each client’s needs and solution are different, however minor.
At this point of the selection, ask for the consultant for similar past projects and yes, do another round of reference checks.
3. Price Comparison
Now that we have identified the top choice consultant, it is time to look at the price tag.
The common saying is that you pay for what you get. True and False.
There is a difference between being cheap and being frugal.
Warren Buffett is known to be frugal but he is certainly not cheap.
Instead of jumping into an agreement with the lowest price tag, evaluate in-depth the value you are getting out of each agreement.
For example, consultant A is providing 50 man-day of consultancy work for $20,000 and consultant B is providing 50 man-day of consultancy work plus assisting the Company in getting a grant to cover 70% of the cost for $22,000, ceteris paribus, engaging consultant B makes more sense.
Yes, consultant B has priced in the grant advisory service in the price tag but he delivers more value and the client ends up paying less.
4. Are They Certified or Approved?
Lastly, one of the thing to ask for would be the proof of any certifications.
We are essentially interviewing a potential employee here so we would not be asking for transcripts but we can ask for relevant certifications.
There are various reasons for the checking certifications here.
One, the area of consultancy may need certain specialised skill sets; for example, if we are looking for a work life consultant for the work-life grant to help the company implement flexible work arrangement, we would want to know that the consultant we engage is an approved work life consultant by MOM.
It will definitely provide more assurance than someone who is not.
Secondly, it may help us to defray more cost via government grants; taking us back to the work life grant, MOM provides a 80% reimbursement for consulting fees paid to approved work life consultants.
Lastly, this is yet another source of reference check, this time, done by the certifying body; i.e if we are looking for a consultant in the area of financial management consultancy, it makes sense to engage someone who is a Chartered Accountant with Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.
We would at least know the consultant we engaged has gone through a minimum tertiary education in accounting and finance, has at least 3 years of relevant experience.
We have managed to cover the key areas of consideration that in our opinion, is important in the selection of a consultant.
There are many other variables and some are specific to the type of project you are working on. We hope this article has been of help in your process of finding the right person for the job.