How to Evaluate an Independent Consultant

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The independent consultant industry is expected to grow as companies seek to cut costs, streamline operations and look for real expertise to support their business goals. This growth means that there are plenty of cost-effective options for expert independent resources that provide long-term value for your business. And as the market for independent consultants, or Talent On-Demand grows, finding exactly the right consultant for your situation becomes all the more difficult and critical.

To ensure a successful outcome, each consultant should be evaluated against 6 key criteria:

1. Industry Experience

The global consulting industry is exploding, with over $430 billion in revenue generated in 2014. Businesses obviously see value in using an independent strategy consultant for strategy, due diligence, market analysis, operations, etc. However, finding a consultant with the right industry experience isn’t always easy.

First, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary that a consultant has experience in your specific industry or whether you want someone with an external perspective to help you understand your company’s challenges in a new light. Remember, someone with experience in retail and sales can take that experience and help a medical device company more effectively sell their products, so it’s also important to keep in mind consulting skills that apply to a broad range of industries. Weigh the benefits and disadvantages of industry experience for your company, and you’ll have a better idea of what you need.

2. Issue-Specific Knowledge

The question here is whether you want someone who has already tackled a similar issue before or are you looking for someone who has the capability to come to a solution even if they haven’t addressed the specific issue before. The advantage of Issue Specific Talent, someone who has done it before is the speed to get to a solution, the challenge is you may get a solution similar to what’s been done before. There are obvious ways to mitigate against this even with the Issue Specific Talent, including working with someone who has approached the same issue differently in different situations, someone who is an open minded thinker, etc.

3. Operating or Consulting Experience

You’ll also want to evaluate whether you need a consultant who actually has hands on experience in delivering results in a corporate role or a consultant who can look at a specific problem and provide you with a solution. Sometimes you might even want both skill sets. All of this depends on the issue at hand and your action orientation.

4. Seniority & Experience Level

The overall experience level of a consultant and their seniority will definitely impact cost. However, you need to determine how much experience your organization needs to establish a credible solution that you’re confident in. To do this, evaluate your consultant’s long-term track record and don’t be afraid to ask how their seniority can help you obtain a better result.

5. Motivation

You ultimately want to work with a consultant who is interested in more than just the money. You want someone loves tackling a difficult problem and finding an ingenious solution that transforms a company for the better. Review your consultant’s previous work and references, and you’ll be able to ascertain whether they’re someone who just works for a living or someone who approaches their work with a curiosity and enthusiastic approach. Selecting a consultant who loves his or her craft will pay off big for your business.

6. Culture Fit

Working with an independent consultant can often be difficult if it isn’t a good cultural fit. Some consultants can come off as arrogant or act as if their solution is the only one that makes any sense.A consultant’s problem-solving capabilities is important, but you should also evaluate whether they can communicate effectively and work with your existing staff in a productive manner. As the client, your own company culture should come first, and the right consultant should be able to work around it and adapt quickly.

Ultimately, by doing the right research on a consultant and understanding your business needs, you should find an independent consultant that’s right for you. Think about using the above criteria during your own evaluation process, and you’ll see the difference.

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