Not sure about whether you should hire a consultant? Here are some red flags to help you determine if now may not be the right time.
- You have a stack of previous consultants' reports that you haven't implemented. Reasons for unimplemented reports can vary from changes in strategy to lack of time. Unless you can specifically name what went wrong and can be sure you can correct it the next time, wait.
- You keep hiring "the wrong consultants." This is often a result of being unclear on what expertise you are seeking from a consultant or even what product you ultimately want from them. A skilled consultant can help clarify this for you during the interview process. If she isn't interviewing you as much as you are interviewing her, how can she know what you need?
- The consultant you are interviewing hasn't researched your organization and doesn't provide any initial insights during your interviews. Some consultants will disagree with me on this one because they may view it as giving away free work. In my opinion, this serves both the consultant and the potential client. It's an opportunity for a consultant to showcase one of her most important skills: how she thinks. It also offers the consultant a chance to see how you, the client, respond to feedback, which leads me to...
- You aren't ready to hear what needs improvement or you don't have the time, resources, or will to fix problems. This is one about which you can probably do the least because most people aren't aware they are unprepared. They will swear otherwise. In many ways, it is the consultant's first job to make sure her potential client isn't throwing away money and time by hiring her. A consultant who cares about achieving meaningful results will often turn away more clients than she accepts.
- You don't have one or two employees that will work closely with the consultant throughout the engagement and respond promptly to questions. You want a consultant to have the maximum amount of time to mull over information before she makes recommendations.
- You're not prepared to share sensitive, relevant material. A consultant is only as good as the information she receives.
- You are hiring a consultant because someone else wants you to. Whether it's your Board or your boss, if you get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach every time you think about working with a consultant, you probably aren't ready to be as transparent or available as is needed for the engagement to be successful.
- You don't have the time to speak with the consultant's references in depth. If you are delegating this responsibility to someone else or you are squeezing it into a brief call then it's an indication that the consulting engagement isn't a priority to you.
Stephanie Sandler is the Founder and CEO of Philanthropy Today Consulting. She is committed to providing practical advice that clients can reasonably implement..