As business owners, we are specialists in our own right. But we do not know everything – no matter how much we Google. Sometimes, it is too time-consuming to do it ourselves, too technical or just brain-numbingly boring. That is when we need to look externally for help, either as a long-term solution or as a short burst of guidance using a consultant. But getting that help can be a project in itself. How do you find the perfect fit?
Before we rush into getting the first consultant we see or know we need to do a few things.
What is your need
A key place to start is to identify
- What is the problem you have
- What do you want them to resolve
- What is the timeframe
- What is your budget?
Do your research
Knowing what your consultant specialises in is essential. Whenever, as business owners, we need to work with someone new, finding the right person is like finding that 1 piece in a mountain of pieces from different jigsaws.
- Values and ethics match
- Specialism – training and experience
- Creative problem-solving skills
- Great communication skills
- That personal touch and interpersonal skills
Values and ethics
An effective consultant must be a person with a great character that matches your values and ethics. You need to be able to feel comfortable with them, and they need to sign up to the values of your business. He or she must be the consummate professional and be able to put the needs of your business first and not see you as a sale.
For example, as a consultant, I have to tell clients things that they need to hear but may not want to — even if doing so means that, for me, it loses business. It is what is in the best interest of the client. If I am not the solution, I will signpost or refer you to someone else.
Experience and training
A good consultant will have experience of the challenges or opportunities you and your company are facing. She or he may not know your specific company or industry. But you don’t need a consultant to know your business as well as you. You need them to solve a specific problem. That is what the consultant brings to the table – their specialism. And that can include a depth of training and CPD to keep up to date in that field.
I’ll give you an example. I specialise in data protection. It comes under that yawn category for most. Now finding a consultant in data protection and GDPR is complex. There is no registered or formal qualification. The ICO do not, (I’ll repeat – DO NOT) certify individuals in relation to data protection or data protection consultancy. They certify organisations who have created certification schemes for business to gain a certificate in data protection compliance in a certain area. e.g. age check certification scheme.
There are courses with PECB and IAPP for people to do training around data protection, including CIPP/E (Certified Information Privacy Profession /Europe), CIPM (Certified Information Privacy Manager) and CDPO (Certified Data Protection Officer).
As a data protection professional, I must do regular CPD AND provide evidence of experience to keep my qualification and registration with PECB up to date.
Problem Solving Creatively
You will want the consultant to enable and engage you with their problem solving abilities. After all, the reason to hire a consultant to help you solve problems (or take advantage of opportunities). It goes back to the top of the blog – what is the problem.
Communication skills are key
A good consultant needs both be able to listen as well as communicate a response. A consultant who does not ask questions or LISTENS to what you are telling them, is not going to be able to work with you to solve the question you are asking.
As a consultant. I need to articulate and have strong communication skills, both orally and written.
No matter how specialised a consultant is, we can’t help you improve your business until they fully understand the challenges you face.
That Personal Touch
For any consultant to be successful in helping your business, trust needs to be built. It goes back to the ethics and values. We need to make you comfortable to reveal details of your business, warts and all.
Without complete candor, consultants are hindered to help your business. Chose a consultant with whom you can develop this kind of professional relationship.
The right consultant adds value – and it does not always have to be monetary. It can be the pain relief of knowing you don’t have to worry about a particular area as you have someone to go to. They have it covered for you.