Consultants: How to avoid the s**t-heads

So, you need a bit of business advice, but the idea of hiring a 'consultant' sends shivers down your spine. Maybe you’ve tried hiring one before, but all you’ve really got to show for it are a few ‘frameworks’ and a massive bill. We all know someone that’s been burnt by a s**t consultant or experienced them at a networking event where we’ve looked for any excuse to get away from them. But what do you do when your business really does require the kind of outside help and experience that will take it to the next level? Who do you turn to?

 I have to confess, I originally wanted to get on my soap box and write an anti-consultancy blog (so many of them I have met have been f***ing useless). Then I thought, "hang on a minute Lena, stop being such a ‘bolshie’ Kiwi. There are plenty of brilliant consultants who really do care about helping their clients, so why not use this blog as an opportunity to give business owners a bit of guidance on how to tell the s**t-heads from the experienced advisors".

 My intention is to give you enough information to allow you to separate the s**t from the grit. Here are just a few things to consider when seeking a new consultant:

 MBA's - Be wary of the MBA-touting consultant. You wouldn't let a hairdresser loose on your hair with a pair of scissors if all they’d studied was the theory. So, why on earth would you let someone near your business if all they’d 'experienced' was studying for an MBA? Don't get me wrong, I’m not saying having an MBA is bad, but if it’s not backed up by ‘on the ground experience’, that’s when your ‘spidey senses’ should be going nuts.

 Jargon – When a consultant’s bamboozling you with jargon and ‘buzz-words’ then you might be wise to question how practical they are really going to be. When looking for an advisor be sure your consultant speaks your language or you may be left feeling overwhelmed, uninspired and misunderstood. Straight talkers are often a lot easier to work with.

 Case Studies – Ask your prospective consultant to provide you with case studies. You really want to understand what they have achieved for other business owners. Don’t be afraid to question them deeply on:
- the challenge the business needed support with,
- how they worked on this challenge alongside the client,
- what the results were
Push as hard as you feel is necessary because if they’re all talk then a bit of pushing will reveal their weaknesses if they exist.

 Their experience – Is their experience relevant to your needs? Ask them to provide examples of having fixed your kind of challenges before. Have they owned their own business? If they have, then don’t be afraid to ask them about that business. What challenges did they face as a business owner. How did they overcome them? Ask what happened to that business i.e. Does it still exist? Was it sold? etc.

 Referrals – Ask to speak to previous clients. It’s more than reasonable to ask to be introduced to satisfied clients. People you can ask questions of. For example, ask what the consultant is like to work with, the changes they helped that business owner achieve.

 I hope these tips have been helpful and that they assist you in your hunt for one of those rare gems…an experienced, practical, successful consultant, that will actually make a difference to you and your business.