Historically, consulting companies have gotten a bad rap for swooping in with presentations full of industry trends or spewing out jargon-laden recommendations. Or, even worse, they try to give the company’s identity a facelift and leave leaders fumbling to latch onto a vision that just doesn’t fit.
Fortunately, there’s a new crop of consulting companies that take a much different approach when lending their expertise. And the good ones meet their clients where they are and offer solutions that can add immediate value. The best consultants help executives refine their vision and solve problems faster and more effectively.
If you’ve been burned by a lackluster consultant relationship in the past, it’s no reason to write off all consultants. Before hiring your next consulting firm, use these tips to protect your company’s identity and extract the greatest value from the partnership.
- Start with a clear vision. The most successful companies don’t keep their vision a secret or pretend it’s too complicated for every employee to understand; they clearly articulate their vision and use it to find the best talent and win over customers.
- Look for a nimble partner. Big, bulky solutions are rarely the answer to your organization’s toughest challenges. It’s better to start with a set of assumptions and learn at each stage of the process. Any consulting company you hire should have a model that allows you to adjust quickly as you uncover new insights.
- Ask for what you want. To get the most out of your consulting partnership, share your three-year vision for your company, a 12-month strategy, and quarterly goals that align with that vision. Then, take control of the conversation by saying, “This is my vision for the company. How can you help me achieve it?”
- Beware of jargon and industry trends. If you start the conversation with your consulting firm by sharing your vision and the firm responds with stats about the latest industry trends, made-up jargon you don’t understand, or a host of canned recommendations, move on to another firm. The last thing you want is a consulting company that’s just trying to fit you into a box. You want one that can help you overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities that are unique to your organization.
- Stand by your vision. An agile, innovative organization is always reinventing how it goes to market, but its mission and vision don’t change. A consultant’s role is simply to add clarity and focus to that vision and illuminate the most logical path to help you get there. The only time you should allow a consultant to point you in a completely new direction is if your core market has proven unprofitable.
Partnering with a consulting firm can be a game changer for your organization — if you hire the right one. Have confidence in your leadership team, and stick to your long-term vision. You already know where you want to go; you just need a nimble partner to help you expand and contract as you execute your plan.
Carey Rome is founder and CEO of Cypress Resources, a management consulting firm based in Birmingham, Ala., with more than 15 years of experience helping business executives reach their goals. He has served as an adviser to business leaders at mid-sized to Fortune 1000 companies.