I started working on a pitch deck recently, describing why you should spend the time talking to me – to us, to a consultant – before you even have a contract. The next day, I received an invite to a sales opportunity for a B2B portal to understand our capabilities as consultants, or familiarity with those types of applications as a consulting organization. It was magic: I created some content, and then, almost instantly, it was useful. That’s pretty much what people think consultants do…right? We make stuff up, and then sell it.
Consultants get a bad rep; like New Jersey. And, I get it. We’re typically expensive, always a line item on the balance sheet, always wanting to travel…and sometimes we don’t produce (well, we at Perficient do, but many others do not).
But, really, we’re in the business to help.
We are clean and polished; have some buzz words in our dialogue goodie bag, and show up with plenty of PowerPoints ready to share. But we’re also extremely knowledgeable, and come from different backgrounds that can help with every project you take-on. Some consultants have been project managers on huge projects and others have worked on complex integrations for say a merger of two Fortune 500s. Others may have been developers in past-lives…or could’ve just grown-up through consulting and have seen similar problems in the same industry with the same technology stack.
So, what I am saying is that we’re worth listening to, at least for a few minutes. But be careful, not all consultants are created equal. Before you embark on a consulting engagement, here are some things to watch out for to make sure you get the best of the best.
- Personality. This isn’t first in the list by accident. Can you relate to the individual or consultant group you hired? If you went to dinner, could you have a good discussion and feel like you get to know him/her (without having a drink)? One key to a great relationship, and finding the right consulting team is creating that “outside of work” relationship. It will help when times are tough, or when you need a shoulder to cry-on when s*** hits the fan at the office.
- Background and Experience. Does the team you hire have the right experience, context or background? Has their firm or others on their team completed the type of work you’re looking for? Can they work with you to customize a solution or do they have artifacts from past/relevant experience to apply here? Dig into these questions — ask. You can usually sense fluff right away.
- Presence & Communications. Do you feel that they are a part of your team? Are they communicating clearly, being transparent and reporting regularly to you? If you doubt it for even a second, then ask right away, or look for a new partner.
- Grit. Do you feel that in the heat of the moment, this team or individual would have your back and do whatever it takes? Forget the price or how cheap you got an engineer to complete the work. Are they available and willing to flex their working hours, even if he/she is sitting nine time zones away? Will their team be there, day or night to make it right? Will their leadership team take the time to understand the problem and dig-in to put any numbers of resources required to fix the problem?
- Value. This isn’t about the dollar figure or invoices. Yes, those matter (maybe more to the consultant than to you), but do you feel like the time they’re spending adds value to your business? Are they a partner to your business and someone you can cling to for a long-time to help achieve your business objectives and roadmap? A tactical relationship can be okay for a small initiative, but usually not in our field – the more your consultant knows your business, your organization and your industry, including over-time, the more effective they can be. Good consultants look at competitors for inspiration, challenge the status quo at your company, and bring creative solutions to problems that exist.
Most people reading this have probably worked with consultants at one point or another. I’m curious if you’ve seen these characteristics in your time with consultants. Or, you might even be a current Brainjocks customer today — do you find these attributes in our staff? I’d love to know either way, and especially if you’re not seeing these attributes. Let’s talk about it, or feel free to contact me directly and we can chat more.