Management Consultants have a very mixed reputation with management teams in many businesses. “What can consultants tell me about my business!” is a comment we have all heard.
At the same time, consultants have specialised, or rare skill sets and experience. They usually have a good network of contacts and the ability to make your business better, hopefully with the track record to prove it.
So, are consultants a waste of money? Or is the joining of different skill sets and experience – consultant and client team – a partnership to produce better results than either could achieve on their own?
Below, we explore six key benefits of hiring Management Consultants and provide a few alternatives.
Add additional staff capacity quickly
Delays to certain projects can be very costly in lost opportunities. Finding the right staff can be time consuming and costly at the best of times. If you are already up against it, this becomes a real challenge.
Hiring Management Consultants on a short-term basis to join the team can solves these issues quickly.
Think about the type of consultant you are hiring. If you need capacity, you need an effective worker now. To achieve this, any consultant hired needs to be able turn up, start work immediately and be effective. Therefore, be clear about what you need – e.g. specific knowledge, specific skills, project management or the ability to execute (get things done).
Make sure you match the skills of the consultant against the needs you have. Career consultants have developed different skills to those who built their careers rising through the ranks inside organisations.
Get access to skills and experience you don’t have in the business
The right skills and experience can make a huge different to the success or otherwise of a project. If these skills / experiences are not readily available through hiring staff, or the project length does not warrant hiring specialised skills for the longer term, then Management Consultants are a very good option.
Good consultants are likely to lead their chosen field in knowledge, experience and skills. Finding these skills in the employee marketplace can be hard. Or it may not make sense to take on an expensive permanent staff member if you only need most of these skills for a limited period.
Having the right skills available usually makes a difference to the result you get.
A good Management Consultant will train and upskill your staff during the project. This leaves you with improved skills and knowledge within your team, helping maintain or improve on the benefits you have achieved during the project.
An alternative, which gives you similar benefits, is hiring interim or temporary staff with the right skills and experience. This working relationship is different and will have an impact on your time as a manager. An employer – employee relationship normally takes more time and energy compared to the client – partner relationship with consultants.
Get a fresh perspective and vital feedback
Challenging the status quo is one of the important benefits of hiring Management Consultants. With multiple company and sector experience, a consultant is much more likely to be able to ask the right questions to get you thinking in new directions or ways.
Consultants are able to provide an opinion backed by analysis and experience, which can really help you see the wood for the trees. It focuses you on the critical areas to get right quickly. Being an outside party should also enable the consultant to give you a more honest view. It is well known that the more senior you become in an organisation, the less useful feedback you get from more junior staff members. They are worried about you giving them their next promotion! Honest and considered feedback is invaluable to management to improve project or business outcomes.
Hiring new staff members is also an opportunity to take new questions and get feedback if you create the right framework to allow them to do so.
Without fresh input, challenge and ideas, any team can get stale over time. Stale teams rarely win in competitive environments.
Develop and train employees
Employee talent and skills lies at the heart of nearly every business. When you take every opportunity to improve their talents, you also improve your results.
Good Management Consultants are likely to lead their chosen field in terms of knowledge, experience and skills. This is a great opportunity for your staff members to learn. A good consultant will spend significant time with staff members developing their thinking, training and coaching them. This skills transfer results in your teams’ skills increasing, the solution is understood better and they get better buy in. The result is lasting benefits for individuals and the business.
Ask a potential consultant when their approach has transferred knowledge and skills to the teams with which they have worked. How do they plan to do the same for your project?
Implement Best Practice
Management Consultants have the rare privilege of working with multiple business within the same sector and across sectors. This enables consultants the recognise common themes to effective solutions and apply them to similar situations. Most of this knowledge is held within the heads of the senior consultants, to a lesser extent the junior consultants with only some captured in methodologies, white papers and project reviews. Therefore, reading books, white papers and similar only gives you access to some of this knowledge.
When you hire good consultants, you are accessing their amazing experience and knowledge. Put it to use to improve one or more aspects of your business. Great experience allows the consultant to start adding value from day one and reduces the impact of “learning on the job”. You get a quicker implementation and possibly a better result.
In comparison, interim employees rarely accumulate the same breath and depth of knowledge because they work on less projects over any given timeframe and therefore experience less. While the day rate of a consultant may be higher versus an interim, if less days are spent, you get better value.
Make Change happen
Having the right ideas and plan are very important. If you don’t have the right direction then the project will not deliver the value it should, no matter how good the implementation. Yet the ideas remain only a small part of the final solution. We think about 10-15% of the total value.
The project needs to be delivered, embedded into the organisation’s way of doing things with enough buy-in that the right staff will champion it. This is the hard part and where so many projects fall down. Because of this challenge, executing or getting things done is hard work and needs good application of various leadership and management skills.
A lot of employees don’t have the right people skill set or experience. Or they are not prepared to put in enough hard work to successfully implement projects. Consultants, particularly if they have limited line management experience, are even less likely to have the right skills for project execution. This is because consultants often work slightly removed from the day to day cut and thrust of business life.
Check what execution or implementation skills your consultant has if this is critical to the project.
Management Consultant have a lot to offer business leaders and senior management teams, as well as the staff they work alongside during the projects they undertake. In summary, key benefits are:
- Additional capacity available quickly
- Specialised and rare skill sets and experience
- A fresh perspective and valuable feedback
- An opportunity to upskill your employees
- Implementation of best practice
- The ability to make change happen
We understand that there is always reputational risk attached to hiring Management Consultants. A key partner or supplier that consistently delivers results in the right way makes a huge difference to the business and adds to your own credibility. The opposite is also true.
Does this selection risk really outweigh the opportunity to make your business better!
Good consultants don’t grow on trees. It pays to spend time getting to know a potential consultant, go through their case studies and follow up on references to find out how good they really are.
Author – Jess Coles, Emerson Nash
Jess spent 20+ years working in top businesses such as E&Y, PA Consulting, Williams Lea and Innocent Drinks prior to becoming a Management Consultant specialising in Business Performance Management. Jess’ full profile.
Emerson Nash is a hands-on Management Consultancy specialising in Business Performance Management. We have many low cost, quick Outline Reviews that add value and enable you to get to know us with low risk to you. Our Implementation projects have delivered between £100k and £24m as measured in increased profit, cash or business valuation.