Using a Business Consultant: Frequently Asked Questions

Companies invest a substantial amount of time, and money, to brainstorm and execute strategic plans. However, sometimes those carefully considered plans do not pan out as intended. When an organization follows its strategic plan, yet still fails to achieve its objectives, it is time to assess what went wrong and try something different. This tends to be difficult since, in most cases, the people evaluating failed decisions are the same people who made those decisions in the first place. Instead of diagnosing the problem, leaders will instead waste time with finger pointing as they try to deflect the blame. It should be no surprise that many companies will opt to use external expert business consultants to try to understand the problem. If a firm has never used one of these professionals before, they will probably have several questions about how to proceed. Here are the answers to those questions:

What exactly does a business consultant do?

The primary goal of these professionals is to help companies become more successful, by analyzing existing problems, and working with the client to create a proper solution.

Can they provide anything that will not be found internally?

Absolutely. The most obvious benefit of bringing in executive consulting help is that they will come in with an objective viewpoint, and will not be afraid of calling out certain individuals as a co-worker might be. They will also not have any stake in the outcome, while an internal employee may be considering his or her own interests when making decisions. Additionally, since these experts will have experience with assisting a number of different companies within the industry, they will have quite a bit of anecdotal evidence and knowledge of best practices to draw on. It will be difficult to find someone internally with similar business knowledge.

Are these professionals just glorified facilitators?

While the two are similar, there is a big difference between these two individuals. A facilitator will utilize a number of pre-planned activities, and training courses to guide those within the organization to a consensus on ideas and decisions. They are impartial and will never make their opinions known or offer up suggestions of their own. However, consultants are hired specifically for their knowledge. Companies that utilize them want to hear ideas and suggestions from an outside source as they try to uncover new ways of addressing organizational problems. Additionally, they can provide feedback for managers to improve their performance.

What should a client keep in mind when searching for outside help?

The client will typically create a needs assessment based on what he or she believes the company needs. However, there is still the risk that the client will not be in a position to see the big picture. Even if they are, they may not have an idea of how to solve it. When considering executive consulting, it is wise for managers to trust the hired professional and listen to what they have to say. If they say that the client needs the full range of services, then a manager looking to cut costs should not be so quick to dismiss that option.