How to Save Time and Expense when Hiring External Consultants

Posted: 29th January 2019 14:41

No matter what type of industry you are in, there are a number of tangible benefits to hiring an external consultant. From helping to define new goals and overcome any obstacles that are currently in the way to taking advantage of the consultant’s skills on a project and add an experienced person to the current team, working with an external consultant can be a very smart move.

While companies can typically benefit greatly from the external expertise and talent an external consultant brings to the table, they should also have some type of system in place to help the entire process go as smoothly and successfully as possible. In order to help make the most efficient use of the consultant’s time, and help ensure that the experience is productive and positive, consider the following tips.

Track the Consultant’s Time

In order to make sure you are getting your money’s worth from working with the consultant, as well as ensuring that the expert’s time is being used efficiently, it is important to track the consultant’s time. In addition to your keeping tabs on when the consultant is in the building and what projects you have asked her to work on, you can ask her to download the Timely app. This innovative app is a tracking tool that will allow your consultant to track the time she is spending in your company and the projects; it will run while the consultant is working and will automatically capture work activities across the web and desktop computers, as well as track phone call lengths and GPS locations. The Timely app will benefit the consultant as well, ensuring that she is accurately paid for all of her billable work.

Choose Your Own Reliable Software for Meetings and Other Tasks

One of the biggest time wasters in modern day business life is technology incompatibility. To avoid this situation, you should select and use your own chosen and reliable software for tasks like web conference meetings with your external consultant, sharing files and other important jobs. For example, conference calling solutions will help manage and document your calls with the consultant. By using a reliable and reputable system, you can avoid IT mishaps with your consultant as well as missed or delayed meetings that result from software issues. In addition, choosing and using reliable software will help you avoid using up valuable billable time with your external consultant.

Clarify the Scope of Work and Role in the Company

As Mind Tools notes, in order to have an excellent and effective experience with an external consultant, you should clarify the role that he will play in your company — both with him, and the rest of your team. Be open and honest about why you are hiring the consultant, and explain what you hope the relationship will help accomplish. For example, if your company is adding a new product or service, you could hire an external consultant with ample experience in this arena to help the launch go as successfully as possible. Or if you feel that morale is low in the company, explain to your employees that you value their time and hard work and you want to hire a neutral, outside source who can come in and assess the working environment and how it can be improved.

Let the Consultant Get to know Your Company, Warts and All

Once you hire an external consultant, start by giving her a copy of your company’s mission and vision statements — this will give her a good synopsis of your business and what you hope to accomplish. Business owners should also share everything about their company with the external consultant. If there are proverbial skeletons in the business closet, this is not the time to keep them hidden. Tell the consultant about the basics of your company, including what types of products and services you offer, and then go beyond that to share the challenges as well; this can include financial issues, employee grievances, news stories that portrayed your firm in a negative light, and other issues that keep you up at night. The more your consultant knows about your company, the more she will be able to truly understand what is going on there, and how she can help.

Plan for the “Goodbye” While You Are Organizing the “Hello”

Just as you want to be completely transparent with your employees about the consultant, you also should be totally upfront and honest with the expert about your plans to use his or her services. If you have enough money in the budget for X number of hours, let the consultant know up front so he will be able to plan his time accordingly. Or if you want to use her services for six months, put that in a contract and both sign it; that way, there will not be any misunderstandings. Also go over important issues like confidentiality and what types of information he will be allowed to share with others; since you will be disclosing a lot of data about your business at the start of the consultant relationship, this will be the perfect time to explain what will be expected when you part ways.

Once You Hire the Consultant, Have Her Start as Soon as Possible

Consultants typically work with a number of new clients throughout the course of the year, so they are naturally adept at getting the information that they need to start their new job and then hit the ground running. Once you choose the external consultant you wish to work with, educate him about your company and then let him work his professional magic with your firm. Remember that the consultant is not a new hire or trainee, but rather someone with expert knowledge about your company’s challenges and how to fix them, so expect the consultant to be chomping at the bit to start.

Provide Timely and Constructive Feedback

In order to get your money’s worth out of your work with an external consultant, it is important to provide feedback on a regular basis. While consultants are used to working independently to assess different situations in a variety of companies, she will still want and need feedback to keep her pointed in the best direction. For example, you may discover that the consultant helps to get your team’s new product off the ground very quickly and that you don’t need his ongoing advice as much as you thought — if this is the case, communicate this news with him and ask if you can shift gears and have him work on other tasks until his contract is up. You are paying for the consultant’s time so you should be sure you are getting the most out of each hour.

Be Prepared to Smooth Over Any Bumps with Your Employees

If some or all of your team members have expressed concerns over the hiring of an outside consultant, it is wise to reassure everyone that their jobs are not in jeopardy, and that the consultant is merely an expert who can help your company grow and thrive. The last thing you want is to shell out a great deal of money for an external consultant, only to have her work sabotaged by less-than-enthusiastic employees who don’t want to listen to her advice. Be honest with your employees about what you hope the consultant will accomplish and invite anyone with concerns to come to you directly. If the consultant is there to solve an issue the team is finding to be challenging, assure them that you are simply trying to find a solution to the difficulties and you want to use a neutral, outside source to help get your team back on track.

Prepare Your Team to Continue Without the Expert

In some cases, employees will appreciate the expert advice and help from a consultant so much, it can be hard to carry on when he finishes his time with your company. In order to get the most out of the relationship, be sure that the consultant is training everyone on the new product or service and that your team has the skills in place to do the work after she leaves. Ideally, hiring a consultant to solve a specific issue will be a “one and done” type of situation; to avoid additional expense by having to bring the consultant back into the company, be sure your team is ready to shoulder the responsibilities of the new work.

With Some Due Diligence and Planning, External Consultants Are a Great Addition

Like many investments you will make in your business life, ensuring that you will be getting the most out of your external consultant requires some proactive behaviors and planning. By making sure that basic tasks like time tracking are done correctly and accurately and ensuring that you have solid technology in place that will not slow down your workday — along with the other tips in this article — you should find the entire external consultant experience to be positive and successful.