Hire A Consultant For Outsourcing Tactical & Strategic Projects!
Just about every business I speak with has a consultant story. Most of the ones I hear sound like “Oh yeah, we ‘brought one in’ and all we got was a big bill. Nothing really got done.”
That kills me for three reasons:
- I now have to work more than twice as hard to turn a possible client around (thanks previous consultant!) and
- Apparently, the project/work didn’t ‘get handled’
- It perpetuates the story that consultants are opportunistic, quick-buck artists preying upon companies in crisis
Now there are always at least two sides to every story, but if there is an unresolved perception that the expert-for-hire experience was both expensive and unproductive…well, it was a failure. (Maybe it’s even your story!)
I want to change that perception. If you’re a small to medium-sized business, hiring consultant talent to outsource tactical and strategic projects is a smart business move. In fact, I think it’s an underutilized gold mine.
If you don’t know, or it hasn’t been your experience so far, here’s what I’ve noticed. Freelance experts tend to be more…
- Market-driven > they are entrepreneurs who, by definition, are not waiting for the next bi-monthly paycheck
- Focused > they don’t have the productivity-murdering meetings, water cooler rituals and ‘What did ya do last weekend?” distractions
- Project ‘killers’ > they don’t want ‘the job,’ they thrive on the adventure! (‘friendly mercenaries’ if you will)
Working With One…or Maybe More!
My overriding recommendation, whether you’re new to the game or jaded by your past experience, is simple: these wonderful resources are not your employees, so don’t treat them that way. In many cases, they are sharp enough to be your boss…they just don’t want to be!
- Be Transparent > the same way your doctor can’t effectively treat your ailment if you don’t provide s/he good data and observations to work with, don’t withhold – deliberately or inadvertently – and expect a miracle at the finish line (If that means signing a Non-disclosure Agreement, have it ready at the first meeting.)
- Be Humble > this is no time to be wagging your hubris all over the place, you don’t have anything to prove (relax, you’re the customer!)
- Request A Guarantee > any confident expert-for-hire will be assessing the ‘guarantee-ability’ of your project from the onset
With the number of professionals ‘in between successes’ these days, beware. There’s a temptation to temporarily scoop one up (after a thorough negotiation of course!) simply because they seem plentiful. Consider this if you do: you may be getting more of a ‘plug-in employee’ vs. a true expert-for-hire – not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a different alternative.
For my money, I want not only the skill, but also the independent ‘package’…the ‘how it gets handled’ behind the ‘what gets handled’ for my project.
Ask your hottest, brightest employees for referrals. You may be surprised how hotshots tend to know other hotshots.
Or, finally…(drum roll, puhleeeeeze!)
Hire an Expert! I don’t mean a temp agency here. My early entry into the expert-for-hire market started this way. We hired an ‘expert hiring expert’ and co-developed hiring criteria. I got some education and outsourcing ‘practice’ in a low-risk environment (and yes, some raised eyebrows from my colleagues!).
Cozy up to a contractor. You’ll be glad you did!
Mark Morton is “Project Master” at (Don’t Worry) It’s Handled…an expert resource helping small- to medium-sized businesses thrive in the toughest markets.