One of the things I find is that often, I’m hired to clean up the work of other teams. Sometimes it seems that quality consultants are hard to find. These calls from desperate small businesses are not one-off events. Moreover, what I’ve seen when I do the cleanup work is that I’m helping clients out of a “drama situation.” For instance, I’ve had clients who seek to develop a new site, but massive delays with the consultant have left them launching after their target date. Also, consultants have not listened to their needs leading to enormous dissatisfaction.
When I received the most recent call for help, it got me thinking. What makes for a quality consultant? What should small businesses look for when they need expertise from any consultants? The following represent tried and true characteristics to hire the best quality consultants for your projects.
In any relationship, the first quality necessary is trust. It’s the first thing we seek when starting a new relationship, and it’s the basis going forward. Therefore, when you hire a new consulting team, you should look to ensure that they do what they say. Sometimes, in wanting to maintain a relationship and not wanting to offend, you may find yourself giving a consultant a pass. True, there are times when there are legitimate reasons something hasn’t happened, as discussed. However, a quality consultant always delivers on time. Or, the consultant makes adjustments, and explains them to you, if unforeseen circumstance has arisen.
Quality consultants do what they say. Further, they’re communicative, transparent, and discuss any changes with clarity.
Something that seems to be in short supply is the art of listening. Sure, you might find a consulting team that’s eager to get started. That energy, of course, is a good and necessary quality in a consulting group. However, the best consultants understand that they have to listen more than talk. When you interview a consulting team, you should see that they ask pertinent questions of you. When you reflect on the interviews to hire a firm that shows a mastery of the art of listening. In other words, when they asked questions, did they listen to you, or did they jump in with solutions?
A consulting team that does not listen to you during interviews will not do it when they get hired. So, use the time before hiring someone to see if they mastered the skill of listening.
The second quality of quality consultants is their ability to be flexible and also disciplined. For instance, we understand that we live in a fast-changing world. And, what that means is that your circumstances or the scope of work can change. Therefore, the best consultants are happy warriors. They can easily adjust to change. However, they also know that they have to get the job done. Thus, they have the ability for consistent discipline to chip away at the milestones that you and they have noted for performance.
So, you want to make sure that you hire technical experts in the field, with a proven track record. But, you should also hire people with soft skills to work with clients. In other words, they are patient, can adjust to change, and continue refining their deliverables creatively.
By this, we don’t mean that consultants should give you mediocre work. On the contrary, quality consultants always look to excel. However, they also want to “wow” you. So, they will under-promise (e.g., not offer the stars when the moon will do) but still provide excellent work and deliverables. And then they will go further and over-deliver. That’s not to say that they will give you free work. That wouldn’t be fair, and everyone has a right to be paid well for their services. But, they understand how to offer a value-added to their prospects and clients.
As an example, you may find that they give their clients valuable insights and resources, such as with a blog. Or, another technique of quality consultants do is also to teach, inform, and educate as they deliver.
As in life, in business, there unavoidable highs and lows exist. And, unfortunately, even failures happen. However, failing is not a bad thing, so long as it is part of a learning process with good intentions. Meaning, not everything works exceptionally 100 percent of the time. But, quality consultants understand—through life and experience—that failure is not the end of the road. They know how to fail properly. For example, they get that when failures happen, it’s a chance for learning. But, it’s also a time for reassessing and then knocking the ball out of the park.
In sum, you can save yourself unnecessary headaches with teams that talk a lot but don’t walk the talk. Use the interview process as a time to assess if a team is a fit based on experience, but also what they say—or don’t—to you.
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