Growth is the end goal for all sorts of businesses. With several areas of the business to manage and risks over their heads, it’s natural that at some point the CEO of a company will decide to make a call to a consultant. Consultants are third-party people who inspect a firm’s activities and get a better sense of how the company works. They can offer more strategies to improve them and ultimately create revenue-generating ideas. 

Unfortunately, there are many consultants who harm the companies they are hired to save. Here are a few blunders to avoid when selecting a consultant:

1. Choosing Brand Over Person

One common mistake is giving too much focus to the reputation of the consulting firm rather than the qualities of the individual consultant who will be working on your project. It’s reasonable to feel a sense of security when hiring a consultant from a well-known global brand. Nicholas Mukhtar says that the belief is that if the project doesn’t go as planned, you can deflect blame by pointing the finger at the consultancy you hired.

However, the truth is that the success of your project depends mostly on the capabilities and qualities of the specific consultant assigned to your case. Consulting firms, whether global or local, can sometimes make poor hiring decisions or assign consultants who may not meet your expectations.

To avoid this mistake, take the time to have an in-depth discussion with the consultant who will be working on your project. This allows you to assess whether they truly understand your needs and whether you can establish a productive working relationship with them. 

2. Lack of Clarity on Project Execution

Another critical error is failing to explain who will actually be in charge of the project once the consulting contract is signed. In many cases, the consultant who pitches the project and seals the deal is not the same person or team who will be responsible for its execution.

This mismatch can lead to great disappointment. You might find yourself working with consultants who lack the necessary experience or skills to meet your demands. Some firms even end up spending valuable time and resources training these consultants on how to handle the assignment.

To prevent this, make sure that the consulting contract clearly states who will be doing the work. Take the time to look into the capabilities and capacity of this person or team to ensure they meet your standards and can deliver the desired results.

3. Hiring Yes-Men

Another common mistake is hiring consultants who are too friendly and hesitant to challenge your viewpoints. These consultants may spend more time trying to tell you what they think you want to hear rather than giving honest and critical feedback.

According to Nicholas Mukhtar, the danger of hiring yes-men or yes-women is that they may avoid hard topics in order to secure more work from you. To test this belief, try presenting a position on a topic and observe whether the consultant easily agrees without much thought. Then, switch your stance and see if they follow suit.

Successful consulting services depend on healthy and open communication. It’s important to work with consultants who are willing to challenge the status quo, offer different opinions, and lay out results in simple language rather than relying on complex consulting slang. 

4. Failure to Agree on Clear Objectives

A lack of clear targets at the outset of a consulting project can lead to many challenges down the road. Without a detailed and agreed-upon brief, consultants may miss the problem or opportunity they are meant to address. This misunderstanding can result in wasted efforts, budget overruns, and missed deadlines.

To avoid this mistake, take the time to take part in thorough discussions with your consultant before signing the contract. Share your perspectives on the problem or opportunity at hand and allow the consultant to provide their insights. Consider preparing a discussion paper that outlines your understanding of the project’s needs and how you see it being executed. This paper can serve as a basis for developing a formal proposal or contract that is in line with both parties’ expectations.

5. Unmonitored Billable Hours

Consultants working for organizations with high billable hour targets may be motivated to extend projects unnecessarily in order to meet these goals. This can result in delays and higher costs for the client.

To prevent this risk, set clear expectations around project results, timelines, and budgets from the start. Specify measurable outcomes and milestones that can be used to monitor progress effectively. Regularly review project timelines and expenses to ensure that the consulting engagement remains focused, efficient, and aligned with your organization’s objectives.

6. Ignoring Evidence-Based Decisions

Consultants who base their suggestions only on experience or consulting trends without solid evidence put their clients at risk. While experience can be valuable, it’s vital that consultants provide evidence-based advice that is grounded in data and analysis.

Nicholas Mukhtar explains by giving example: if consultants are solving a performance issue, ask them to show how they have calculated current performance levels, noticed performance gaps, and developed action plans to address these gaps. Evidence-based decision-making ensures that consultants focus on addressing the root causes of problems rather than merely treating symptoms.

Wrapping Up

Selecting the right consultant is key for business growth. Look beyond the brand to assess the consultant’s skills and fit for your project. Clearly define who will lead the project to avoid confusion later on. Choose consultants who aren’t afraid to challenge your ideas—they can offer valuable perspectives. Establish clear objectives and regularly check progress to ensure alignment with your goals. You will find better answers if you ask for data-supported, evidence-based advice. Following these steps will help you leverage consulting services effectively and drive meaningful progress in your business.