As businesses aim to stay competitive and innovative, they often turn to a consulting firm for specialized industry expertise, advice, and guidance. However, many companies view consultants as hired help rather than a partner in the success of their organization. This can lead to missed opportunities for collaboration and less innovative solutions.
Let's explore why companies should want a close relationship with their consulting firm. By doing so, businesses can much more easily tap into the knowledge, skills, and insight of professionals at their consulting firms and build stronger, more collaborative relationships that lead to better outcomes. This is an important topic for businesses to consider if they want to maximize the value of their consulting engagements and drive long-term success.
The difference between treating consultants as partners and hired help
When clients engage a consulting firm, they often have a specific project or outcome they want the consultant to help them achieve. In some cases, businesses view consultants as hired help who are there to execute a specific task and then move on to the next engagement. This is not the ideal way to view the consultant-client relationship. Instead, clients should try to view the relationship more like a partnership.
This means viewing them as an extension of the business with a shared stake in the project's outcome. It involves building a collaborative relationship where the consultant's expertise and insights are valued and integrated into the business's decision-making process. Companies and consulting firms should focus on building a long-term relationship that drives ongoing success.
So, what are the differences? Can you compare and contrast the two approaches for me? Yes, yes, I can!
Businesses must prioritize open and frequent communication, where the consultant's input is not seen as a threat to the status quo but as a genuine and good-faith effort to improve the business.
If, instead, businesses treat consultants as hired help; they may provide limited information and direction, leaving the consultant to work independently without much input or guidance.
A company that communicates openly will help an independent consultant have a better understanding of underlying issues which may be overlooked by managers closer to the organization.
Businesses should view a consultant as an extension of the company and bring them into the decision-making process as key contributors. This leads to greater collaboration between the consultant and the business, resulting in better outcomes.
When a consultant is treated as hired help, they are often viewed as outsiders or professionals brought in to complete a specific task without much collaboration or integration into the business's operations.
When a consultant is brought into a company to work on a new project and is treated as a partner in its success, they are much more invested and take more responsibility and ownership of their work. This leads to greater accountability and a focus on achieving results.
When consultants are treated as hired guns, they are often less invested in the project's outcome and less accountable for their work.
Businesses must focus on building long-term relationships rather than viewing each engagement as a one-time transaction. This leads to stronger relationships and a greater understanding of each other's future needs and objectives.
A consultant treated as hired help may view each client as a one-time transaction, with little effort put into building a relationship.
Tips for businesses to treat consultants as partners
So now you know the differences between treating your management consultant like a member of your team or like your hired help in a couple of critical areas. A good manager's job is to successfully integrate a consultant into their team, even for the short term. By following these tips, organizations can do just that.
Open and frequent communication is, of course, always important. Businesses should prioritize regular check-ins with their consultants, providing them with regular updates on the project's progress and soliciting their input and feedback.
Collaboration is vital to an organization's success. Businesses should work to integrate their consultants into the decision-making process and provide them with the information and resources they need to contribute effectively. All team members involved with a project should have virtually unlimited access to an organization's collaboration tools so that they can collaborate and communicate with each other in such a way as employees would.
Defining expectations is essential to having a successful experience with a consultant. Businesses should communicate the project's objectives, deliverables, and timeline to their consultants, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Businesses must set clear performance metrics and well-defined objectives and hold everyone accountable for delivering high-quality work that meets them. Businesses should attempt to hold all parties working on a project to the same standards, whether employees or consultants.
Building good relationships is critical. Businesses should work to establish long-term relationships with their consultants, engaging them in ongoing projects and tapping into their industry expertise over the long term.
By prioritizing communication and feedback, emphasizing collaboration, defining expectations, promoting accountability, and building relationships, many firms can strengthen and support their team with outside help.
Challenges to treating consultants as partners
While these things can bring significant benefits, they can also present some challenges for businesses to deal with. Let's discuss some potential challenges companies may face when engaging in a close relationship with a consulting firm and provide strategies for overcoming these challenges.
It is essential to manage expectations effectively. This means defining the project's objectives, scope, and timeline upfront and ensuring everyone is on the same page. One strategy for managing expectations is to develop a detailed project plan that outlines the project's key milestones and deliverables.
Businesses may feel like they are giving up control over the project. Office politics and corporate culture may play a role. Managers may not want to look weak or incapable. However, it is essential to remember that treating consultants as partners does not mean giving up control entirely. Businesses should establish clear lines of authority and ensure that the consultant's work aligns with the objectives of the current project.
Businesses may also face challenges balancing their priorities and resources with those of their consultants. One strategy for overcoming this challenge is to involve the consultant in the decision-making process and solicit their input on priorities. By working collaboratively, businesses can develop solutions and services that meet both their needs and those of their consultants.
Conflicts, such as disagreements over project scope, timelines, or deliverables, may arise when working with consultants. One strategy for addressing conflicts is establishing a clear dispute resolution process upfront. This process should outline how conflicts will be addressed and resolved and involve the consultant and the business in finding a solution.
This is especially important when a business has engaged multiple consulting firms for projects. The process will need to outline how conflicts will be addressed when one consultant disagrees with one of your other consultants.
Building relationships with consultants can be challenging, especially if the consultant only works on a short-term project. One strategy for overcoming this challenge is establishing regular check-ins with the consultant and seeking their input on future projects. Businesses and clients can build strong relationships that benefit both parties by engaging the consultant in ongoing projects.
In summary, businesses may face challenges when treating consultants as partners, such as managing expectations, maintaining control, balancing priorities and responsibilities, addressing conflicts, and building relationships. However, by developing strategies to overcome these challenges, businesses can build strong relationships with their consultants and drive ongoing success.
Treating consultants as partners rather than hired help can significantly benefit businesses. Businesses can improve communication, enhance accountability, and drive better outcomes by establishing collaborative relationships with consultants.
Businesses can treat their consultants as partners by prioritizing communication, emphasizing collaboration, defining expectations, promoting accountability, and building relationships. However, companies may face challenges in managing expectations, maintaining control, balancing priorities and responsibilities, addressing conflicts, and building relationships. By developing strategies to overcome and manage these challenges, businesses can build strong relationships with their consultants and promote ongoing success.
We encourage businesses to treat their consultants as partners and colleagues and view them as valuable team members. Companies can then tap into their consultants' expertise and drive long-term success.