"A consultant is someone who provides value through specialized expertize, content, behavior, skill, or other resources to assist a client in improving the status quo in return for mutually agreed compensation"
I know that I need someone to help me with my problem, but how do I know that I need a consultant? Why should I invest my company's money and time in a consultant? How can I measure the return that make in this investment?
In his book, "Million Dollar Consulting", Alan Weiss goes on to define the categories of value that a consultant will bring to a company. These are the key areas of value that you can use to evaluate whether the consultant you are considering using to solve your problem to is the right one for you.
- Content. This is the most common consulting value. The consultant you use must know what they are talking about. Consequently, you will probably be able to find consultants who have worked in a specific field or industry that you need help on. Many people who break out of corporate life to go into consulting base their business on content consulting.
- Expertise. Many consultants have an expertise that transends a specific industry. For example supply chain management; or change management. These consultants can adapt their expertise to a variety of problems and across multiple industries. You will find people who have worked across diverse industries and companies to have developed this type of expertise.
- Knowledge. This is a quality of people who have "been there before". Knowledge includes an understanding of process as opposed to content. Real process knowledge come with experience. However, don't expect the consultant to have the same level of knowledge of your business that you have.
- Behavior. A consultant with good interpersonal skills in virtually never behind the scenes. These interpersonal competencies may be of value to you in facilitating groups, leading teams, resolving conflict, enhance brainstorming and creativity, listen to customer or employee feedback, etc. Mediators and arbitrators are examples of consultants with with this competency.
- Special Skills. Some people have highly developed, well defined skills that are in high demand. These are often talents and innate abilities. For example, some people have a sense of style that makes them excellent image consultants. These people may not know anything about the content, or have precise expertise of knowledge related to your business. But, these consultants will have a gift or talent that you cannot acquire independently.
- Contacts. Good consultants are normally well connected and will be able to get the right person for the job at hand, if they themselves do not have the necessary expertise, content, knowledge or skills that you may need for a specifiuc task. A well connected consultant can also be a good lobbyist for you.
Consultants will bring one or more (or all) of these competencies to bear to help you move from the status quo to the improved position.