5 Tips for Meeting and Exceeding Your 2016 Targets

5 Tips for Meeting and Exceeding Your 2016 Targets

You made your resolutions for 2016 on REBITDA and Cash, but here’s Q2 and your leadership team is starting to look at their mid-year commitments with furrowed brow. It might feel like déjà vu but the fact is they’re approaching the task with a limited set of tools. Sure, focus on innovation and increasing your customer base, and address short-term targets with new value sources that won’t compromise on the future. At the same time, you can use a few more levers in your tool belt, such as these ideas to get back on track to meet target:

Buy Better on Direct Costs

When you optimize procurement costs, you have a fast lever to impact your PNL and Cash lines. Evaluate supply and demand on each category and break down the spend by SKUs. Identify some quick wins and assess your bargaining power. Choose the negotiations you’re confident in winning. There must be a few that were not on your plate already

  • Renegotiate contracts based on the supply and demand balance and market volatility (when your supply is greater than the demand, you don’t necessarily want to lock yourself in with a long-term contract unless you get extremely competitive conditions).
  • Renegotiate the tail spend – those contracts you almost never renegotiate.
  • Bring in second-source suppliers to reduce your risk, increase your bargaining power, and keep your incumbent reasonable.

Example: In the chemical industry, even long-term contracts often include a “meet or release” clause that allows a company to use different suppliers if the offer isn’t competitive. Time to check and see how competitive that old contract is today.

Leverage Pricing

Pricing is usually your second-fastest lever. Simple math shows pricing is often the biggest profit driver in the Price-Cost-Volume equation. If you have to choose one of these three, go for pricing whenever you can as long as you’ve got low margins. With high margins, go for volume.

  • Differentiated Products: You’ve got the bargaining power – assess the willingness to pay to capture the value you bring to your customers without pushing them to find alternatives or alienating them.
  • Commodities: Depending on supply and demand, your bargaining power can evolve considerably – and pricing must follow. Devise a smart price-volume pricing strategy and you can maximize your profits while optimizing your assets at the same time.
  • Services: Are you pricing for the level of service you provide? Do you have advanced inventory? 24/7 reactivity and customer support? Auto-refill leveraging the internet of things? Teams on site supporting the operations? …. maybe there are services you could monetize by implementing a differentiated service offering.

For example, you can create a simple chart to analyze the level of unit margin and yearly volumes of each product-customer couple. This will help you identify outliers benefiting from much better conditions than other customers for historical reasons. Those customers are good candidates for a price or volume adjustment.

Buy Better on Indirect Costs

Optimizing indirect costs is an evergreen topic. Many companies have already regrouped their indirect procurement to better manage expenses. Typical levers are:

  • Regroup and manage decentralized expenses such as insurance, travel, consulting as a category
  • Freeze external expenses for items that can be delayed or produced in-house.
  • Implement more stringent validation rules for travel to ensure you leverage all of those conferencing and video conferencing tools you already own.
  • Bring in niche experts to optimize overlooked categories like office supplies, printer leases, car rentals, etc.

Here’s a great example: Recently while meeting with a large bank with almost $200M in consulting expenses per year, we learned that Procurement wasn’t involved in their purchasing process. Imagine for a moment what that would mean. How much difference would it make in terms of regrouping expenses, strategizing the procurement, and negotiating with the different providers in competition for key projects? Just a 20% savings could represent 0.2% directly on gross margin. That’s $40M to this company. Are you interested in saving $40M? Most companies would say yes.

Play on Cash

Is cash king? Of course it is. Cash is also fuel – without it your company can only go so far. Here are tips for handling your cash better:

  • Delay payments for big investments – CAPEX first.
  • Delay hiring for a few months. This can make a big difference in your year.
  • Play on payment terms with your supplies. This means renegotiating longer payment terms or supplier financing programs with banks.
  • Chase down customer payments. You might even pull in a company that specializes in recovering aged receivables.

A perfect example: Following the pressure from retailers, CPG Companies negotiate longer payment terms with their suppliers every year. One fragrance company saw its working capital shoot through the roof, increasing by more than 30% by doing this. The next logical step was to negotiate the same conditions with their own suppliers but it took them two years to react.

Optimize Assets

Traditionally, companies apply the principle of Economics of Scale (produce more for new markets and give discounts for additional marginal volumes), and Scope (diversify your assets’ production and markets) to optimize their assets and generate efficiencies. Take moment to look outside the box and beyond your own back door. Some strategic partnerships can prove to be extremely interesting:

  • Optimize your asset utilization by partnering with companies that are evolving in the same market. Propose more competitive costs than their own (economies of scale with a competitor).
  • Develop common platforms on non-strategic parts to reduce your engineering costs and those of your suppliers.
  • Optimize your asset utilization by partnering with companies that are evolving into different markets (economies of scope with another company)

For example, a defense company partnered with an automotive company to fill up their production pipeline during low-activity periods. By producing parts for the automotive company, the defense company covered their fixed costs. This helped the automotive company increase production without investing in new assets. They also benefited from higher-quality work since defense quality management is extremely rigorous. Nor did they have to share their opportunities and knowledge with potential competitors.

Get Back on Track

Whether you want to recover from a low first quarter or create a buffer for future headwinds, there are some excellent levers here for you to activate. Remember that time is of the essence – don’t hold off on action until Q3 rolls around. To maximize the impact on the current year, dedicate internal resources now and considering bringing in external resources or consultants.

A Self-Diagnostic to Improve the Management of Your Consulting Spend

A Self-Diagnostic to Improve the Management of Your Consulting Spend

Do you currently employ consultants on a regular basis? Perhaps, you consider consultants a negligible part of your budget and overall business strategy—there for small, niche projects when you need them and gone as soon as that business is concluded. However, from our experience, consulting spend can represent millions of dollars for companies, and if not properly managed (or managed at all), you’ll miss out on the strategic opportunities a consultant can provide.

Today, we are going to look at a self-diagnostic to improve the way you manage your consulting spending. We will look at four key areas in which to assess your current management approaches: scope, panel management, performance management, and sourcing.

1. Scope

When considering the scope of consultants in your day-to-day and annual business, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you know the amount your company is spending on consulting on a yearly basis?The first step toward improving the management of your consulting spend is to be sure you know just how much you are spending, on average, each year. Knowing this number will put in perspective for you the part consultants play in your business and allow you to better evaluate whether or not you’re seeing a strong return on your current investments.
  • What special skills do the consultants you employ possess?More importantly, what skills do your consultants provide that add value to your business and to various projects? Look at the areas in which you are seeking the help of a consultant. What activities could be done in house? What about out of house? Are you hiring consultants that fill important skill gaps in your current personnel? Consultants should fulfill a specific need within your company, whether that be a new perspective, a special expertise, or a greater authority. Understanding this will help establish the scope of consultants you are currently working with.
  • How does the work of your consultants align with your key strategic needs?What are your needs this year, and from year-to-year? In order to manage your consulting spend, you need to understand how your consultants’ skills align with your business’s needs. When looking at your consulting spend with through a strategic lens, does your resource allocation align with your strategic intent? Are there areas where you could reduce costs? Areas where you should invest further? Too many companies tend to allocate their consulting budget in the same way every year, when a dynamic resource allocation would be better suited.
  • What is the rationale for using consultants? There are many valid reasons for hiring and maintaining ongoing relationships with consultants. Be sure you understand your own. Maintain clear perspective and encourage (or even demand) that departments keep you apprised of their rationale behind hiring a new consultant. You should always be able to answer these two questions before bringing a consultant on board: “do we need this person?” and “why?”

2. Panel Management

When evaluating consultant panels and their usefulness, ask yourself these key questions.

  • Do you know how to qualify a supplier to a specific project?Ideally, you should have a process in mind to evaluate a prospective supplier for each project. Less than ideal, perhaps, you have a list of prospective consultant suppliers and tend to go to one or two of your favorites, without weighing specific specialties and strengths, but simply trusting their reliability. Be sure you understand what each of your potential suppliers is bringing to the table and how that might complement a specific project.
  • Are you using a panel of qualified suppliers? Do you have a ready-made panel of suppliers who you know to be experts in fields you need for your business? Perhaps you do not. Check in with your departments and find out how they access qualified services, and make sure that they have a predictable, responsible source of talent. Vet your suppliers to ensure that you are getting reliable and highly qualified consultants.
  • Do you easily find the expertise you need?When the need for a consultant arises, are you able to quickly and easily find the best consultant or consultants for the job? Ideally, for any highly technical requirements, you should have a trusted advisor you can turn to for guidance that will have a selection of candidates on hand. With the right partner, it should be simple to access qualified consultants with the expertise you need.
  • Are your usual vendors always available to provide necessary expertise?Consider this question carefully. Review past projects and times you needed third-party expertise from your trusted vendors. How did it go? Were your suppliers there when you needed them? If things did not go well, then that is a sign that you need to look at panel management and revise your approach, perhaps your panel list, and almost definitely, your process for soliciting the expertise you need when you need it.

3. Performance Management

Once you have the consultants you want, doing the work you need, you still need to monitor their performance. Here are some questions to ask regarding the performance management process.

  • Do you manage the performance of your suppliers?Ideally, you should be, but the reality is that such performance management may be slack, especially in long-term business relationships. If you are not managing performance, or if that management is ill-defined, here is where you need to start. Set up benchmarks for the performance of your suppliers and be sure that they are meeting those expectations
  • Are you usually satisfied with the ROI of assignments? Another key indicator of a good or bad business relationship is whether or not your are seeing a strong return on your investment. If you are keeping an eye on costs and scope, here is where you can follow up, by making sure that your consultants are justifying their cost. If you are not consistently satisfied with the ROI of consulting assignments (and how can you know unless you are monitoring), then you are not properly managing your consulting spend.
  • Have you benchmarked consulting costs with your peers?Once you know the costs of your consultants, and what you are getting for your investment, it is important to make sure that you are still running lean and staying competitive. As with any expenditure you make, compare your spending to that of your peers. If you are spending more than others in your industry on consulting services, take a look at your process and see where it might be improved. Also, if you buy large amounts from the same vendors, are you getting the rebates you should?
  • Do you provide detailed feedback to your consultants?Communication works best both ways. Whether for good or for bad, a reputable consultant will appreciate honest feedback. Clear communication allows you to improve your business’s bottom line and the overall business-consultant relationship. It may be easier to provide a list of requirements and say nothing until the work is done, but detailed, regular feedback can go a long way toward ensuring the project gets done right, the first time around.
  • Do you discuss feedback to improve your relationship with your consultants?Once you have provided feedback, to maximize the effect, consider setting aside time to discuss what you have found. Give time for the consultant to ask his or her own questions. Again, good communication goes both ways. With solid metrics and a plan in mind, you have what you need to improve your relationship for this project, and for future projects to come.

4. Sourcing Process

The last area of concern, with respect to your consultants, is how you are managing the sourcing process. To diagnose the effectiveness of your current sourcing process, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you have a process to acquire consulting services? Having a clear plan in place for how you acquire consultants is imperative to improving your consulting spend. This process should be in writing and followed by all departments involved with the hiring of consultants. If you have gone through all of the above self-diagnostic questions, consider formalizing your process in writing, if you have not already. Also, make sure a professional buyer is involved in the process.
  • Do you have frame contracts set up with your major suppliers? Once you have everything else in place, you should have general frame contracts with consultant suppliers with whom you do regular business. In this way, you can set up general fees with understood benchmarks, generate volume and loyalty based rebates,  and minimize your procurement time later.
  • Do you include performance in your criteria of choice?When discussing with your suppliers the criteria you have for consultants, be sure that they are taking performance on past projects into account. A good supplier should be thoroughly vetting their candidates and checking references from previous employers to ensure that their consultants have the experience and positive track record they say they do. Don’t let performance abilities be pushed aside by other, seemingly more important criteria.
  • Do you systematically use Confidentiality Agreements when discussing your needs with consultants?Even before you hire a consultant, in the course of discussing your needs, you may need to divulge privileged proprietary information. Make sure that your sourcing process includes a confidentiality clause so that your competitors – and others – will not know what you are doing and why.

If you have answered “yes” to most of the questions in this self-assessment, congratulations! You are among the 7 percent of buyers who consider themselves fully equipped to manage their consulting spend. However, more likely, you have probably just realized that you now have a blueprint to improve your performance, generate tremendous savings, and get more value from your consultants.

At Consulting Quest, we aim to improve the overall performance of the consulting industry by carefully vetting our consultants and working closely with both consultants and businesses to facilitate more positive working relationships. We understand that there are many moving parts to effectively managing your consulting spend. If you found this self-diagnostic useful, please let us know how it helped and what you have done with it.

The Why, Where, and How of Leveraging Consultants to Enhance Your Business’s Performance

The Why, Where, and How of Leveraging Consultants to Enhance Your Business’s Performance

The world of consulting has been seen as out of reach for small to midsize businesses for far too long. In the past, only large corporations had the resources to find, vet, and pay for consultants, giving them a distinct competitive edge over smaller companies in their industry.

However, with advancements in technology and communication changing the way we all work, the consulting industry has suddenly opened up to businesses of all sizes and stages of development. Large players in search of growth pockets have turned to SMEs, while spin-offs focus on medium-sized businesses.

Companies and nonprofit organizations that would never have been able to find or afford the right consultants in the past, now have the opportunity to get world-class consulting services for an affordable price.

Naturally, when new opportunities and tools become available, there’s a learning curve that goes along with that.

I was recently speaking with the CFO of a small business from the Food Manufacturing Industry. He confessed he had never used management consultants, and asked for some more information about what they could bring to the table.

So, how do you find the right consultant? How do you know if they can actually do what they say they can? What are the real benefits of using a consultant?

This is a very common conversation that we, at Consulting Quest, have with friends, colleagues, and clients every single day. So, we thought we’d answer some of the most common questions we hear and provide you with the “why,” “where,” and “how” of leveraging consultants to enhance your business’s performance.

Why

There’s a famous story of a manager in the Toyota corporation briefing an executive on how well the company is doing. Profits are up, customer satisfaction is up, production is up, sales are up, and costs are down. From the manager’s perspective, nothing could be better.

After the manager’s gleaming report on the state of the company, the executive asked: “where are the problems?” Shocked, the manager replied, “There are no problems.” The executive simply shook his head and said, “No problems is a problem.”

Sometimes, you can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar. Meaning, it can be hard to be unbiased and objective about your business, while also being emotionally and financially invested in the company.

Hiring a consultant allows your business to get objective, unbiased, third-party expertise that can not only offer solutions to problems you know exist, but also root out and solve problems that you didn’t even know you had. A consultant can act as a sparring partner, of sorts, who can bounce ideas back and forth with you and help you identify areas where you can improve.

Consultants also fill the skill and knowledge gaps that may exist in your current workforce, diagnose the problems in your organization others can miss, and help you get through special projects and periods of increased demand with ease. They can play the “bad guy” in tough situations where you’d prefer not to involve your regular staff, help you brand your business, or articulate and convey important messages. Essentially, a consultant can be there to support your business in whatever way necessary.

The role of a consultant is simple: help your business achieve a goal as effectively and efficiently as possible, while helping you, if necessary, with your management or shareholders in the process.

Where

The beauty of using consultants is that you can bring someone on board that has the exact expertise you need, at the exact moment you need it.

Because of this, consultants can be used in any area of your business that needs help or attention (or they can be used to locate which areas of your business need help and attention).

Consultants can be particularly useful in the top levels of organizations, when executives may be looking for guidance on strategic planning, resource allocation, culture, leadership development, or other areas that have widespread impact throughout the organization. In these kinds of situations, consultants can be seen as coaches or advisers that help businesses make big decisions and implement those decisions afterwards.

Similarly, consultants can be a great source of guidance during special projects or demands that your business’s core staff doesn’t have the experience or manpower to handle. These could be anything from ensuring compliance with new regulations, handling a special request from a top client, or deploying new technologies throughout your organization.

Consultants can also be assets to your company’s top line, helping to drive sales and profits through new strategies. For example, if you have a major marketing campaign on the horizon and want to be sure you have the best possible team assigned to the task, hiring a consultant may give you that additional competitive edge you need. With an outside perspective, a consultant can bring fresh ideas to the table that can increase marketing reach, improve audience engagement, and drive greater sales.

If inefficiency and soaring costs are plaguing your business, a consultant can come in to help you streamline those parts of your business. A consultant can provide expertise that allows them to better see areas within your business that could be made more efficient, or identify expenditures that could be reduced or eliminated altogether. Whether it be a breakdown in your production process, a lack of communication and cooperation between your team members, or a product or service that is eating away at your operating budget, a consultant will help you pinpoint, and then fix, those problem areas, in order to reduce costs and maximize efficiency.

Regardless of what your business’s needs are, the size of your organization, or the challenges that your face, there’s a consultant out there who can help.

How

So, you’re ready to get a consultant to come in and help you re-vamp your business. Now, where do you go to find the consultants, evaluate their skills and expertise, research their past performance, and negotiate their rates?

Those are great questions. In the past, you would have had to know someone who knew someone who used a consultant that could give you their contact information, or you had to put out a call for a consultant and hope that someone with the right skills responded.

However, in an age where you can look up reviews and shop online for anything from boats to goats, houses to airplanes, it only makes sense that you should be able to go online to find the right consultant for your needs.

At Consulting Quest, we not only have the world’s largest database of consultants where we can search for and review consultants based on their expertise, but we’ll also help you select consultants that fit your company’s long and short-term goals, culture, and background to make sure that they’re the right fit for your business. With offices in six countries on five continents and an outstanding reputation with companies both big and small, we’re sure that we’ll be able to help you find the right consultant to get the job done.

Ultimately, justifying the hire of a new consultant can be difficult if you don’t know what exactly it is they can offer your business. But, with the right tools and the right people behind you, leveraging consultants to improve your business’s performance can be a seamless experience. Many companies have already dared to take the leap. Why not you?

From Strategy Consulting to Consulting Strategy

From Strategy Consulting to Consulting Strategy

Having emerged in the 1930s and grown rapidly since the 1960s, strategy consulting has progressively shifted its focus from defining strategy to executing it.  As a result, strategy consulting has become increasingly specialized at the crossroads of function and industry.  Companies, constrained by limited operations budgets (where consulting expenses are allocated), must carefully prioritize and efficiently organize their projects, which may include external consulting services.  As they do so, successful companies apply a sound financial management principle: hiring external consultants has to bring more value than leading the project internally. 

Considerations when hiring consultants:

  • Assigning an independent external task force can bring focus, speed, and pressure to the table, which is sometimes enough for the success of a project. Moreover, because the leaders of internal projects are often high-potentials on the leadership fast track they often find it difficult to push boundaries and confront the more established leaders and influencers who hold the key to their careers.
  • External consultants also offer other advantages.  Because they are familiar with the problem they can often solve it more efficiently and at less cost than internal resources. They can also make up for a lack of internal resources and for a lack of flexibility that prevents internal personnel from being diverted from their regular jobs. 
  • Companies may also want to use consultants for larger purposes than the project itself.  These could include training of executives on new skills, introducing external change agents, learning best practices in the industry or in a capability, exposing the organization to a fresh perspective, or relying on the stamp of a recognized consulting brand to reassure board members or investors.

But even under those conditions, hiring external consultants is not always the best solution. For example, consulting services that meet your needs may not be available in your industry or your country.  Confidentiality can also act as a restraint on looking for external help who may ask for sensitive operating or other data for purposes of benchmarking your company’s performance

On the other hand, leading an internal project can be tricky. The internal team may be unaware of the latest trends in the industry or capability.  They may waste time reinventing already well established improvement methodologies, resulting in longer projects and greater overall costs. Again, the fact that the team members are part of the company can make it difficult to disrupt the established order.

How to crack the make or buy dilemma?

Most companies and their procurement function work to optimize their external spend and their pool of suppliers in order to better support the overall strategy. They have developed methods for answering a variety of difficult questions:  What are the key activities that can be outsourced?  What does the pool of potential suppliers look like?  How mature is the market for suppliers?  What providers are appropriate for us?  Is it worth it to outsource a particular activity for the long term?

The same questions apply to consulting procurement.  Unfortunately, most companies have neither the experience nor the methods for answering them.  Yet, today, all leaders throughout an organization, from the head of procurement to senior executives responsible for signing off on major consulting projects, are expected to align their activities with the overall strategy of the enterprise.  But when it comes to making decisions about consultants, they fall back on word of mouth, on perceptions of the reputations of various providers, and on the sometimes outsized claims of the consultants themselves.  Or they take the line of least resistance and simply hire the consultants they have used in the past, regardless of whether those consultants are the most appropriate for a particular project or for furthering the larger strategy of the company.  These leaders have no reliable way to determine whether a particular consultant precisely meets the company’s needs, no way to gauge a consultant’s likely level of performance, and no benchmarks against which to compare providers.  And until they avail themselves of an independent, credible means of assessing providers and matching them to their company’s needs, they are likely to lag their competitors who have.

Some companies have responded to what is essentially a ‘make-or-buy’ dilemma by centralizing consulting procurement.  The aim is to have a more global vision of consulting efforts, better understanding of the costs, and more powerful levers for negotiating volume discounts and creating synergies across functions and business units. Recognizing that consulting is an accelerator of change, these companies make consulting management the responsibility of the head of strategy or a transformation leader. But they still struggle with a stubborn fact.  The increasing need for highly specialized consulting makes it far more difficult for buyers to have experienced the volume of consulting projects that would enable them to develop portfolios of reliable and high-performing consulting providers. By working with companies specialized in this field, those companies will be able to analyze their consulting spend, refresh their make or buy strategy, identify robust suppliers and areas where new blood is needed. In a way they will be able to develop a consulting strategy for their strategy consulting.

Specialist Or Generalist: Which Consultant Do You Really Need?

Executives often wonder how to approach the decision to hire a consultant who specializes in one aspect of their industry, or a consultant who has proven results in most areas, but who doesn’t have any specific niche experience. After all, the population of consultants has exponentially increased in response to corporate belt-tightening in the area of permanent staffing.

If you’re looking for the right consultant, there are several factors that will help you decide whether a specialist or a generalist is right for your needs. First of those considerations are the pros of both types. But there are also some important decisions you’ll need to make before you start searching.

Strategic Considerations

Before you begin your search for the consultant who best fits your needs and your company’s needs, there are two important things you must do:

  1. Be clear about the problem you are trying to solve by hiring a consultant. The more clearly you understand the problem you’re facing, and the better you can articulate it, the better equipped you’ll be to make the decision between a generalist and a specialist.
  2. Balance your resource allocation. You want to procure the right consultant to create new solutions—not to create new financial problems. And obviously, correctly identifying the problem helps balance your resource allocation. Misidentifying your problem can be costly: remember that old saying, “We cut it three times and it’s still too short?”

Consultants—whether generalists or specialists—essentially have one strategic function: optimizing your ROI or expanding your customer base. The consultant you select must understand that she is fulfilling that function, and bring to the table the skillset and experience that will address one of those strategic functions.

Which projects are generalists best for? Which projects are specialists right for? Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each:

The Generalist

Generalists, broadly speaking, tend to work in smaller, boutique consulting firms, but also play strong roles in large, global consulting firms. They may be new to consulting or new to the business world, but not necessarily. Typically they have broad-based knowledge and a willingness to adapt flexibly to an enterprise’s needs. Here are the main characteristics of generalist consultants:

  • They work well in teams, especially with other generalists, as they tend to have strengths in seeing both the forest and the trees, and the interrelationships between the two. In other words, they can connect the dots between the problem you are trying to solve and how potential solutions may affect the rest of your enterprise.
  • They tend to be a good fit for broader, larger-scale consulting projects for that reason: their types of experiences lead directly to their ability to connect all the dots and offer the most fitting solution.
  • Generalists excel at analysis, whether the presented problem is the “real” one to be solved or whether it is masking an underlying issue that needs to be solved first.
  • On the solutions side, generalists may have experience with a range of types of solutions. They tend not to offer cookie-cutter fixes. Instead, they custom tailor a solution for your enterprise. As a bonus, they may be able to draw upon former experience and apply it to current your problem in a way that is innovative.
  • Generalists may want to solve by themselves issues that could be better addressed by specialist consultants, and thus lack the right knowledge and/or expertise.
  • They might prove to be a costly solution if their contribution is limited to managing other consultants on your behalf

 

To sum up, generalists are effective in teams and ideal at tailoring solutions, especially for management-level issues or larger-scale, complex projects. Note, too, that if you think a longer-term partnership with a consultant is on the horizon, go with a generalist who can always find a specialist when needed.

The Specialist

Specialists typically have chosen to concentrate their efforts and abilities in a more narrow arena such as energy, IT, or finance, or in a particular industry, such as healthcare or pharmaceuticals. Many specialists have jumped from years of employment in their field of expertise to the world of consulting.

Major consulting firms usually have a range of specialists who are highly trained and deeply experienced in their chosen fields, but boutique firms also may specialize in a given industry or knowledge field. Here are some of the key benefits that specialists can bring to the table:

  • Specialists are passionate about their field or industry. They keep current on new findings and industry news. They understand the competitive pressures within their specialized industry.
  • They also provide solutions for enterprises. With their high levels of training and experience, specialists may be able to zoom in on and implement solutions quickly, which may conserve resources for the company.
  • Specialists love to transfer their knowledge, and will immediately be recognized by your teams on a dimension they comprehend.
  • They can see all problems through their area of expertise. As popularized by Abraham Maslow, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.
  • Specialists will bring to you the state of the industry but might reuse at least for statistic purposes some of your data. That is the unsaid rule of the game.

 

The key to successfully using a specialist is the executive’s ability to correctly identify and articulate the problem that needs a resolution. If the scope of the problem is limited to the rapid advancement of IT changes, for instance, a specialist is the natural place to turn. If the problem at hand is limited to circuit board assembly supply chains, turning to an industry specialist makes great sense in terms of both outcomes and resources.

Ultimately, there is a role for both generalists and specialists in the world of consulting. Each type of consultant successfully helps executives find solutions, given the right situation.

Take heart if you find yourself at a crossroads and need to turn to a consultant. There is great news: a consulting brokerage firm has already done all the heavy lifting of assessing a wide range of high-quality consulting firms globally to fit every type of enterprise, budget, and project. They can be a savior in assisting you to select the right type of consulting firm.

Executives who initially turn to a global consulting brokerage company may find they assistance they need to identify which type of consultant will be most likely to optimize ROI or expand their customer base.

Consulting Quest specializes in identifying consulting solutions that boost your competitive edge. Let us know how we can assist you.

Why Put Consultants In Competition?

Why Put Consultants In Competition?

Why Put Consultants In Competition: Compare Skill Sets, Get New Ideas, Look for the Right Fit and the Right Price

 

As an executive, you’re probably used to making quick decisions. Given the amount of work that you have to do, you can’t afford to dither. This means that you may not always have the luxury of time to get a variety of perspectives before making each decision. When you’re hiring a consultant, however, it might be a good idea to take your time.  

When you are clear on your priorities and on the reasons why you need to hire a consultant, then you can start looking for the best fit for your specific project and your organization. The easiest solution is to look into your pool of existing providers, and choose pick from them. However, the best consultant for one project is not necessary the best for the next one. Besides, you may want to introduce some competition.

Comparing Skill Sets

Of course It’s necessary to find a consultant who has solid experience, creative problem-solving skills, and great interpersonal skills. But how are you going to know the extent to which someone has these skills unless you have someone else to compare them to?

Let’s say you meet one consultant who impresses you with his impromptu pitch. You might be tempted to choose him, just so that you don’t have to meet with a number of different consultants, listen to their pitches, too, and read their proposals.  After all, this will mean a lot of work for you.

However, if you do all this work, you may find that different consultants have different strengths.  One might have great interpersonal skills, while another might have many more years of experience. One might be endlessly creative and great with design, while another might be a lot more blunt and honest about what’s really needed for your organization. A good way of identifying strength and weaknesses is also to check references on prior similar assignments.

At this point, you’ll be better able to decide what’s more important to you. For some executives, experience might be most impressive, while others might value creativity above all else.  For those who have a hard time making people understand exactly what they need, interpersonal skills might be paramount.  When you put consultants in competition, you’re more likely to find one with the exact qualities you’re looking for.

Getting New Ideas

When executives outsource certain tasks, they might already have certain ideas about how those tasks should be done. But when you describe your functional needs and live room to creativity in the solutions proposed you get a variety of perspectives, you’re bound to come across some ideas you hadn’t thought of before. In fact, this is the reason why people emphasize diversity in the workplace, which you can read about in this article from Forbes.  When people from different backgrounds work together, they all tend to be more creative and come up with new ideas.

Let’s assume, for example, that you’re trying to change your company culture and make your business one of the best places to work for employees. One consultant might suggest that you offer employees small perks such as tickets to sports events. Another consultant might suggest that you change your interiors so that they are more conducive to productivity. A third might suggest that you dismantle the hierarchical structure of your organization.

When you put consultants in competition, you’re likely to get more ideas which you had never thought of before. These might shed a new light on the tasks that you’re trying to outsource and how they should be done. Even if you don’t end up adopting all the ideas you come across, it can help you to at least take them into consideration.

Looking for the right fit

Many people in business believe that they should set their personal feelings aside and work purely from a logical, rational place. However, this is your business and it’s sure to reflect who you are as a person. So when you hire people to join your business, you want them to understand you and work with you towards a common goal. This will be most harmoniously done if their values align with yours.

There are a number of consultants out there and it’s quite likely that they’re all good ones.  However, this doesn’t mean that they’re going to be right for you.  This article from Huffington Post emphasizes that, in order to have a good working relationship with a consultant, his advice has to feel right to you.  And you need to feel like the consultant you’re working with gets you.  You ought to feel like he’s treating you as a partner, and not just trying to impress you with everything he can do.

You’ll get similar advice in this article from Inc. which praises consultants who don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.” In this dog-eat-dog world, honesty is important. And if you can find a consultant who can tell it like it is, you’ve found a rare creature whom you should hold on to!

Getting more for your money

Last but not least, there is a price advantage to put consultants in competition. If the consultants know that you will examine other offers, they will give their best efforts to design and price their proposal.

Of course, you could always argue that you will take the best for the job regardless of the price, but we all know what pressure on expenses the executives have to live with, especially operating expenses. And therefore the better the cost for value trade off will be, the easier it will be to convince your boss or your board that this consultant is the right choice.

How to get started ?

Organizing a healthy competition is not as complex as one could think.

  1. Identify the scope and the budget of your project
  2. Formalize the elements in a Request for Proposal
  3. Identify, short-list and brief the potential providers
  4. Review the proposals and organize face-to-face meetings for the most promising ones
  5. Select your preferred provider using a balanced set of criteria

It’s a good idea to evaluate a number of consultants by putting them in competition. This will enable you to take an informed choice on what consultant is right for you on many levels such as skills, fit, and price. Along the way, you may even go for ideas that are completely out the the box you had yourself designed in your request for proposal.