Hiring a consultant with Brefi Group

How to hire a management consultant

The Institute of Management Consultancy has produced some guidelines for this purpose. These “ten golden rules” are not prescriptive, but they should guide you towards making the most informed decisions resulting in successful completion of the project.

1. Clearly define the objectives that you hope to achieve.

  • Describe the job you want done and specify the things you expect from the assignment.
  • Understand precisely how you expect your business will benefit from the work.
  • Decide on the timescale, scope and any constraints on the assignment.
  • Clarify your own role, which key staff will be involved, and how their time will be made available.

2. Consult with others in your organisation to agree those objectives.

  • Consult with appropriate fellow directors and managers on the nature of the problem.
  • Jointly define your specific needs for the expertise you want. Is it a systems, human or skills problem?
  • You may decide that you require regular "hand holding" discussions or counselling sessions with the management consultant rather than a defined assignment. Many clients obtain considerable value from scheduling assistance in this way – but make sure you still have a written fee quote and terms of reference.

3. Short-list no more than three consultants, and ask them to provide written proposals.

  • Make sure you only ask consultants to quote for the work who are qualified to carry it out.
  • Potential consultants will be happy to send you basic information about themselves and talk with you about your needs, without charge.
    Invite consultancies to submit written proposals, which should include:
    • Their understanding of the problem
    • The brief
    • Names and CVs of the consultant(s) who will do the work
    • Experience of the firm
    • References
    • Other support provided by the firm
    • Work plan and timeshare – Reports and/or systems that will be supplied to you
    • Fees, expenses and schedules of payment
    • The inputs required from you

4. Brief the consultants properly.

  • Prepare a concise brief which clearly defines the objectives, scope, timescale, reporting procedure and constraints of the project and agree it with others in your organisation who will have an influence on the outcome of the project.
  • Remember that the cheapest quote will not necessarily give the best value for money and the fees of your preferred consultant(s) may be negotiable.

5. See the individual consultant who will do the job and make sure that the 'chemistry' is right.

  • Successful consultancy requires goodwill in human communications. Meet the consultants who will be doing the job and brief them well, using the written brief and any background information that you or they think necessary.
  • Talk through your chosen proposal with the consultant before making a final decision to ensure that you have any concerns answered. If you are not happy with any aspects of the proposal do not feel pressured into accepting them. Continue discussions with the consultant until full agreement on the proposal can be reached.
  • Select the firm or individual that you feel has the best qualifications and experience and who you feel you can work with comfortably.

6. Ask for references from the chosen consultant(s) and follow them up.

  • Ask the firm or individual chosen for names or written references from former clients in order to verify the consultants' suitability for the assignment.

7. Review and agree a written contract before the assignment starts.

8. Be involved and in touch during the assignment.

  • Using consultants effectively demands a commitment of time as well as money by clients.
  • Remember that you must keep in touch with the progress of the assignment if you are to get the most from it. Consultants are likely to be most cost-effective when working to an agreed programme and timescale. Make sure there are regular progress meetings and that the consultant keeps you fully briefed on progress against the programme.
  • To implement the recommendations it is often most cost effective to involve the consultant(s) together with your management.
  • If you and your staff need to provide input, make sure that you do it within the agreed timescale. Extra costs may be incurred if you hold up the progress of the assignment. Consultancy requires an investment not only in fees but also in client time.
  • Assignments are usually most effective when the work is done on the client's premises. Make sure you can provide suitable office space and administrative support for the consultants.
  • You should aim to involve your staff in the assignment as early as possible so that they partly "own" the recommendations and have an interest in the results.
  • Assignments are often most effective when run by a joint team of consultants and staff and when the contents of the consultant's report are agreed with the staff at a progress meeting.

9. Ensure that the consultant does not save surprises for the final report.

  • The consultant's report is often his or her most tangible 'deliverable'; but it must be in a format which is beneficial to you. If necessary, ask the consultant to produce a draft report so that you can discuss findings and recommendations with some of your colleagues before the final report is produced.
  • The final report should contain no surprises. If there are very confidential or contentious issues, ask for these to be put into a private letter rather than in the report itself. Make sure the report is written in a way you and your staff can understand and use. Tell the consultant if you are not happy with it.
  • Ask the consultant to make a presentation to you and your colleagues, if this will help discussion on its conclusions.
  • You should note, however, that some assignments will not result in a written report. If this is the case, make sure you understand what the deliverable will be before the assignment starts.

10. Implement the recommendations and involve your management as well as the consultant.

  • You may need to make arrangements for the management consultant to help with the implementation. This can be done cost-effectively by involving the consultant in regular progress meetings. Get a written fee quotation and proposal for any implementation work, even if it follows directly from an assignment.

Consulting skills

Consultants need three skills to do a good job: -

Technical skills – the foundation of consulting skills is some expertise in a specific discipline

  • Engineering
  • Project management
  • Planning
  • Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Personnel/Human resources
  • Finance
  • Systems analysis

Interpersonal skills – necessary in all situations

  • Assertiveness
  • Supportiveness
  • Confrontation
  • Listening
  • Management style
  • Group process

Consulting skills – requirements of each consulting phase

  • Contracting
    • Negotiating wants
    • Coping with mixed motivation
    • Dealing with concerns about exposure and the loss of control
    • Doing triangular and rectangular contracting
  • Discovery
    • Surfacing layers of anaylysis
    • Dealing with political climate
    • Resisting the urge for complete data
    • Seeing the interview as an intervention
  • Feedback
    • Funneling data
    • Identifying and working with different forms of resistance
    • Presenting personal and organisational data
  • Decision
    • Running group meetings
    • Focusing on here and now choices
    • Not taking it personally

Brefi Group consultants are trained to apply these skills using the powerful change processes of NeuroLinguistic Programming. In addition, we have facilitative, coaching and training skills to support a comprehensive organisational change process.

What to do next

Selecting a suitable consultant is an important part of any project. Sometimes it can be a stage of the project in its own right.

Brefi Group will be delighted to discuss with you how we might help you in a particular project, including using our experience and diagnostic tools to prepare a project specification and brief that you can then use to select your chosen consultant.

positive results

To contact a representative about how Brefi Group can help with strategy consultancy, organisation and management development, director development and corporate governance, or coaching and coach training, use our contact page.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to talk to one of our consultants, then call +44 (0) 121 288 3417.

Strategy consulting

Brefi Group's goal as consultants is to engage in successful actions that result in people or organisations managing themselves differently.

Check out the Institute of Management Consultancy's Guidelines to Choosing a Consultant.