When is the Right Time to Hire a Consultant

Hiring a consultant can be a catalyst for growth or a major expense with little return

Kayla Ambrose , Sun 16 June 2024
When confronted with complex challenges, gaining a clear perspective and developing an effective strategy can be daunting. During these situations, it may prove valuable to utilize external resources to receive a fresh perspective on the matter at hand. Recognizing when to pursue external expertise can transform problem-solving through added insights and industry-specific knowledge pertaining to intricate issues. 

Although seeking a consultant may present as the most impactful solution, not all challenges are suitable for receiving external assistance. Knowing how to navigate challenges and identify when to pursue outside aid can be pivotal to making informed decisions that best align with company goals. The following signs can help identify when to reach out for assistance from a consultant. 

  1. Inability to Meet Goals 
Utilizing metrics to measure individual and company performance is the best indicator of success. While failure to meet expectations once can be a fluke, persistent failure to adhere to performance expectations signifies a larger problem. If considerable effort to remedy this inability to meet goals leads to no avail, hiring a consultant is a powerful next step. Clear indications that the company as a whole needs assistance is through monitoring quarterly financial goals. Consistent decreases in quarterly financials can indicate that an outside perspective is needed to help identify the causes of underperformance. 
Other metrics to consider are employee-specific metrics. Using executive insight software, management can gauge the performance and sentiments of direct reports. Misalignment of management expectations and real employee data may indicate the need for external perspectives. The people within the company largely impact the productivity of the company, so ensuring the satisfaction of management and team members is fundamental. Seeking assistance from management consultants can help to regain organizational buy-in

2. Limited In-House Resources 
A lack of team members who have expertise within an area required for a specific project may indicate a need to hire a consultant. For example, the lack of a social media strategist for a large-scale marketing project can limit the success of a project. While the company may not require a full-time team member to maintain the company's social media presence, expertise on the best initial approaches to establishing the company within the space will help guide the team. Depending on the time and importance of the project at hand, it may be wise to seek external guidance rather than relying on current team members to gain additional skills. 

Technological advancements possess the potential to revolutionize the way that a company operates. From general bookkeeping or communication software advancements to intricate industry-specific technological developments, updating current company technology can prove beneficial. Failure to keep up with technological advancements can leave a company far behind competitors. Lacking in-house knowledge about current technological trends and implementation methods can be incredibly limiting for companies. Industry consultants have insights into technological changes within the industry and may be familiar with the best implementation strategies. Recognizing that a consultant is more knowledgeable about the technological space may indicate that getting assistance with new technology implementation is necessary. 

3. Lacking Inspiration and Burn-out
Stalling with idea creation is a glaring indication that additional help should be explored. It is difficult to determine what to do next and leaders must maintain a clear vision and direction for their company. While sharing ideas with other management members is a great step for gaining inspiration, a completely external source can provide a new source for ideation. Impartial and fresh perspectives gained from consultants present an effective addition to ideation processes. 

Along with needing additional inspiration sources, personal burnout as an executive or manager can be detrimental to the productivity of the company. Management positions are rigorous and demanding on a daily basis. It is normal for managers to need additional emotional support. Reaching out to consultants to develop strategies to combat symptoms of burnout or decrease overall stress from work is a useful tool. If hiring a consultant to manage burnout symptoms seems overwhelming, a lower commitment alternative such as peer mentor groups can be an effective first step. 

4. Time-Sensitive Projects 
An important consideration when determining whether to seek consulting is the time sensitivity of the project. Different projects possess varying degrees of time sensitivity. A project with a quickly approaching deadline or a short turnaround time may signal external aid should be utilized. Consultants are familiar with working under strict time constraints, so additional expertise working in a short time frame can relieve some stress. 

While having more hands on deck through the utilization of consultations may save time, it is important to evaluate the time-sensitive project on a case-by-case basis. Hiring consultants and updating them on the current project may prove to take a lot of time. Collaborating with a consulting team that has been utilized by the company in the past and is incredibly familiar with the company will require less time to update. Keeping this in mind can help guide the decision-making process on whether to involve an external consulting team.  

Hiring a consultant can appear to be an intimidating process. Determining whether a consultant would be beneficial is the first step in tackling any complex challenge at hand. While consulting may not be the right fit for a problem, hiring a new employee or contracting out work are other alternatives to get increased manpower to delegate tasks. 

Another solution for management who is hesitant to seek guidance from a consultant is to join a consultant-led mastermind group. These mastermind groups are comprised of other executives who have encountered similar problems. Together, group members can collaborate and seek advice from one another. Consultant-led mastermind groups allow executives and consultants leading the group to develop a relationship before committing to full consulting services. 

Regardless of the challenge at hand, knowing what tools are available and being familiar with them can simplify the problem-solving process. Consultants serve a multitude of functions including, improving performance, providing additional resources, assisting with creative ideation, and expediting time-sensitive projects. While consultants are a valuable resource, considering other problem-solving tools and critically evaluating each project are crucial to determining the optimal solution.