Whenever I talk with businesses about my services, I am always finding myself tap dancing around the word “Consultant”. How did that word come to drive such a negative response?

Consultants in business are so common, most of us forget that we have probably hired one in our personal or professional lives without realizing it. Have you ever used a realtor when purchasing property? Realtors are consultants, yet you have most likely signed with one without batting an eye.

It got me thinking.

Many industries, unless required, do not have a special license for consultants. Much like private detectives, you can call yourself one with an LLC and a convincing website. But what makes a consultant worth hiring? Better yet, what gives a consultant credibility when soliciting services? After all, hiring a consultant to minimize costly mistakes, maintain compliance, and just generally guide you through business processes that you are unfamiliar with can save your company TONS of money.

What I want to focus on is the term “Measure of Success”. You have probably heard this before, but fundamentally it is the most important question I ask all of my soon to be clients. When you set out to accomplish any goal or task, you have an expected outcome. If say you are hiring a Director of Operations, you would have a job description, list of duties and expected deliverables. The same as a consulting engagement. Defining what services need to be completed, how a consultant would be qualified to deliver on said expectations, and establishing a timeline. The process is really not much different than vetting a full time employee.

What about if you need expertise on navigating compliance waters? Say you are looking to become Organically Certified. Do you have the time to open up the legal codes and start down that path of discovery? Probably not. This is where bringing in a consultant or specialist on this issue is useful. They can sell you their time, saving you long hours of research and filling out applications. In fact, maybe thats a better word overall for those in the consulting field. Specialists.

During my last engagement, I was asked to come in and set up the whole customer journey for a service company. This company needed someone to set up processes from the ground up. Starting from the moment they signed a sales deal, implemented the project, delivered onsite, and customer support. Once those processes were set up, they could follow them. They didn’t need a full time, high salaried individual on staff to refine what was built. They just needed help delivering their services successfully. These are my favorite type of customers. The expectations were clear from the beginning. The client could follow the processes I delivered with existing staff, saving them money while in early start up phase. They received established industry standard best practices that they can scale with as they grow. Removing the costly mistakes that come with learning as they went along. Moreover, it allowed for the company to focus on other business needs.

A consultants background is their resume. Vetting someones professional career, prior work, or previous clients is a great way to make sure they are qualified for the job. This should all be pretty clear, but commonly where consultants fail is not defining the measure of success in the scope of the customer agreement. Jumping right into business with anyone is a bad idea. With clear “Measures of Success” hiring a consultant can really be a great experience, especially for smaller startup companies.

After hearing all of that, do you still have a hesitancy towards hiring a specialist?