When should I hire a consulting firm?

When should business leaders and entrepreneurs consider hiring a consulting firm? Finding the balance between solving problems internally and seeking external help can be a challenge.

External expertise

Most consultants work with multiple clients in their area of specialism, meaning they are aware of the latest trends and developments in the field; something which can help organisations stay ahead of the curve and get the maximum potential out of new methods and models.

The constant re-training of staff in consulting firms, twinned with the front-line business experience they garner helping clients on a daily basis mean that they can not only help their clients with immediate decision making processes, but also help build a long-term structure which can lead to an increase in productivity and performance.

Consultants also bring a range of proprietary knowledge to the table, including thought leadership, an overview of trends and development in the sector, and best practices and methodologies that have been tried and tested at other leading clients.

Capacity

Every business wants to grow – however not every new challenge needs to be answered with a permanent increase of capacity. There will be times when any firm will eye a move for which it simply does not have the relevant talent pool or expertise – but that only necessitates a short-term contracting of the required skill-set.

Digitalisation is a strong example of this. A travel and tourism company, for instance, might need to create artificial intelligence based tools to reach their individual customers online, but it might not have the internal capacity to build such tools. Given the speed of digitalisation and shortage of digital talent across all sectors, a company might not have the time to build this capacity by itself in time. In this case, hiring a consultant to help meet the urgent need to build capacity with speed and scale is necessary.

At the same time, the client only pays for the talent it needs. If a business had hired a permanent member of staff to cover the specialist needs it faced in a one-off project, it would have been stuck with a permanent employee it would need to keep paying, whether it can find work for them or not.

Objectivity

A good time to hire a consulting firm is when you feel the need for an objective input. Even when your business has all the right teams and tools in place, there are times when your business is stuck and needs an external perspective.

Deadlocks present themselves when ideas for innovation dry up, or there is internal indecisiveness about the next move, or conflict between two needs of an organisation that will be impacted differently by a proposed solution. An impartial third party, without ties to either sides of a debate, can offer useful insights at a time like this, particularly one that is familiar with the sector within which you operate and strategies that other businesses have employed to solve similar problems.

By virtue of being objective, consultants can also be tasked with making difficult decisions. The process of identifying redundancies and implementing staff cuts, for instance, can be influenced by and damaging for team dynamics if administered internally. Consultants, meanwhile, have an objective lens through which they can identify where to make cuts and make them with a sufficient amount of emotional distance.

In some cases getting an independent consultant on board is a necessity. Examples include mergers & acquisition, where for large deals externals are needed to comply with antitrust regulations; business forensics, where external consultants are needed to provide an independent view on internal misconduct; and litigation, where consultants advise their client or mediate independently between two parties.

Deliver change in scale

Scalability is the ability of a system or process to handle growing amounts of work or enlarge itself when required. Without the knowhow to build scalability into a change project, it can become difficult to spread it through an organisation – and may even end in clashes between departments.

In this situation, as mentioned before, a consultant will have overseen multiple change projects within their sector of expertise, and picked up best practices along the way which they can deploy to future engagements. As a result, they can ensure change projects have robust systems and procedures built into them to see a project scale up, as well as being able to establish a strong knowledge base that makes the prioritisation of tasks easy.

Consultants are also organised to help companies scale-up and scale-down rapidly, something which client organisations can’t do themselves given their fixed resourcing. Using consultants, a business can onboard a large team at scale to build and deploy a system, or oversee a merger, and then once the work has been completed, can let go of the consultants as the tasks are handed over to the standing organisation.