Consultants can bring expertise and a fresh look to your organization. Before hiring a consultant, however, you must first understand what exactly the consultant will be asked to evaluate. Managers often mistake symptoms for problems. Such an error may interfere with the consultant's ability to help you; however, looking at the symptoms is a necessary first step in your effort to identify the source of the actual problem.
There are a number of consultants available to assist you and it is important that you research the needs of your organization prior to selecting one. This will save you time and money in the long run and guarantee that you have selected the best consultant for your particular organizational need. The list below provides various types of consultants and their key areas of focus:
Some useful resources to further your consultant research:
The best way to hire a consultant is to research potential consultants and interview them in person or over the phone to determine that you have found the one best suited to the needs of your organization.
A request for proposal (RFP) should be developed and sent to prospective consultants as part of the search process. It should include all objectives and stated needs of the organization. The RFP should also contain any special requirements that may be important to your board and/or staff; for instance, if the consultant has local clients or experience. RFPs generally include the following information:
You can find sample RFP's in Arts Cleveland’s Tools section.
Once you have received proposals, you need to decide who you would like to interview. There a number of ways to conduct an interview, but there are some key points you may want to address:
For more suggestions on questions you can ask in a consultant interview, see sample questions to use in screening consultants.
Once you have found the consultant that you want to work with, it is imperative that the guidelines and expectations for the consultancy are formally outlined and agreed upon by both parties:
Throughout the consultancy process, there should be continual opportunities to touch base with the consultant to stay informed about the process. This will help avoid any potential problems or disappointments between the consultant and the hiring organization. Once the job is completed, you and your staff should reconnect with the consultant to find out how the process went:
By compiling and reviewing this information you will have a more informed approach for future consulting situations.
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