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6 Reasons Why Your Consulting Engagement Might Fail (And How to Avoid It)

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Published:
August 28, 2020
Reading Time:
9 minutes
Leo Saini
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

Is that even a thing? Can a consulting engagement ever go wrong? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It’s unlikely to fail, however, if you find the right consultants for the right reasons. But still, there’s a possibility that it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows the entire time.

In this article, we’ll discuss some scenarios in which a consulting engagement might not be as productive as expected. Rest assured, the purpose of this article is not to bring negativity into your life.

In fact, along with the reasons why things could go wrong, you would also find some tips to avoid making some common mistakes that business owners make while hiring a consultant. After all, why just talk about what could go wrong when you can also talk about what could right, right?

1. Not Hiring the Right Expert

Some consultants are generalists - as in, they’re a jack of all trades. Then there are consultants who are experts in a particular niche. For example, there are project management consultants who can help implement the agile methodology in your business to streamline weekly operations and increase the overall efficiency. And if you want to restructure your business, a business turnaround consultant can come on board and sort things out for you. The key is to find the right consultants for any given business project.

Thanks to online consulting marketplaces, you can find the best consultants in any given niche within a matter of days. So if you were holding back from hiring a consultant because you couldn’t find one for a specific business problem, you just ran out of excuses - because no matter what your situation is, it’s highly likely that there's a consultant out there who specializes in solving that particular problem.

To succeed as a team is to hold all of the members accountable for their expertise. - Mitch Caplan

2. Fear of Change

“But that’s how we have always done it” is what’s holding back a lot of businesses from progressing. Still, if you’re navigating through online consulting marketplaces to find the right consultants already, then you’re halfway there. You have probably realized that some things need to change and that a consultant can guide you in the right direction. However, oftentimes, fear of change might stop you from actually implementing a consultant’s recommendations. Of course, there’s room for questions and healthy skepticism. It’s not that everything that a consultant says is set in stone from the get-go. In any engagement, a company usually asks the consultant to collect some more data and make amends in the recommendations. But if the consultant’s analysis and recommendations end up as some PDF file on your company’s Google Drive and never get used, then your engagement might be completely pointless.

3. Lack of Internal Support

Before you try to find the right consultants to help provide solutions for your business problems, you should let your team know why you’re hiring a consultant, and how everybody’s support will help the engagement. A consultant will engage with your team from time to time. So it’s essential that a consultant is treated as a full-time employee and not a ‘temporary outsider’.

When a consultant is not given relevant information, if their emails or queries aren’t promptly answered, and if they don’t receive general support from the internal team, their performance will be affected. Even if you find the best consultants for your company, they won’t be able to put their best foot forward without the support of the team. Politics and ego might also play a role in slowing down a consultant. Even though it’s unlikely if everyone’s on the same boat and looking for a solution, it can still happen and it’s your duty to prevent it.

find the right consultants, 6 Reasons Why Your Consulting Engagement Might Fail (And How to Avoid It)

4. Hiring a Consultant for the Wrong Reasons

Every business owner wants to find the best consultants for their company. But sometimes, consultants get hired in a rush and for the wrong reasons. For example, if you hire a consultant just because you expect them to reveal some trade secrets of a previous client, well, then that’s not a very good reason to bring a consultant on board. And if you want to bring an outside expert into the company just because you think your internal team is incompetent, then it might affect the morale of your team in a negative way and they probably won’t be helpful to the consultant.

Hiring a consultant just to make them work extra hours and during the weekends is also not healthy. Simply put, trying to find the right consultants for ‘wrong’ reasons will likely lead to a failed engagement. Even if the consultant is competent and has produced results before, a company’s intention behind hiring them will definitely play a huge role in their performance. So make sure you hire them for the right reasons only.

5. Not Doing Your Due Diligence When Hiring a Consultant

Just because a professional from your network recommends a consultant to you doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your due diligence before hiring them. You should always look for referees or previous clients who can testify for your potential consultant’s credibility. Social media has made doing background checks even simpler.

A consultant’s LinkedIn profile and recommendations will give a clearer picture of what their expertise is and what they’ve achieved so far. And if they have case studies on their website, well, then it’s a jackpot. You can examine how exactly a consultant helped a client achieve their goals in the past.

However, if you don’t want to go through this extra headache, the best approach is to visit an online consulting marketplace and let them find a consultant for you. They’ll handle the due diligence and initial interviews themselves- which will save you a lot of time.

6. You Expect the Consultant to Do All the Work

Yes, a consultant will do a lot of work, but not all of it. In fact, the quality of a consultant’s final output will depend upon the support they’ve received from everyone throughout their journey. When a consultant and the company work hand in hand and strive to achieve a common goal, the results are spectacular. However, some businesses might feel that their only role is to process the consultant’s invoice and the rest will take care of itself. But that’s not the best attitude to have when onboarding a consultant.

For example, a consultant might recommend you to create a series of newsletters to keep in touch with the existing customers. Then the consultant and your internal team will have to work together to actually create, send, and monitor the performance of the newsletters. It’s not that all the risk lies on the consultant’s shoulders. Both the company and the consultant have a shared responsibility to make their engagement successful.

Conclusion

Engagements with consultants do work and can take your business to the next level. That’s why so many companies hire them and it’s a well-paid profession. But it’s necessary for businesses to be aware of their own role to make the consultant’s job as productive as possible. If the right consultants are hired, and they receive full support from the company, the chances of things going south are pretty slim.