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Follow these simple guidelines when hiring a consultant

From time to time, as a small business owner, you’re likely to bump up against a problem you can’t solve yourself. That may be because you don’t have the right experience or knowledge to correct it. Or it may be because you are perfectly capable of meeting the challenge but can’t justify the time it will require of you, given your many other responsibilities.

Solving that problem or challenge at a quieter time may not be an option if the goal is to move the company forward. So how do you know when it’s time to hire a consultant to find the solution, to remove a major distraction from your business day, and perhaps to avoid a costly mistake?

Much like an independent contractor, consultants come in on a short-term or project basis. For an agreed-upon fee, they will agree to

  • analyze or solve a problem
  • set up a new procedure or system
  • conduct research
  • advise on a one-time activity, such as setting up a corporation

The general advantage of using a consultant is that you pay only for the information and guidance you need. An example of a situation where a consultant might make sense is when you need to create a marketing and advertising program. A consultant can develop your advertising plan and then leave it to you to implement. However, the same consultant may undertake certain tasks within the plan- perhaps having to do with creating ad messages or finding the right graphic designer.

Some day-to-day activities and situations may require short-term consulting help, such as making a fix in a proprietary software program. When identifying, purchasing, and implementing  a comprehensive computer system, by way of contrast, would require a software consultant on a longer term basis.

For better cost control and a more reliable estimate, have a completion date in mind for the project. An open-ended consulting relationship may create dependency while becoming a financial drain. In addition, use caution when considering a more generic management consultant, who may not be able or willing to specify the work he or she is prepared to do to focus on a problem area.

To begin the search for a consultant, tap into your own network for recommendations, then check references. You’ll want to know what problem the consultant was engaged to solve, whether the work was completed on time and within budget, and whether the consultant produced a quality product.

And for other perspectives on your involving outside experts in your business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” The SCORE Grand Rapids office has 35 local volunteer business counselors who provide free and confidential business counseling to small business owners.

Call SCORE at 1-616-771-0305 to talk to a counselor, or e-mail us at score@grandrapids.org  or online at   http://www.scoregr.org./

 

Free and Confidential Counseling

SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

(616) 771-0305   wwwscoregr.org

E-mail:  score@grandrapids.org

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