There are basically two types of consulting businesses. The first is the large consulting firm that employs not only a bunch of consultants, but people who do other things as well. The second is the independent consultant, an individual who decides he or she doesn’t want to be a part of the corporate structure, wants to work on their own in some capacity, and is fairly flexible in the types of things that they will work on.
There are a lot of pros for working with an independent consultant. Yet many companies still seem to believe that they have to go for what’s known as the “Thud Factor” or “Big Bang” theory, the belief that a big name has to be ultimately multiple times better than an independent. Of course that’s false, and one way to illustrate that is to look at what happened to the banking industry over the last year or so. The super large conglomerates were in deep trouble, yet most local banks remained fairly solvent and out of harm’s way.
Consultants need to better learn how to get the word out as to why it’s not such a bad thing to hire them instead of going with a larger company. To better illustrate this point about independent consultants, here are 5 reasons why an independent consultant might be better for you in the long run.
1. Independent consultants will cost you less. This doesn’t mean independent consultants are cheap, but they’ll cost you a lot less than hiring a full fledged consulting company will cost you. Locally, a few years ago a hospital that was in some financial constraints needed some consulting help. They went out and hired a large consulting firm, spending almost $5 million. They totally ignored any local consultants, which included myself. We might have ended up costing them a million or so, and we could have done the same job, if not better since we knew the community.
2. With an independent consultant, you know who you’re getting. When someone contracts with large consulting companies, they rarely get the person they’ve been talking to as their consultant. Therefore, any rapport that’s been built up has been lost. Every once in awhile, the consultant you get is an independent consultant who’s subcontracting with the large company; you could have eliminated the middle man altogether.
3. Independent consultants have probably done the work you need help with. Many years ago I did a subcontracting gig with a large consulting firm in another state. Out of the team of 9 consultants, only myself and two other people had ever even worked in that particular field as an employee, and out of that group, only myself and one other person had ever done the work we were specifically consulting on during this project. The questions I found out that were being asked of certain people weren’t anywhere close to what I would have asked or looked for, and thus it made it easier for me to offer suggestions on what people should do rather than just find problem issues.
4. Independent consultants usually come with some years of experience behind them. When I got into consulting, I’d been in the business nearly 20 years. When I was at the assignment I previously mentioned, 5 of the consultants were under 30, and none of them had ever worked in the business before becoming consultants with the consulting organization. There’s something to be said for new ideas, but there’s also something to be said for someone who’s had some day to day experience overcoming the types of problems that occur in business on a regular basis.
5. Independent consultants are flexible and beholden to you only. Large consulting companies have to concern themselves with shareholders. Independent consultants have to concern themselves with their own income, and thus are loathe to cut corners most of the time. I say it that way because there are a few consultants who ruin it for everyone else, but that’s rare among independents. Most independent consultants have worked with large companies, but also have worked with small companies and every once in awhile individuals. Some large companies won’t even talk to you if your yearly revenues aren’t in the multiple millions; independent consultants will work with anyone with the ability to pay them. Independent consultants know your success is their success; their business is built off reputation and recommendations.
Think about this the next time you’re looking for help. Do you want to go to someone like Smith Barney, who won’t even assign you an independent representative if your not investing at least $10,000 at a clip, or a small independent who you can at least talk to from time to time, who gets to know you and works with you and your money?