This is an interesting twist on a common question we’re known to address. We have a post titled What Is A Consultant, and one titled What Is A Consultant – Revisited. Now it’s time to address the issue of just why there’s a need for consultants.
Most of us who are consultants figure we know why people need us. We offer expertise, a different perspective on their issues, and often a way to fix things. Our costs are high in a way yet we’re not permanent, and we’re not a threat to anyone’s job. Or are we?
Why are so many people hesitant to hire consultants? This is a more interesting question to look at because it starts to explain the reason we sometimes have difficulties in getting contracts. There’s a few things we end up having to overcome unfortunately. Let’s look at some of these:
1. Age. Sometimes we’re not old enough; sometimes we’re too old. One way makes people question what we have to offer. If you don’t have enough experience they wonder what you could possibly do. If you’re too old they wonder if you’re past the time when your ideas were valid.
2. Jealousy. This is a tough one to overcome. Sometimes the people who are in charge of hiring are worried that you’ll make them look bad. Some even think you want their job. I used to think this one was ridiculous until my last assignment out of town where it became obvious that the consultant actually did want the job (which he got because he was the last option, as the person he replaced had left). Most consultants like the idea of being lone wolves but others don’t quite see it that way.
3. Cost. Yeah, we all have to deal with this one but it’s not as ridiculous. Truth be told, it’s hard for someone making even $35 an hour to understand why you’re walking in asking for $100 an hour. They might think they know as much as you, and it’s possible they do. But the reasons consultants are asked to come in don’t always have to do with skill or knowledge; that’s something that a potential client has to be convinced of.
4. Acknowledgement of a problem. Often things have to get to a critical point before someone will agree that maybe they need some assistance. When things get really ugly isn’t the time to call a consultant in, but that’s often how it goes. Truthfully, without that most consultant’s might never get work, and might not be able to charge the types of fees we do. But sometimes, when we’re marketing, it would be nice to meet some wise people who realize the potential benefit of tightening things up.
5. Our previous counterparts. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into a place and find myself having to defend the name “consultant” because the person or people before me messed things up somehow. I know what this is like, having to deal with a consultant when I was a daily employee who came in and did an evaluation that would have looked bad if I hadn’t already told my CFO all these same things, and had already given my recommendations of how to fix these issues, which the consultant who came in didn’t do.
6. Our message. Sometimes we don’t come across properly. We might market incorrectly, promise too much, charge too much or too little, not listen to the potential client to really know what their issues are… on and on. Some of us try to be something we’re not, while others of us don’t know how to modify our behavior and processes when necessary.
Enough of that. Let’s get back to the initial question; why are there consultants?
There are consultants because…
1. We have skills that someone else might not have.
2. We offer the opportunity to take care of projects that companies might not have the people to do, skills notwithstanding.
3. Even with our rates, we’re often the most cost effective option at the time.
4. Because sometimes the person in charge really wants to know what’s going on and only a consultant will tell them the truth.
5. Because for the most part we’re not looking to hurt anyone or take anyone’s job. We want to come in, help address an issue, and then leave. However, if you want to put us on retainer we won’t complain.