There are basically two types of consulting businesses. The first type 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, and is fairly flexible in the types of things that they will work on. PCA is mainly comprised of the second group.
There are a lot of pros for working with an independent consultant. Yet many companies and small businesses seem to believe that they have to go for what’s known as the “Thud Factor” or “Big Bang” theory. The belief is that a big name has to be ultimately multiple times better than an independent or small consulting firm.
That’s false of course, and one way to illustrate that is to look at what's happened to many businesses that were in trouble and brought in major consulting firms, especially hospitals. Many times the employees those firms send in are taught procedures for evaluation which may or may not work, whereas an independent consultant will have had some significant years doing the needed work and can actually offer real solutions.
To better illustrate why independent consultants are the way to go, here are 5 reasons why they might be better for you or your business.
1. Independent consultants will cost you less.
Independent consultants aren't cheap, but they’ll cost you a lot less than hiring a major consulting company. In the central New York area a few years ago, a hospital in financial constraints needed some consulting help. They went out and hired a large consulting firm from another state, spending almost $5 million. They totally ignored all local consultants, all of whom would have cost them less than $500,000 total. Not only would that have solved the hospitals financial issues better, since they probably wouldn't have had to pay for most of the expenses that were doled out to the organization from out of town, but the local consultants would have cared more because it would have been good for the area.
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 is 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, saved some dollars, and gotten more specific help with your needs.
3. Independent consultants have done the work you need help with.
Many years ago I had a subcontracting contract with a large consulting firm in another state. Out of the team of 9 consultants, only myself and two other people had ever worked in that particular field, and out of that group, only myself and one other person had ever done the work we were specifically consulting on during the project. The other consultants were young and hungry but drastically inexperienced, and mainly asked questions from a template rather than having any real knowledge of what would have helped them accurately diagnose and correct the problems. Then again, since the large consulting firm was more interested in increasing billable hours than solving any issues, it paid for them to have lower paid consultants with little experience so they could stay longer.
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. Although there are independent consultants in certain businesses that may have less than 5 years of critical experience, the majority of independent consultants will have at least 10 to 15 years of quality business experience behind them, and that's not including consulting time. This means they've probably encountered your types of issues previously and can fix your problems quicker and more efficiently.
5. Independent consultants are flexible and beholden to you only.
Large consulting companies have to concern themselves with shareholders and partners. Independent consultants are only concerned with their own income, as well as their reputation. Most independent consultants have contracted with large companies, so they have an idea of how those organizations operate and try to be better and more dedicated to their clientele. Some large consulting 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.
The next time you’re looking for help, think about working with an independent consultant. 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 $25,000, or a small independent consultant who you can at least talk to from time to time, who gets to know you and works with you and your money?