“An expert is a person from out of town with a briefcase.”
Well, actually, yes.
Okay, full disclosure. I’m a business consultant, so I have a vested interest in persuading you to hire one. However, that doesn’t make the arguments in this article any less valid. And while not every person from out of town is an expert, there is a kernel of truth in that old sneer.
The fact is there are great reasons why hiring a consultant brings value to your company, value that only an outside consultant can provide. Consider these:
Just by virtue of working in the same place with the same people all the time, you tend to get tunnel vision and develop blind spots to your own problems. Think of it like this: when you were brand new to your job, how easy was it to see all the flaws and soft spots in your workplace? Very easy. Just being the new person gave you objectivity. You were not emotionally or relationally invested yet, so you could be bolder and offer ideas and suggestions about the problems you saw. Over time, it is impossible not to lose that edge.
Consultants are in the position to constantly be the new person on the job. They never lose that edge. Getting involved emotionally is the opposite of what they do, so they can both see problem areas and call them to your attention without fear of retribution or social awkwardness. In fact, that is exactly what they are there to do.
By definition, a consultant should be an expert in a particular area. It is his/her job to keep up with the latest information and techniques in that specialty. That is not something most business people have the luxury of doing. Therefore, a consultant can bring real depth of expertise to the table and apply it to your business, a depth you likely don’t have. That depth is a huge value to you. Use it.
3) Fresh Perspectives
This is a companion to objectivity. Most consultants travel a lot (person from out of town, remember?); they see how businesses operate all over the place, crossing geographical and cultural boundaries. Consultants therefore have a wider perspective than most business people. They bring options and suggestions you might never have thought of, because they have seen them in action.
This is a great way to gain an edge over your competitors. It doesn’t take long to get in a rut in business, and having new perspectives injected into your operation on a regular basis helps you leap ahead of those doing business the way they did yesterday.
This is especially true if you are in a smaller market. Bringing in a consultant who has seen how they do it in the big leagues gives you a portal your competitors may not be taking advantage of. Think about it.
4) Plausible Deniability
Businesses invite consultants for myriad reasons, and one of them is to explore specific problem areas. If you are a supervisor or CEO, and you know there is something festering in part of your enterprise, a consultant is a great way to deal with it. And, because the ideas and solutions will come from the consultant, you avoid being blamed for being the black hat.
When the difficult issues come up (and if the consultant is doing his/her job, they will), you can then say, “Hey, I didn’t say it. That consultant is the expert. S/he brought it up.” This gives you plausible deniability and a buffer against criticism.
Consultants play a key role in keeping a business sharp and efficient. They can say things you can’t, suggest ideas your people wouldn’t accept if you said them, and give you a screen of defence when the tough stuff rears its head. Consider hiring one, then let us know how it goes.
Thanks for reading.