Businesses certainly understand what consultants are. In 1997 U.S. businesses spent just over $12 billion on consulting. According to Anna Flowers, spokesperson for the Association of Professional Consultants in Irvine, California, the association has recently noticed an increase in calls for information from people who want to get into the business.
A consultant’s job is to consult. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s that simple. There’s no magic formula or secret that makes one consultant more successful than another one.
But what separates a good consultant from a bad consultant is a passion and drive for excellence. And–oh yes–a good consultant should be knowledgeable about the subject he or she is consulting in. That doesmake a difference.
Why an Organization Wants to Hire You
According to a recent survey, here are the top 10 reasons organizations hire consultants:
- A consultant may be hired because of his or her expertise.This is where it pays to not only be really good in the field you have chosen to consult in, but to have some type of track record that speaks for itself. For example, when I mentioned earlier that I had become an expert as a fund-raising consultant, I knew that every client who hired me was doing so partly on the basis of my track record alone. After all, if you are a nonprofit organization that needs to raise $1 million, it makes sense to hire someone who has already raised millions for other organizations.
- A consultant may be hired to identify problems.Sometimes employees are too close to a problem inside an organization to identify it. That’s when a consultant rides in on his or her white horse to save the day.
- A consultant may be hired to supplement the staff.Sometimes a business discovers that it can save thousands of dollars a week by hiring consultants when they are needed, rather than hiring full-time employees. Businesses realize they save additional money by not having to pay benefits for consultants they hire. Even though a consultant’s fees are generally higher than an employee’s salary, over the long haul, it simply makes good economic sense to hire a consultant.
- A consultant may be hired to act as a catalyst.Let’s face it. No one likes change, especially corporate America. But sometimes change is needed, and a consultant may be brought in to “get the ball rolling.” In other words, the consultant can do things without worrying about the corporate culture, employee morale or other issues that get in the way when an organization is trying to institute change.
- A consultant may be hired to provide much-needed objectivity.Who else is more qualified to identify a problem than a consultant? A good consultant provides an objective, fresh viewpoint–without worrying about what people in the organization might think about the results and how they were achieved.
- A consultant may be hired to teach.These days if you are a computer consultant who can show employees how to master a new program, then your telephone probably hasn’t stopped ringing for a while. A consultant may be asked to teach employees any number of different skills. However, a consultant must be willing to keep up with new discoveries in their field of expertise–and be ready to teach new clients what they need to stay competitive.
- A consultant may be hired to do the “dirty work.”Let’s face it: No one wants to be the person who has to make cuts in the staff or to eliminate an entire division.
- A consultant may be hired to bring new life to an organization.If you are good at coming up with new ideas that work, then you won’t have any trouble finding clients. At one time or another, most businesses need someone to administer “first aid” to get things rolling again.
- A consultant may be hired to create a new business.There are consultants who have become experts in this field. Not everyone, though, has the ability to conceive an idea and develop a game plan.
- A consultant may be hired to influence other people.Do you like to hang out with the rich and famous in your town? If so, you may be hired to do a consulting job simply based on who you know. Although most consultants in this field are working as lobbyists, there has been an increase in the number of people entering the entertainment consulting business.
- You save time and money. By having someone concentrate on the more routine tasks (opening the mail, filing, answering phones, etc.) you can focus all your efforts on recruiting new clients. Think about this: Would you want to lose a $500-a-day client because you were too cheap to hire someone to stuff your brochures into envelopes?
- You don’t worry about being out of the office.If you are a one-person operation, it’s hard to be out on the road marketing your services if you’re worried about clients calling–and only getting your answering machine.
- You have someone to offer another perspective.Sometimes it can be pretty lonely trying to do everything yourself. Having someone around the office during the day who can offer another perspective can be worthwhile.