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Five Guidelines to Finding the Right Consultant

How to find the right Consultant?

My rule of thumb for choosing a consultant is simple. I call it the Doctor test.

How does it work? When I need to go to a doctor, I research his credentials, his experience and try to learn more about him. I try to gauge how up-to-date they are, if the testing equipment is the latest etc. Once I am face to face with her, I try to determine if I am comfortable her, how he arrives at the initial prognosis. If I am treated as a client or as a statistic. Then I ask myself, would I feel comfortable allowing this person to intervene and make decisions about my health. What do I have to lose if I make the wrong decision?

The same logic should apply when you chose a consultant. Management consultants are used to intervene in your business, to solve a problem or to improve a condition.

These days there are an abundance of consultants. You meet them everywhere. If you are a business owner of manager, finding the right “consultant” who can solve your unique business problem might be difficult. So, how do you find the right consultant with the right set of skills, expertise and experience to match your businesses needs?

1. Do you really need a consultant?
Based on your need, do you need a consultant, or are you seeking business advice, or are you in need of board level oversight? Or none of the above?
Each category of expertise represents a different way of answering your need.
If you need somebody to help you identify a problem and devise a solution, then a management consultant is the right person to turn to. If you are in need of general business advice, as to how to do something, then a business adviser is the right choice. If you need to have a person to work with you for a longer term, helping to oversee and give direction to your business, a shadow or alternative board level adviser may be needed. If the solution to the problem that you have is obvious, and you are sure it is the right solution you may need to bring in outside contractor to just help you with the implementation.

2. Define your improved condition, or where you want to be after the work is done
Where do you want to be after the consultant has finished her job? Let’s say you want to increase profitability and market share. How will you measure success? How will you get there, and is the target really the real target?

3. Find a consultant that understands you
Find a consultant that walks through your door with an open mind. There are many consultants out there that have their own rigid standard operating procedures manuals that they cannot deviate from. They are like a one trick pony that can only perform that one trick. But your business is unique, your business model is unique and your key success factors are unique.

Find a consultant that can produce a tailor made solution to your unique business needs. How? A good starting point is to find a consultant that listens to you and offers solutions once all relevant data has been gathered, the necessary information regarding your business has been compiled, industry and economy trends have been analyzed.

4. Give credit where credit is due
So now that you have researched a number of potential candidates, there are a number of consultants that you have hand picked. They may look equally qualified. You may like the experience of one, the dynamic web page presentation of the other, the general “feeling” of the third.

In choosing the right person, remember my Doctor test. What is the professional level of achievement the Doctor/consultant has achieved? Do they have a postgraduate degree? Is he active in professional associations or industry groups? Are they certified? (A certified management consultant is an individual who has attained his CMC (Certified Management Consultant) designation, awarded by the Institute of Management Consultants, awarded for outstanding professionalism, experience and consulting ethics)

Regarding titles. Titles in general are good. But for business, try not to go too “academic”. Some of the PhD’s may be excellent in their natural habitat, but when it comes to intervening in complex business problems, and coming up with practical, actionable, cost efficient solutions they may not be the best pick.

5. Work with your consultant
Try and provide the consultant with all the information that he needs and give him freedom of movement in your premises. Relay to the consultant, your needs, your expectations, and your worries. Brainstorm with the consultant. Make sure they fully understand your problem. In the intervention stage, make sure that you are involved at the critical stages. Make sure that your managers and employees do not try to derail the process by trying to pursue their own “old” agendas.

General Tips to get the most out of the management consulting process

Below are a number of suggestions to get the most out of the management consulting process. If used well, the management consultant will bring to the company, valuable insights and will build value and wealth for your business.

• Always use the “we” word.
• Always keep an open mind
• Always try to learn from best practices knowledge of other industries the management consultant will bring with him
• Always remember that the consultant is in the same boat with you.

• Never say “Never”
• Never say “We already tried that”
• Never say “That won’t work”
• Never say” We are too small/big for that”

The Start-Up Business Plan

> Starting a business?

> Looking for angel investors?

> Need financing?

> Need to get your start-up going fast and build business?

>>> You need a business plan.

What is a business plan? A business plan should be a document containing all your ideas based on the opportunity that you see in a specific sector, translated into how this opportunity could render you dollars and cents.

The business plan might be a lengthy detailed document, outlining the future performance of your business for the next five years; this is usually a minimum requirement if you need to finance your business, or it might be a simpler document, undertaking basic analyses to pinpoint opportunities and threats, strengths and weaknesses, action plans that need to be implemented, critical steps and timing that will play an important role in your business, key success factors and problem areas.

Whatever your circumstance, you will need some form of planning to guide you.

We have prepared countless business plans over the last two decades. Here is a short list of what your business plan should contain. A note of caution: remember what Eisenhower said, “ The plan is nothing, planning is everything” The business plan is but a document, and the important fact still remains, that you have to build your business on sound business fundamentals. Your business model has to be right. You have to be right for the business; the business has to be right for you.

Below is a list of what a good business plan should include with brief descriptions:

1. The Executive Summary
• Where do we want to go?
• What is the business going to do?

2. Company Description
• Type of company
• Company history
• Key personnel

3. Industry Analysis and Trends
• Economic analysis
• Industry analysis
• Market analysis

4. Target Market
• Who are you going to sell to?

5. Competition
• Who is the competition?
• How do you compare to the competition?

6. Strategic Position and Assessment of Risk
• The strategy
• The Risk

7. Marketing Plan & Sales Strategy
• How will you sell your product or service?

8. Operations Plan
• How is the company going to operate
• Critical success factors

9. Technology Plan
• What technological requirements do you have and how will you fulfill these?

10. Management & Organizational Structure
• Leadership of the firm
• Company structure and systems

11. Development, Milestones, Timing
• Key performance indicators and milestones

12. The Financials
• Detailed month by month financial forecast for the first year, and annual forecast for the next three to five years

If you need to prepare a business plan or need to gather information about your business plan, we advise you to talk with a business adviser or management consultant who can walk you through and assess the business basics as well as the layout and presentation of your plan.

Culture, a Major Obstacle To Business?

Morale was high at the US based contracting company. They had just been invited to join a consortium of companies that had pre-qualified for a big public works tender in Central Asia. The offer came via e-mail. After concluding the initial round of correspondence with their counterparts, a two man team made up of one senior engineer and one business development exec were sent to Europe to meet up with their potential partners and sign the consortium agreement.

The trip started well, as they were well received by their hosts at the airport, guided to their hotel and were pleased to see that a well planned itinerary awaited them. Two mid- level managers took them out to dinner that night, and a jovial relationship was established.

The next day, still dazzled by the late night and effects of jet lag the US team met with the senior execs of the consortium and gave a strong power point presentation as to their capabilities, past business performance and key deliverables. Everyone was all smiles at lunch, and things were very cordial in the afternoon during the contract negotiations. The US team e-mailed back the tentative consortium agreement late afternoon and was treated to a special evening of entertainment and fine dining “Asian” style by the corporate execs.

Next morning, they received confirmation from the legal department at corporate that the agreement was acceptable and that they could go ahead and sign. The agreement was signed, pictures were taken and small gifts were exchanged. After having generated so much good will in such a good time, it was decided that the new consortium partners should visit the government office which was organizing the tender in order to introduce the US company.

Up to that time, the whole process had been text book perfect. The meeting with the government authorities went ahead as planned, but it was not possible to gauge the results of the meeting from the US company’s point of view. They had also received some conflicting news from the Government officials. The pre-qualification for tender had been cancelled, and the process would start over again.

Their new partners assured them that this was a normal occurrence for this part of the world. Other disturbing news started to trickle down as comments of the need to make facilitation payments arose. The US team automatically countered with their need to abide by the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act, but their hosts assured them that it would be they who would take care of things, not the American’s, but that the American’s should know that such a arrangement had to be entered into as they were a part of everyday life if you wanted to do business in this part of the world.

The trip was concluded with a lavish good bye dinner and further entertainment, “Asian” style. The team was in a jovial mood when they arrived back in the US and were congratulated by the CEO for their accomplishment.

Their Asian counterparts meanwhile prepared for the new pre-qualification process and asked for intensive documentation. A project team was established for the Central Asia project and earnest work began to supply their consortium partners with the necessary materials to win the pre-qualification bid. At the same time hints that certain facilitation expenses were being made to Government authorities were being relayed to the American company over the phone. But, never in writing. After a while, these vague remarks became very much clearer as their foreign partners started to talk numbers.

The US stance was the same. We cannot be involved, we don’t want to know about it.

Two months after the signing of the consortium agreement, the new pre-qualification bid was held, and their consortium failed to qualify.

Their Asian counterparts blamed them in part for not assisting them in paying up the facilitation fees, and claimed that they would have won had the size of the payment been larger! They vowed to have the pre-qualification tender cancelled and the process renewed. Which they actually managed to do! But by this time, the American company had lost faith in their partners, and having allocated resources freely against the promise of lucrative rewards, decided to withdraw from the project.

The Asian partners accused the American’s of being short sighted, inflexible, and shallow. The American’s accused the Asian’s with being untruthful, slow, and not results oriented. Both sides threatened each other with law suits and asked for damages. Lawyers wrote letters back and forth, but even they had problems communicating. The cost of litigation would have been too expensive, so both sides refrained from going to court, but wrote letters of complaint to their respective embassies.

The communication gap between the cultures played an important role in how this project went bad. Communicating across cultures can be extremely difficult. What is the beginning for one culture can be the end for another.

ATN Management Consulting offers “Cultural Leadership” coaching programs to bridge the gap between cultures and to facilitate effective communication with the aim of delivering results in the International arena.


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