As much as I don’t like hearing the question does make sense. At first glance, it puzzles many. Why don’t companies simply solve their own problems? Whether it is a cost reduction effort or a new market entry, there are many reasons companies need consultants (and why I am able to stay busy working on some of the coolest challenges in the business world!).
If you have ever considered hiring a consultant or becoming one I will also cover some information about how we help companies grow.
1. They Want an Outside Eye
It’s the same when you’re dealing with an issue in your life and turn to friends or family for opinions. Alternatively, if you’re working on the same project for too long and ask someone to take a glance and they find the issue. Companies need this, especially when making tough decisions. Often times, clients will have a perspective on how to solve the problem but want to make sure that what they are thinking is correct (or that they are not so close to the challenge that they miss the obvious answer). So, they turn to consultants to come in and provide their expert opinion.
A consultants option isn’t just an opinion. As consultants we work with many different companies and may have worked through this problem in the past some another client. We can provide perspective based on what we have seen work (or not) before. Given this experience, we often bring new and innovative ideas or possible challenges to the table that clients probably wouldn’t have been able to see on their own.
2. They Need Extra Horsepower
Then there are times the problems a company needs solving are vitally important, but they don’t necessarily have the manpower to focus on them. Companies still have to focus on their day-to-day operations. New projects typically require reprioritizing employees’ core job responsibilities or even changing their entire job description. Hiring new employees to fill these gaps doesn’t always make sense either, especially when many of these are one-off projects.
“Whether it’s a cost reduction program that requires a dedicated team of six for a year or even a post-merger integration that requires a team of 100 for a month, clients might struggle to get the teams in place to do this critical work.”
In instances like this, consultants serve as temporary, highly skilled employees. We’re not full-time employees of the company, so it is typically cheaper to use us than hire someone new. Because we do switch around companies quite often, we’re used to the fast learning curve, and onboarding us is easier. And, by using consultants, companies don’t have to pull their employees away from their actual jobs.
3. They Want Specialized Skills
Another reason, and perhaps the most common reason companies hire consultants is to gain access to a specialized skill set that might not exist in-house. Engaging with a consulting firm will provide access to a group of professionals that have skills ranging from Lean Six Sigma process design to finance organization structures.
These specialized people as employees would not only be expensive to hire but the company might not have enough work to keep said employees busy year round. Thankfully, consultants can bring in that skillset on demand when they need it.
4. They Want a Safe Zone
Of course there are the times when companies are working on a challenging problem or project, it can be demanding for them to make decisions or to take the necessary actions without getting wrapped up in the emotions or politics. Consultants provide an unbiased eye and do some of the dirty work for them.
“If you remember Up in the Air, George Clooney was engaged to go around the country conducting employment terminations on behalf of his clients.”
Likewise, a client might engage us for major restructurings or controversial projects.
- Hiring us the can ensure everything is handled by an external party that has experience and a bit removed from these types of activities.
- We can also provide the back-up and confirmation for clients attempting to run with a new idea that might not be well-received within an organization, without any risk to our day jobs or career.
As you can see, consultants support companies in many different ways – and as consultants, you get to dig into a lot of tough situations. It’s not easy, but for problem-solvers like me, it’s exciting work.