Consultancy could cover pretty much anything.
You need to think long and hard not just about the work you want doing, but the timescales involved and consequent structure of the contract.
Retainer Vs Ad hoc
One of the most frustrating issues business owners have when using consultants (and there’s a book to be written about them) is paying top dollar by the day to get a job done quickly but feeling that the consultant is spending half his or her time looking for the next job.
Unfortunately, that’s often an inevitable part of the life of a consultant.
A consultant working on ad hoc or short, fixed term projects will be out of work as much as they are in work. As a result they need to charge a day rate covering their expected down time.
Putting a consultant you think you will need ongoing on a retainer, even where that’s drawn down on fairly flexibly, should guarantee a reliable source of income for the consultant and curb some of those unproductive distractions. As importantly, there is an economic value to that certainty. The greater certainty of future work should result in a lower day rate.
Not everyone will agree to that. Some consultants haven’t even worked this out. But it’s a reasonable discussion to have if you are guaranteeing a reasonable level of work ongoing.
The consultant you can’t get rid of
The absolute worst consultant is the consultant you can’t get rid of. Several large, and highly successful consultancy practices have mastered the art of embedding themselves so much into businesses that you’d never realise they weren’t employees. Until you notice the monthly bill.
Success for a project should include the departure of the consultant brought in to run it. You should make this a key goal of the project and discuss it with glee at every opportunity. The good ones (and there are plenty) will do this for you.
You need to fully understand the project or task in hand before appointing a consultant to handle it. Of course, there are consultants who will help you with that…