By Joe Issid
Most people seem to have a fairly exaggerated idea of what a consultant does. Maybe Hollywood's depictions of consultants as highly-paid mercenaries has clouded the true nature of the value they can bring to a modern business. Without dwelling on definitions, consultants are merely resources who provide highly specialized skills to fill temporary needs within an organisation. For example, when I worked at a global video game publisher, it was extremely common for us to hire consulting teams to assist with short-term projects that we were not equipped to handle internally. No matter the size of the company, there are always going to be areas that require additional external expertise. But yes, consultants can be very expensive and many companies balk at the idea of undertaking such a potentially large cost. However, it isn't difficult to see the tremendous value behind the hefty price tag. Here are some reasons why your company, no matter the size, should consider hiring a consultant:
Quick access to knowledge
Admittedly, consultants can be extremely expensive and often result in large budget overruns if used too frequently. However, they can become attractive alternatives when companies are looking to fill a short-term knowledge gap. In fact, hiring a short-term consultant will often be considerably cheaper than trying to find a full-time staff member to fill an organisational hole. By definition, a consultant will be able to rapidly fill a need and provide a desired output in short order. Yes, it may cost but you will be paying for the convenience.
Office politics are far more pervasive and toxic than we may realise. Throughout my career, I have seen excellent ideas cast aside simply because they were put forth by the "wrong" person. Personally, I have seen my own projects thwarted by divisive colleagues. It may sound counter-intuitive, but many companies deliberately hire consultants to manage important projects as they are more likely to be immune to internal political climates. Furthermore, many companies put a great deal of trust into a consultant's work as they are able to recognise its inherent impartiality.
In business, many companies fall into the trap of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It is actually quite common for companies to get stuck on a problem and be unable to find an elegant solution as project participants may become blinded by proximity. Hiring a consultant can be an excellent tonic for a company that is having trouble getting over a hurdle. In many cases, a well-seasoned consultant can bring a solution to a company that is rooted in an entirely different industry.
You may very well have the expertise in-house to complete a project but you simply don't have the manpower to complete it on time. Rather than finding ways to reshuffle priorities or hire additional full-time staff, bringing on consultants can help achieve in one month what may take you six. Additionally, consultants are not bogged down with competing priorities (unlike your regular staff). A consultant will provide hyper-focused attention to the project(s) they are hired to deliver.
Make difficult decisions
Again, it may sound very counter-intuitive to hire complete strangers to come into your business and make big decisions but this can often be the best way to achieve your desired results. Business can be extremely personal and sometimes corporate leaders have a hard time making decisions that are in the best interest of the organisation. An external consultant can bring an objective opinion to the project and, as such, may be able to execute difficult tasks more easily than someone directly involved in the company.