In previous posts, I’ve been exploring some important things to consider as you go through the process of hiring a consultant for your ERP modernization or business transformation. I must admit, there are plenty of soul, and money, sucking vultures out there. But there are also some good consultants too. The consultants who are really more like advisors. The latter type truly want to, and can, make a tremendous difference for companies and individuals. They offer invaluable insight, keep their word about expectations, and don’t promise what they can’t deliver. Some are, dare I say it, even ethical.

When I started KnowledgePath Consulting, I wanted to make a difference, be honest, and be genuine. This is always a priority when working with my clients. I feel honored to help make a difference for a business and its future. Because I strive to be one of the good guys, I have put a lot of thought into what makes the difference between us and the vultures. And my late nights spent pondering the question, “What makes us different?” has become the topics of many of the posts we’ve shared with you here on the blog.

Many of these questions are also the best questions to ask your consultant candidates. But there is one question in particular that I haven’t addressed yet and want to make sure I cover now. Unfortunately, it comes from too many bad consultant experiences that I’ve witnessed when we are called in to rescue failing projects.

You may have had these questions about a consultant in the past:

  • When will they be done?
  • What is taking so long?
  • Oh, I thought they were a full-time employee here; what do they do again?
  • How can I get them out of here?

If you have not had these concerns arise, then it is because you did a good job developing the contract agreement regarding the “exit plan” up front. I have not seen this mentioned in very many articles on choosing a consultant, maybe because they are usually written by consultants. But I highly suggest asking this question during your discussions. It is as simple as:

What is your exit plan?

It may feel strange to ask about an exit plan before you have chosen a consultant. But the responses you receive should clearly give you a good gut feeling of which consultant to choose. Is there up-selling involved? Some level of a sales pitch? Or do you receive an immediate “yes, there is an exit plan” followed by generalities and a discussion filled with misdirection designed to make you feel comfortable even though they didn’t actually outline a plan. Again, as I’ve said in previous posts, the buzzer should go off (in your head, not out loud!).

As you ask your questions, listen for something to the effect of the consultant working themselves out of a job. They should give you an idea of their general exit plan, which of course all parties together will customize in more detail based on the project requirements and measures. If they are fully committed to you and your company’s success, they will be clear about what exit promises they can’t yet make and what they can. They understand a successful project sets the stage for a partnership to grow into more of a relationship from which future opportunities will flow their way.

Final Gut Check

As you review your notes after talking with each candidate, here are some points I suggest you pay particularly close attention to and comment in your notes when interviewing your consultants:

  • Does the consultant possess the right knowledge to support you and your project?
  • Do they seem transparent?
    • Admit lack of knowledge where they don’t have it, or other ‘weaknesses’?
    • Give you ideas and free advise willingly?
    • Come across as a genuine business partner?
  • Will the consultant roll up their sleeves and work with the employees within your organization?
  • Does the consultant sound like they will be a facilitator or a dictator? Obviously, the preference is for the former and hopefully a teacher/coach.
  • How good a listener was the consultant?
  • Did they come into the meeting already ‘knowing’ everything, or did they come in demonstrating that they had done their research but knew they had more to learn?
  • Do you feel they are willing to break the norms… question the status quo?

The royal flush of consultingIf the first group of candidates doesn’t meet your gut check, it is okay to find new candidates. Don’t be tempted to treat this process as if you’re hiring a temporary employee which can be replaced at any time. Although it is true that it is a temporary hire of sorts, it is not a seasonal position. This one really matters. You hold the cards, but it does not mean you need to hold on a pair. Go for the full house. Or better. Your organization’s success depends on a quality find.

You will know you have found the right fit for your needs when you find the royal flush of advisors. In that case, you may find it very difficult to want them to leave, and maybe they shouldn’t if their value is so significant. In that case, you may find yourself looking for an exit plan followed by a retainer. But that’s down the road. Work on getting the royal flush first!

Want to back to part 1 and part 2 of this topic. Just follow the links.

David Warford

As co-Founder and Managing Partner at KnowledgePath Consulting, Inc. David applies his 30+ years of experience in the technology industry, exceptional leadership skills, and his commitment to honesty and transparency to ensuring client success. He drives customer relationships that span the globe in numerous industries and product categories.