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How to Hire a Consultant

by David R. Young, Communication Services

A few simple steps, taken in order, can assure a smooth and profitable relationship with temporary professional help.

Know who is out there. Business moves rapidly. You never can tell when you'll get into a business bind and need professional expertise on short notice. A list of Rochester area consultants, updated regularly, is available free from the Rochester Professional Consultants Network under "Member Directory."

Coarse screening. Call and talk briefly with several consultants. Ask for their descriptive literature. Ask about their backgrounds and describe your business needs. Pick one or more people you think may be able to help.

Fine screening. Meet with these candidates. You will want to explore their expertise and experience in greater detail and you will want to test the chemistry of the relationship. You should be comfortable with the person you select as you will be working closely and sharing details of your business.

Trial run. Select the appropriate person and meet to discuss a problem you'd like to solve. There's nothing like working together to build a trusting relationship. Test the relationship on a small, low-risk problem.

Ask for a proposal. The consultant should prepare one in plain language. It should include a clear statement of the problem, objectives sought, what you both will contribute, and what each of you will walk away with. It should also include ownership outcomes such as copyrights to words and software that will be generated during your relationship.

Consultants should certify that they are independent businesses to avoid conflicts with the Internal Revenue Service and should certify confidentiality. The proposal should state the cost of the project, when payments are due, and the beginning and ending dates of the agreement.

Sign an agreement, then support the consultant during the problem-solving process. Consultants need access to company property, people, and information. Alert your staff so it will be cooperative and avoid costly delays.

Meet to review results after project completion. Have the objectives stated in the proposal been met? If so, offer new projects and referrals to others who may need help. Referring a good consultant to a business friend does both a favor and reflects well on you and your company.

Discover the advantages of using a consultant here.



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