In today's business environment, organizations constantly face challenges that affect their People, Processes, and/or Tools. Some of those challenges can be handled in-house through existing departmental staff, while others may require outside experts who can supply a unique perspective. This is where consulting firms come in.
Typically, consultants are brought in to produce solutions to problems that are keeping companies from running optimally. They are often specialized in an industry or sector, while others may be more general, their skills transcending a particular business type. In any event, the chosen consultant should be able to provide guidance on projects, deliver training on specific needs of the organization, and/or supply recommendations on a direction the company is considering taking.
A consultant's unwritten motto should be "leave the company better than you found it." Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. This has caused organizations to shy away from or even blatantly denounce, bringing consultants into their "home-away-from-home."
Just like snowflakes, no two consulting companies are the same. So, what should you look for when trying to find the "Top Consulting Firms" in your area? Again, like those snowflakes, you won't find two answers that are exactly the same, but here is my list of four fundamental values that an organization should look for when considering a consulting firm.
1. Excellent Listener
Consultants need to spend less time talking about how to remedy a problem and, instead, really listen to what the challenges are. Often, the words that are being spoken mask the root cause that should be addressed. Consultants who quickly try to "solution" the issue immediately when hearing about it is akin to someone who sees a puddle on the floor and quickly mops it up, only to find that it returns the next day. Consultants shouldn't be afraid to employ the "5 Whys" questioning system to drill down into the key issues so that they can provide the greatest good in their recommendations
2. Creative Thinker
Consultants are challenged to solve problems daily; some they have might have seen before; others may be new. Either way, consultants shouldn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all or cookie-cutter approach to either set of problems. They should continually stretch themselves to stay up to date on current methodologies and trends to best serve their clients. Pursuing growth and continuous learning is the best way to gain “outside-the-box" thinking that can create tailored solutions to an organization’s unique situation thereby providing the most value.
3. Solid References
Consulting firms that you find through a trusted personal source vs just a Google Search or a radio advertisement are likely to be a better fit for your organization’s culture, needs, and eventual success. When looking at a consulting company’s growth, see if it has come through organic means. Ask how they get the majority of their customers, seek out their client or project success stories but make sure the past work they are touting as their successes were performed by the people that will currently be working with you.
When choosing a firm, it is essential they be honest and not just tell you what you want to hear. This allows for a relationship of authenticity, transparency, and creates the opportunity for your consultant to become a trusted advisor. You want a consultant you trust who will do what is best for you and your firm, even if that means saying no to a request. You want a coach who has your best interest at heart to push you and your team to surpass goals and exceed all expectations.
When choosing a consulting firm, these four fundamental values are a great place to start as you narrow down your choices to finding the best fit for your organization.
What other fundamental skills do you think are essential for top consulting firms to have?
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