Be Careful What You Pay For

Hiring a consulting firm can be a textbook good news/bad news situation: The good news is you’ve concluded you need help with whatever it is you’ve concluded you need help with. The bad news is you’re now faced with options you may not have anticipated. Here’s why:

Fundamentally speaking there are three types of consulting firms.

1. The big consulting firms.

These guys are good at PowerPoint. Really good. They’ll glide in on their marquee brand names. They’ll give you a presentation that’ll knock your socks off. They’ll offer to put someone at the level of Partner or Principal on your project. But that person will vanish faster than the Road Runner with Wile E. Coyote on his tail, only to be replaced by Joe Fuzzy Cheeks, who’ll show up with high rates and little experience, leaving you to wish you had your socks back, along with all the money you just blew.

2. The body shops.

These guys have more bodies on their rosters than most NFL teams before the first pre-season games. Because each of those bodies comes relatively inexpensively, you’ll have a small army on-site. But few of those bodies will be a good fit for your project. They’ll have little experience and less business expertise. And each one of those buck privates will be more interested in his own satisfaction than he is in yours.

3. The specialized boutique firms.

These guys might give you an initial case of sticker shock. But when you get beyond that, you start to notice a few things: First, there’s a distinct absence of snake oil. They tell you what you need to hear, not what they think you want to hear. Second, their business experience and technical expertise makes them calm, confident, and credible. Third, when you get their bill, you realize you didn’t have to pay for the seasoning you didn’t get, the bodies you didn’t need, or the time they didn’t waste.

The time you spend upfront to select the right consulting firm won’t cost you anything. But if you don’t do that homework, there’s no telling how much it’ll cost you in the long run.

Choose wisely.

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