Consultants come from many specialties, including law, management, IT and marketing. Yet however diverse their expertise, consultants are routinely hired for the same general reasons.
If you’re a consultant, or planning to start a consulting firm, you need to know why clients might be interested in hiring — the problems you can help them solve or the opportunities you can help them exploit. Here are five common reasons companies hire consultants. Where do your services fit in?
Sometimes, especially in areas involving new technologies, a company’s management team or staff will need to be trained. They may need to learn a new software package, or even a new way of thinking. It’s often much more cost-effective for a company to hire an outside expert, a consultant, to train them rather than putting someone on the full-time payroll.
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2. Objective Review of Business Practices.
When things just aren’t going according to plan, a company’s management team isn’t always the most objective source of information.
It’s difficult for anyone to admit what they’re doing wrong, or sometimes to even figure that out. That’s where consultants come in. They can be more objective in their findings, since they don’t have anything directly at stake with the company’s success or failure.
The consultant is generally brought in to identify the problem, and to help the company’s management team work out a resolution strategy.
3. Objective Review of Products or Services
Companies can’t always keep highly specialized experts on staff to evaluate every product or service they want to offer. It often makes more sense to hire an outside consultant.
Some examples would be hiring a marketing consultant to carry out market research for a new product, an IT consultant to fully evaluate and independently test a new software product, or to hire a legal consultant to answer legal concerns in regards to a new product or service the company plans to offer.
4. Internal Problems.
Hiring consultants for internal problem resolution is also common. Examples range from having a consultant handle recruitment for new company positions to handling major disputes between employees, management, or the company and third parties. The consultant would serve as an unbiased party whose interest is to reach a mutually agreeable solution to a problem, large or small.
5. Crisis Resolution.
Three types of consultants that might be brought in to handle a company crisis are legal consultants, public relations consultants, and sometimes management consultants. This type of consulting work is reserved for major crises within a company or organization, such that current staff alone wouldn’t be able to contain the situation adequately.
It could range from a major lawsuit, to an explosion or other disaster at the company, to finding out that a company’s product is unsafe and needs to be re-called. These consultants are basically called in for damage control.
If you want businesses to hire you as a consultant, figure out what high-level problem you can solve. These are just five examples. Are you usually hired for other reasons? Share them in the comments to give new consultants a broader understanding of the kinds of client needs you come across.
This post was originally featured on March 7, 2007. It was updated in January 2015.