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Good advisor – bad advisor: Finding the right management consultant

Management consultant is not a protected professional title like doctor, pharmacist or lawyer. In principle, anyone can hang a sign on their door and write “management consultant” on it. If you ask Google for this term, you get 3.4 million hits and find everything there: from large consultancies to one-man or woman firms. Of course, the big consultancies like McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group are clearly in the lead, but smaller companies usually cannot afford the daily rates of these firms.

Management consultant? I don’t need one

You take your shoes to the cobbler and you go to the dentist to have your teeth pulled. This means you get the right professional for each area to make sure your shoes are well soled and your tooth is treated properly. Why do smaller companies find it difficult to hire a consultant when things are “sticky” in the company? Often, you only bring him in when the child has already fallen into the well. Admittedly, the industry is burdened by some black sheep and first of all you think about the money. In this article, I would like to show you not only how to distinguish a good advisor from a bad one, but also what he brings you and how you can finance him.

A good advisor…

  • Arranges a free initial meeting with you lasting at least two hours and listens to you first.
  • He meets with you at your place to get a first impression of your business.
  • The payment and the daily rates sold are not the main focus, but the goal you want to achieve for your business and how this can be achieved. The costs are at the level you know from your other excellent advisors such as tax advisors or lawyers.
  • A good advisor will give you his curriculum vitae – which will show you his training and the experience he has acquired -, will give you references and will also have a project list from which you can see which companies he has already advised. This gives you a good basis for deciding whether he or she is a good fit for you and whether he or she has the necessary education and experience.
  • Even at the selection stage, crucial mistakes are often made by the client. Of course, a recommendation is worth a lot, but don’t make the decision just because you may know the consultant or an acquaintance knows him or her.
  • An outstanding consultant gets an overall picture of the company and also includes the managers and employees in his investigation. He is not afraid to go into factory halls or production facilities and talk to the employees there. He goes to the scene of the action and does not remain at the level of theory or conjecture.
  • The path you take with him should be clarified beforehand and also provide for exit possibilities. The as-is analysis is usually followed by a presentation of the results. You then decide whether to continue working on this basis, whether a package of measures should be developed from it and whether the consultant should accompany the implementation.
  • The goals should be fixed and checked in each project step: For achievability and correctness. He does not make decisions for you, but he provides you with a basis for making good and well-founded decisions.
  • A reliable consultant keeps a lot in writing, but should not disappear permanently in an office. He is visible. A good advisor also has the courage to tell you unpleasant things, but he is sympathetic to you and puts his heart into his work. He acts as a co-entrepreneur, so to speak.
  • The results should then be such that the investment in him has been worthwhile. A good consultant will ensure this and transparently compare the costs with the benefits achieved. If an advisor can also make subsidies possible for you, that is ideal. Alternatively, he will be able to name a specialist for subsidies.

So how do you recognise a bad advisor?

  • First of all, the conversation focuses on selling the consultancy service. Hourly rates as high as possible, hourly quotas and long terms without exit clauses.
  • He may have problems signing the necessary confidentiality agreement.
  • A bad consultant has ready-made solutions and only consults with you.
  • A miserable consultant often only gives process-oriented advice based on theories and loses sight of the employees.
  • He cannot name practical examples or present templates or solution approaches from the hip. A bad consultant will first research these and then be able to communicate them later. In the worst case, he hardly knows them and in the end only presents you with a catalogue of proposed solutions that are neither practical nor realistic.
  • He does not offer himself for the implementation, but leaves you alone with the actual solution of the issues.
  • A low-value consultant is not punctual and does not keep to agreed deadlines or milestones.
  • He or she is difficult to reach and does not respond to your wishes and questions, but meticulously sticks to his or her prefabricated timetables.
  • Most of the time, his or her CV clearly shows the lack of experience in the necessary fields.
  • The counsellor will ultimately not achieve the result you need.

And what about the client?

Yes, you also have an important role. You have to support the project and your consultant. This starts with introducing the consultant and the project to managers and other staff. Where managers or staff may “stonewall”, you must clearly state that this consultancy project is a top priority for you. Furthermore, you should provide all necessary data and information without reservation so that a comprehensive and holistic consultation is possible. In order to ensure success, you must also adhere to deadlines and allow sufficient time to work on your project. You give priority to the issue! Your consultant is a temporary “friend” who gives advice – do not leave him alone.