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Signs that it is time to re-evaluate that consultant

A reporter recently asked me to suggest some warning signs that it’s time to re-evaluate your business consultant.  Over the years, I’ve run across many consultants, some who were just terrific and some who really weren’t.  Here are some signs that should get those little hairs on the back of one’s neck prickling:

  • The consultant reaches into his or her package of tools and recommends them, whether or not they have anything to do with the problems of your business
  • The consultant doesn’t seem to be aware of the conditions under which a given solution will work and under which they will not.  For instance, introducing a product with low prices to build volume with the idea of capturing a learning-curve advantage works well when there are steep cost reductions as volumes increase; or when there are first-mover advantages.  In other situations, it would be disastrous;
  • The consultant doesn’t seem to be able to show you how other companies have applied the ideas he or she is recommending and succeeded
  • You have way too many meetings with the consultant
  • Some of your people (especially your younger people) are resentful around the consultant and sort of roll their eyes (you should always ask your good people their opinion of the job the consultant is doing – often, he or she is just getting information or insights from them and parroting them back to you!)
  • The consultant seems to be spending a lot of time learning about business problems that could create more consulting projects than wrapping up the one at hand
  • You haven’t been given a clear plan to conclude projects with estimated costs for each element
  • The consultant talks down to your people (as in “well, I wouldn’t expect you to understand this”)
  • The consultant hasn’t given you a clear idea of how to implement the ideas or what the organizational changes needed are
  • One or more people have threatened to quit if you a) don’t get rid of the consultant; or b) try to implement the consultant’s recommendations

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