3 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Business Consultant


So you’re thinking about hiring a business consultant.

Prepare to hand over the reins and watch the profits roll in — right?

Not so fast. Before you hire anyone, make sure you ask these three questions (and then read about my admittedly terrible experience with an outsourced marketing firm).

What experience do you have in my industry?

As our CEO likes to say, “Never call a doctor to fix your car.” In other words, if you’re going to hire a business consultant, hire someone who knows your field inside and out. Doing anything else is going to give you hit or miss results. The path to success or failure looks different for SaaS companies than it does for a bakery. It’s true that there’s a few solid business principles out there in the ether–but their application looks different across different industries!

What can you show me as evidence of your success?

Talk is cheap! Just because someone says they know plenty about your field of business doesn’t mean you should seal the deal. Ask to know as many details as you can gather about which companies the consultant has worked with, and be wary of a jack of all trades. It’s pretty hard to be an expert mechanic and a world-class doctor. Businesses are complicated, and yours is unique. Trust someone who specializes.

How will you measure your success?

If the consultant’s primary gage of success is a long-term plan of continued engagement, run the other way. For many consultants, keeping a business engaged in a never-ending stream of projects is the end game (after all, they’re only employed if they’re solving your problems!) Asking questions about how success will be measured, right from the get-go, can help you gage a consultant’s motivation and nip scope creep in the bud.

How do we know so much about what to do (and not do) when working with consultants? Matt Rissell has had plenty of first-hand experience. Read more about how hiring an outsourced consultant almost sunk TSheets.

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  1. LNWeaver says:

    That’s a good point that business principles are applied differently across industries. Like you said, a SaaS firm doesn’t have the same needs as a bakery. In any case, consultants can cut down overhead since they reduce the need for developing inhouse talent.


  2. My mom has been looking into switching from a managing position into consulting. I like that you suggested asking what companies they’ve worked with, so you get a better idea of their success. I’m sure people will be asking my mom this question, and will probably give the clients more confidence in having her help them.


  3. Earnest Watkins says:

    You make a good point how you should ask for evidence of success before hiring a business consultant. I would definitely feel a lot more comfortable hiring a consultant if they could show me examples of ways they’ve been successful in the past. Would asking for references be a good way to go about establishing examples of past successes?


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