5 Steps to Hiring the Right Management Consultant

By: Gordon Sheppard

If you are a leader who needs outside expertise to complete a project, then you should consider hiring an experienced Management Consultant. But where do you start?

Quite often busy business leaders don’t know what questions to ask, or even where to look for a qualified Management Consultant. If that sounds like you, fear not!

In this article you’re going to learn what a Management Consultant is, and you’ll also get practical tips and best practices that you can apply when you’re ready to hire the right consultant to make your project a success.

What is a Management Consultant?
A Management Consultant helps leaders plan for projects and execute them. They ensure project success by implementing proven techniques, drawing from experience, and maintaining a high level of communication with their customers. Management Consultants often have a high level of education, including university degrees, along with professional association accreditations, like the Certified Management Consultant designation.

Management Consultants can help in a wide variety of areas including:

  • IT Projects
  • Strategic Planning
  • Finance
  • Improving Operations
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing / Communications Optimization
  • Change Management, including Culture Change
  • Training and Development
  • Much more.

If you work with the right Management Consultant at the right time, then your entire organization will benefit from the results.

5 Steps to Hiring the Right Management Consultant
Here are 5 steps that will help you hire the right Management Consultant for your project.

  1. Determine Why You Should Hire A Management Consultant

  2. Understand Yourself And How You Will Act During The Project
  3. Know The Cost Of Hiring A Management Consultant
  4. Know Where To Find A Management Consultant – Qualifications Matter
  5. Ask The Right Questions At Your First Meeting With A Management Consultant

By following these steps you’ll be in a significantly better position to hire the right Management Consultant for your project.

Step 1: Determine Why You Should Hire A Management Consultant

Before you start looking for a Management Consultant you have to ask yourself, “why should we hire a Management Consultant to help us with this project?”

One way to answer this question is to set up a ‘yes/no’ list

Here’s what you might put on your ‘yes’ list.

  • A Management Consultant will give an outside, objective opinion
  • Our team doesn’t have the right skill set to tackle this problem, so we need to bring in an expert
  • An experienced Management Consultant will make the project move along more quickly, and ultimately lower the overall costs

Here’s what you might put on your ‘no’ list

  • Our staff doesn’t trust outside contractors
  • Management Consultants are too expensive
  • Our staff already has the skills to do this project

By doing this simple exercise you’ll be in a better position to determine whether or not you should hire a Management Consultant.

Step 2: Understand Yourself and How You Will Act During the Project
If you want your project with a Management Consultant to go smoothly, then you must develop great communication skills.

How do you work with contractors right now? Do you always get along? Is it always their fault if something goes wrong?

If you can admit that you will play a big role in helping your project to be a success, then read on.

Since great communication starts with self-understanding, here are a few suggestions about how to get to know yourself better:

  • You could get feedback from a mentor
  • You could take a personality test like Myers-Briggs, Harrison Assessment, DiSC, or True Colors
  • Ask your friends and family for honest feedback

Once you gain self-understanding, then you can make the most out of any engagement with a Management Consultant. Because projects are often complex, which means that things will go wrong.

When things do go wrong will you:

  • Get angry with the Management Consultant?
  • Be silent?
  • Get in touch with the Management Consultant immediately and work things out?

The way that you communicate with the Management Consultant could make or break your project.

Pro Tip - Write Down Your Expectations
Before you hire a Management Consultant, it will be worth writing down how you’d like the relationship to function. Here’s a few suggestions to get you started.

I expect my Management Consultant to:

  • Be honest and tell me when something is wrong
  • Be nice to our staff
  • Deliver on time

Having a written list of expectations will be especially helpful when you have to respond to a proposal and sign a contract.

Step 3: Know the Cost Of Hiring A Management Consultant
Here are four ways that Management Consultant typically charges for their services:

  • Project-Based
  • Per-Hour
  • Retainer
  • Value Based

When you understand how a Management Consultant wants to get paid, then you can choose the right fee structure for your project.

Please note that all fee estimates below are based on my own experience and research from Cerius Executives.

Project Based Fees
With a Project-Based approach the Management Consultant will quote an all-in price to do the entire project. This can be beneficial for a client because they will know how much the entire project is going to cost them from the beginning.

Per-Hour Fees
For projects in which it is difficult to determine the overall scope, a Management Consultant could charge an hourly fee.

For example, let’s say that your staff is resistant to adopting the new accounting software that you just spent a lot of money on. You could hire a Management Consultant to help you do a change management project, to help all of your staff learn how to use the new accounting software.

With this in mind, the Management Consultant could estimate the total number of hours that will be needed. But they would also make a note in the contract that says something like, ‘due to unknown factors this project will be billed out on an hourly basis.’

Approximate Fee Ranges
Depending on what size of organization you work with, here is an approximate range of fees you can expect to pay when you hire a Management Consultant.

  • $100 - $200 per hour if you work with an independent Management Consultant
  • $250 - $400 per hour if you work with a boutique Management Consulting agency
  • $300 - $1000 per hour if you work with a large Management Consulting firm

Retainer Fees
When you find a Management Consultant that you want to work with on a regular basis, then you may want to set up a retainer fee structure.

This is when you reserve a block of hours, or days, that the Management Consultant will be available to work with your company, and you work out a reasonable rate for that time.

For example, you might expect to pay $1,000 to $5,000 per day, depending on the Management Consultant’s experience.

Value-Based Fees
Some Management Consultants are worth their weight in gold. So, based on their experience and skill level, you can expect to pay them for the overall value of their expertise.

It’s worth noting that paying value-based fees might be the only way to get the right Management Consultant who can provide a specific answer to your unique problem.

Step 4: Know Where to Find A Management Consultant – Qualifications Matter
Now that you know that you need an expert, and you have clear expectations, it’s time to actually find a Management Consultant.

The best way to find a Management Consultant is often through a referral. With this in mind you’ll want to reach out to your network of trusted colleagues to see who they recommend.

You may also want to reach out to Management Consulting firms directly and simply describe your project and see if they might be a fit.

Another great way to find a highly qualified Management Consultant is through CMC-Canada’s Membership Directory.

Also, anyone can claim to be a consultant, but only an individual with the highest level of competency can meet the standards required to become a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) in Canada.

The CMC designation requires commitment to the highest professional and ethical standards through adherence to a Uniform Code of Professional Conduct – and should be an important factor when you consider the kind of consultant you'd like to bring in for an engagement.

Step 5: Ask The Right Questions at your First Meeting with a Management Consultant
Meeting with a Management Consultant for the first time can be an intimidating experience. To get the most out of your first discussion, you should prepare a comprehensive list of questions, which can include:

  • How would you describe your approach to consulting?
  • What techniques do you use?
  • How would you handle this engagement?
  • How do get along with colleagues?
  • Will you sign a non-disclosure agreement?
  • Are you covered by professional insurance for errors and omissions and commercial general liability?
  • Can we call one of your references right now?
  • How do you charge for fees?
  • What style of proposal will you be submitting?
  • Does your contract fully protect all parties involved?

Of course, this is just a partial list that you can add to.

You may also want to read out the list of behavioural expectations that you wrote down in Step 2 and see how they respond.

Overall, these questions are meant to help you establish a strong line of communication that will ultimately continue after you hire the Management Consultant.

In this article we offered suggestions about ‘5 Steps To Hiring The Right Management Consultant’, which included:

  1. Determine Why You Should Hire A Management Consultant

  2. Understand Yourself And How You Will Act During The Project
  3. Know The Cost Of Hiring A Management Consultant
  4. Know Where To Find A Management Consultant – Qualifications Matter
  5. Ask The Right Questions At Your First Meeting With A Management Consultant

Taking the time to follow this process is a valuable investment in the overall success of your project because:

  • It will help you set clear expectations in terms of how everyone will act
  • You’ll be in a better position to set the right budget for your project
  • You’ll know where to look to find the best Management Consultant for your project

In the end, both you and the Management Consultant will have a thorough understanding, so there will be no surprises when you receive the project proposal and contract.

After that it’s just a matter of hiring them and getting your project completed on-time and on-budget.

*This article is based on a longer 10-step version titled “How Do I Hire A Management Consultant,” which is available on the Ask A Business Expert Website.

About the Author – Gordon Sheppard

Gordon Sheppard is a Leadership Coach, Consultant, Facilitator, Author, and Podcaster and a member of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants. He helps business leaders get the information, advice and inspiration they need to be successful. He is also the CEO of Ask A Business Expert. To learn more, visit his website.