How To Choose The Best Consultants For Your Project

How To Choose The Best Consultants For Your Project


Vivek Sood




March 6, 2019

Startling Statistics

I came across a startling statistics which prompted a new line of thinking that I wanted to share – hence this article.

Consider these statistics – over 70% of professionals would have worked as a consultant or will work as a consultant, at some point in their careers.

In other words, if you are reading this article, then just look around you, and include people up to 2 rungs below, and up to 5 rungs above you – and think about all those people. About 70% of them have either been a consultant at some point in their careers or will be.

No wonder that with so many consultants around, today, more than ever before, it is extremely difficult to make a choice of the right consultant for your project.

How Do You Differentiate?

So, how do you make sure that you choose the right consultant for the job at hand?

Before we go any further…

Let us start with making an assumption that you have a project, and that you have a choice. That means that no one is twisting your arm to hire the nephew of the chairman, or best friend of the CEO, or that protected species – your auditors. And, let’s further assume that the body of work is not a foregone conclusion. There are times “when a project is not really a project” – I have written an entire post on this topic as well.

Now, if you indeed have an actual project, and a choice – you will reallly be in a conundrum.

When you go to your boss, or to whoever else you go to for funding for the consultant, guess what is the silent CD running inside their brain?

“Are you going to waste my (company) money on a no good person/company (or a friend of yours), and make me look bad, OR, are you going to find someone who will visibly return 10 times the value of what you pay him out my budget, and make me look good?”

Mediocre Results Used To Be Acceptable

There was a time when no one got fired for hiring the big blue (or whichever colour happened to be the favourite in the company). Mediocre results could be easily buried among a lot of other things inside the company. Protestations that you hired the best brand, or you ran the best process, could easily pass muster.

A mediocre consulting result does not cut it any more, even in low-performance companies. Today, everyone (except for your detractors in the company politics) wants you to find a consulting firm that will indisputably add enormous value that far exceeds what your company pays them.

You may not believe this, but most good consulting firms also want you to do exactly the same. Most good consulting companies have more work enquiries than they can actually fulfil – read this blog post if you want to know more about the view from the other side of the table. As a bonus, you will also learn how to get the most out of your chosen management consultants, while spending the least on them.

This current post will focus on how to choose the best management consultants for the job you have at hand.

To enable you to do so, I could actually give you a step by step formula, but it will be a lot easier to understand if I give you a list of the four most common mistakes, and the wrong things so many people focus on.

Once you remove all those common mistakes and wrong things to focus on, all that will be left is a single thing that you should focus on. That will make things so much more crystal clear than any step-by-step set of guidelines.

So what are the common mistakes that people make when choosing the right management consultants for their projects?

1. Too much credence on the past relationship with the consulting firm

I say this when our longest stretch of client ran for over 13 years because every project is a new undertaking. I kept reminding our teams that we are only as good as our most recent results. No one should have the luxury of resting on their laurels, their brand, or their accident of birth.

From a client perspective, there is a slight edge when they do not have to ‘educate’ a consulting firm in their company fundamentals. Yet good consultants come up to speed very rapidly and are used to fast ramp-up. Any other reason for past relationships is simply invalid and will be covered in the next few points.

2. Too much credence to the past history of the consulting firm

Many firms regularly tout their experience of over a century in your industry, or in management consulting in general. This sounds enticing. Yet, many of these very same firms struggle on their projects because the senior partners lack knowledge and time, and the junior staff lack direction. your chance of getting good results just based on the long-established history of the firms is no better than 50-50.

3. Too much credence to the brand of the consulting firm

The brand is a powerful indicator of quality, and no doubt ensures a certain minimum performance in consulting. But, in this age of disruption and specialisation, does it guarantee the best possible outcomes for your projects.

If it was my money, I would do careful due diligence and put it a world-class specialist who is top of his/her field and work closely with them, rather than on a vapid branded team who takes over the game and the glory, and hope for the best.

4. Too much credence to other clients and exploits of the consulting firm

By all means, ask after these – ask for projects history, testimonials and clients in and outside the industry. But know this – none of them is a guarantee that your project will succeed.

There is a reason why none of the four things above matters at all

I did not want to set out to make an exhaustive list. You could add many other things to the list above – which will be either variations or extensions of the four themes above. And, when you read my two main criteria below, you will agree that only these considerations should decide the right consulting firm for each project.

These criteria are simple:


The first point is making sure that the expertise of the individual is up to the mark. In this era of internet copycats almost everyone is saying similar things in similar forums. So, try and find unique things that the person is saying (or writing) in public and use your own innate sense to judge them.

The second point is making sure of their actual availability for your project. The only thing you are leaving to chance after covering these two points is the actual goodwill and best effort of the person. But, it will really be a low life who will take your money, stay two days a week exclusively working on a project and still not expend full goodwill and best effort on the project. Such a person will not survive for too long as a management consultant, or a world-class expert anyway.

In another blog, I have written about How To Get The Most Out Of Your Management Consultants While Spending The Least On Them?

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Vivek Sood

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  • NICE write up i have had similar experience hiring a consultant based on testimonials,reviews and recommendation but he had a problem executing my project accurately i had to request for a refund

  • Good reading indeed. You have put light on such a crucial yet interesting topic that I couldn’t resist stopping myself except reading the whole article. I appreciate it how well you have compiled this article right from top to the end. The four points you mentioned earlier are definitely the core of choosing any good consultant for a company falling in any professional tier. Choosing the best consultant is absolutely a matter of utmost importance and extreme sensitivity. This article would certainly assist anyone who is seeking to pick-out a consultant to attain professional excellence.

  • Well, let me admire you here for the million dollar statement you have added in your blog that states “we are only as good as our most recent results”. Probably, this the actual motivating force that accelerates the output. Companies, fewer if not all, are perhaps tilted more towards bringing their previous accomplishments into limelight rather than showcasing their most recent attainments. And I agree here too that companies instead of reiterating the consultants with whom they have interacted in the past should give chance to the newly emerged consultants as well. The repetition doesn’t always yield the desired outcomes. The new consultants come with new motives, philosophies, concepts and more supportive designs. I meditate that past relationships must be secured but their price must not be paid in the form of overlooking the presence of other valuable consultants offering services for good.

  • hey sood i have a question, what if the budget given to you to hire a qualified consultant does not match the payment fees do you pick a cheaper person ?

  • hello vivek, thanks for this magical written piece i have found it hard getting a suitable consultant for my company. i had often hired based on recommendations from friends but with this insight i guess i have to study more before spending on an unqualified person thanks

  • While assembling this blog, I think you have missed a very basic argument that could make this whole consultant selection process a bit easier and attractive. As per my experience, it is actually the business knowledge and acumen needed to be tested while hunting for a consultant. Lack of business knowledge leads you nowhere no matter how carefully you have crafted all the management policies. The most essential ingredient that makes the consultancy crispier is his ability to share and deliver his expertise in very effective ways. His are the expertise that reflects in every domain under his authority. Obviously, the demonstration of acumen is the best possible approach to attract the attention of the company’s management. I have felt your blog lack this dominating aspect and hence I have added them right here.

  • i agree with you on that their charges are just too much to cope with thats why i settle for the average one

  • A good read indeed. I believe choosing a class specialist consultant is the major milestone achieved. While digging deeper into this management domain, I have found nothing but the fact that only a specialist has the ability to drag your project to the finish line. Independence from every pressure, company or brand (as you have mentioned) is of extreme importance in this regard. You have put it in right words right here in this blog. I admire you for bringing out such actuality to the surface. Hopefully, this blog would aid plenty of companies and consultants to bring change in their thinking and process implementation.

  • The list presented here is not exhaustive but pretty convincing. I am fine with rest of the substantial estimations but here is a declaration at least I cannot swallow easily. How can even you say that the project consultant should spend two hours a day, preferably, on any given project? Project consultancy is not quantifiable in terms of hours or days. It’s a 27/7 responsibility rather than just a job. A consultant is someone who acts as an influencer. The need for an influencer is not confined to hours, in fact, you are not supposed to bind the consultancy into limitations. As limitations affect the productivity in negative terms. I would have fully convinced with your approach if you haven’t confined the consultant. Let the project consultancy be open and set the consultant free of hourly restriction, this is how the innovation will float.

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