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October 2, 2017
Ask ACE

How to: Evaluate a consulting proposal and make a hiring decision

Steve Musica, a principal at Lean East, a Topsham firm that provides continuous improvement coaching and support, can be reached at Steve@LeanEast.com

The Association for Consulting Expertise (ACE) is a non-profit association of independent consultants who value “Success through Collaboration.” The public is welcome to attend its regular meetings to share best practices and engage with industry experts. For more information go to www.consultexpertise.com.

Q: I just received a proposal for consulting services. How should I evaluate the proposal and make a hiring decision?

ACE advises: Hopefully, you've already had a scoping session — so the consultant understands your needs and desired results, and can determine the scope of work and deliverables.

Always focus on results to be delivered rather than recommendations. We've seen too many dusty binders of recommendations sitting on shelves. Consider how you will pay and what you will receive. Are services included that develop and train your staff? Some implemented services provide an immediate return-on-investment, so costs don't need a separate budget category. Asking about typical costs or sharing your budgetary range now will avoid surprises later.

Evaluate the proposal by ensuring that the deliverables meet your expectations. Are you paying for hours worked or results delivered? Focus on accomplishments, rather than services offered.

Next, look at the consultant's experience. Is there a proven process for achieving results? Has the consultant shared examples of similar work and testimonials from other clients?

Is the timeline acceptable? The further the consultant travels, the stricter the schedule will be. You might need to pay more if flexibility is important to you.

Do the costs fit the budget? If a single cost is quoted, ensure that the deliverables are correct to avoid expensive scope changes later. If hourly costs are quoted, you may ask for a "not-to-exceed" cost that includes all expenses.

Finally, confirm that legal requirements are met, including corporate insurance, confidentiality disclosures, and any copyrights of materials.

With these steps complete, look forward to a successful engagement.

Steve Musica, a principal at Lean East, a Topsham firm that provides continuous improvement coaching and support, can be reached at Steve@LeanEast.com

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