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October 1, 2018 Ask ACE

Here's how to achieve success in hiring a consultant

Q: Consultants are expensive. How do I get a good return on my investment?

ACE advises: These actions will take you 70% of the way:

  • Share your highest hopes — and worries — with the prospective consultant, then ask questions, questions and more questions.
  • Focus on outcomes, not activities. Place a value on success. Together, identify outcomes that you value at 300% ROI or more, and the measures to be used.
  • Invite the consultant to propose the approach; communicate boundaries but don't micromanage.
  • Talk with at least two professionals — you will learn a lot, for free.
  • Clarify the consultant's role AND your responsibilities. Be clear whether you want the consultant to:
  • Do it for you (such as when a surgeon operates on you or your plumber fixes that leaky faucet)
  • Be more of a partner/educator (when your surgeon teaches you about relevant research and explores with you how family members could provide the essential post-operative care; or your plumber says, “I can't do this alone, but if you watch what's happening in the sink while I'm underneath I think we can do it together”)
  • Act as adviser (when your surgeon makes a diagnosis and offers several options, or your plumber suggests alternatives to simply fixing what's broken).
  • Competence is expensive. Saving money with a low-cost jack-of-all-trades is almost always a bad choice. Hire a specialist with relevant experience and training, not a general practitioner.
  • If your consultant will not guarantee the results, walk away.

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