Is your consultant an expert?

One of the hardest things to know is if a consultant you are bringing into a project is an expert or not.

Do they know their stuff, or are they just stuffing their incompetence?

Within the last couple of months, I had the opportunity to evaluate a consulting house, who was trying to sell into the Supply Chain arena. I had dealt with the company before in another capacity for some IT needs at a different company. The people they had brought to us were competent. In some of the areas, they were brilliant.

However, I had a new client and by coincidence, this company had a shot at presenting to this new young company, their expertise in the Supply Chain market. I was not aware that they dealt in Supply Chain, so a real Supply Chain expert and myself had the opportunity to ask some questions after their presentation to us. Their prices were very good, but they had the tag of monthly/yearly support which seemed high.

The conversation was great for about 45 minutes. For 45 minutes, I was coming closer and closer to acquiescing to their skill set and that indeed, they had the skills.

However, the Supply Chain guy I was with started to dig. And dig he did. Fifteen minutes later, I saw the chink in their armor and bam… I had realized what they were doing.

This company did have some Supply Chain expertise, but not enough to consult in this area. To correctly phrase what they could do is to say that they could install and support and a specific software product for Small Package Distribution companies.

It was this product that they were selling to a 3PL business with very different characteristics. If this young company had gone with them, there would have been project after project after project, until the well dried up. This firm was looking for the residuals and trying to sell a specific item, to get these. This firm was trying to convince this young company of a one size fits all approach. That is why their costs were so low.

So the moral of the story is….

Make sure that the person who you are hiring has adequate experience in your sector. If you don’t feel confident in knowing this, find the guy whom everyone in the industry considers the expert. Have that person come in just to evaluate who you are going to hire.

Don’t just look for experience in your specific area, but look for general experience and how successful they are.  With the breadth of process involvement that I have and the project management background, I know that I can pick up even the most complex processes quickly and troubleshoot them.  Not because I know the specifics now, but because my skill set in the fundamentals is do deep.

The $10K you spend on that heavyweight for 4 hours may save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.