Category Archives: consultants

This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph's, "Don't Do It the Hard Way". Read the book.

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse them

Help them, help you

ConsultantsSince doing my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship.

Here are some ideas that may help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three "C's" of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more "C" – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours - are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don't want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don't let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for "CYA" requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he "supervises" from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent "back at the office" and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don't be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.



It's done.

I finally expanded the quick 10-Minute summary into a Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.


  • A clear concise 50-page Guide that describes all the requirements for a great Business Plan .
  • Valuable ideas and information on the personal and strategic business decisions required before you start
  • Recommended Templates for your Financial Projections
  • A quick summary 10-Minute Guide to Business Plan basics
  • An actual sample Business Plan that delivered results

Check it out at:

Why Do-It-Yourself?

As a management consultant, I have often been hired to help with Business plans. (As an entrepreneur, I've also written a few of my own.) But if you hire someone, it still needs to be "your" plan. Nobody can go away and write it for you.

It needs to reflect the entrepreneur's passion, competence, knowledge and commitment to the business. A consultant can help with the planning process, words, numbers, and presentation, but investors, lenders and strategic partners need to know the entrepreneur behind the plan, not the consultant.

Learn how. And do it yourself.

If importing a celebrity CEO is seldom a good idea, why would you want to use that hired gun called management consultant? He (or she) may know even less about your business and may have never even been a manager or business owner. How can they contribute anything?

Since I spend a lot of my time selling that service and playing that role I had better have a good answer to that question. Some of my thoughts on the subject are already documented in the article ""Consultants: How to choose, use and not abuse them." See: Ezine articles.

The consultant cannot know your business, your environment or your issues better than you. But he (or she) can add the value of their own knowledge, experience and skills to better analyse the problems or opportunities and develop solutions and action plans with you. The consultant should assist with brainstorming, open up new possibilities to consider, suggest some different strategies, tactics and techniques to get where you want to go. They should be practical and fit your business needs, budget, timetable, priorities, capabilities and corporate culture.

A good consultant should challenge and stimulate you to do better. You are not hiring a friend to remind you how smart you are or to tell you that you already have the right solution.

More than that? You will have to pay me. I am a consultant after all.