How to Maximize a Consulting Engagement: For Companies

This article is the first in a two-part series on maximizing consulting engagements

If you've reached out to a consultant, you're likely trying to fill a gap in your business. Maybe it's a knowledge gap, maybe it's a pesky project that has been lingering for a little too long, or maybe you're looking for an unbiased view of your business or product. Below, you will find four key strategies to help you maximize a consulting engagement for all parties involved.

1. Know (and own) your company's strengths and weaknesses

It's important to level-set with yourself, whether you're a sole entrepreneur, an executive at a small start-up, or even in a leadership role at a Fortune 500 corporation. I work with so many coaching clients who believe that, if they admit the flaws in their teams or business models, they will somehow be exposed are doomed to fail. So, they trudge on with blinders on, sticking to their core competencies, refusing to look back. Don't get me wrong, a healthy dose of confidence and mental strength is an indispensable trait for any entrepreneur, but failure to see blind spots can be treacherous and inefficient. Knowing exactly what you and your team need help with legitimizes your investment in an outside consultant and makes the engagement meaningful from the start.

2. Set your boundaries

It's not easy to let just anyone into your business. Employees, partners, and investors are heavily vetted and a consultant should be no different. You may not feel comfortable handing over a company email address or even posting rights to an outsider, but it's important that you know your comfort levels before you engage.

3. Establish expectations

We spend a lot of time and energy cultivating our professional relationships and often we tend to rush into consulting relationships simply out of necessity. Establishing your expectations from the start will minimize friction in a new relationship. Do you want the consultant to work from your offices? Set that expectation. Do you want the consultant to check in weekly with specific deliverables or reports? Set that expectation.

4. Outline your needs in as much detail as possible in the SOW

The Scope of Work (SOW) is an agreement between you, the company, and the consultant. Simply put, the strength of the agreement will strengthen the engagement. Generalized contracts leave room for miscommunications and creative interpretations that leave your project at risk for failure.