The High Cost of Consulting by Kevin McManus
I will be right up front with you here -- this page is intended to help sell you on my services as much as it is intended to inform and educate you. At the time, there is a very altruistic motive behind the words and thoughts on this page. For over twenty years, I was on the other side of the consulting - customer fence. As a matter of fact, I frankly did not think much of business consultants. In my mind and as a general rule, they greatly overpriced their services, significantly overstated what they would do for you, and often attempted to sell you things that you could either buy elsewhere at a much lower cost or obtain for free if you were willing to do the research.
It is my goal to be a different type of consultant. When I chose to go into this line of work, I had already decided that more than anything else, I did not want to be like those consultants that had helped form my negative perceptions of this line of work. There are some great, value added consultants out there, but to this day, I believe that they are much more the exception than the norm. I will also say that many of them don't realize that they are ineffective or 'run of the mill.' Like me, their perceptions of consulting service value is only based on what they have experienced over their lifetimes.
In fact, I learned my favorite definition of value from a good consultant - John Guaspari. John was on the AQP Board with me for several years, and during that time, he taught me a simple definition of value that I still use today, both personally and professionally. John defines value as "what you get for what it costs." For example, if you pay $800 for one day of consulting services, you should at a minimum get $800 of savings, training, or tools. In a similar sense, if you invest 8 hours of time in a training session, you should get at least 8 hours of real learning from that time. If you don't receive tools that really make a difference, or if you only remember 15 minutes of those 8 hours three months later, the consulting transaction was not value added.
To help make my services more value added, I try to give you usable tools instead of merely giving you concepts that can be found with a basic Google search. In my training, I include lots of time for practice as opposed to listening to lecture, because people rarely remember the content of a lecture AND most of the tools consultants teach require practice in order for them to really work. Additionally, I try to give you things that are different, simple, and designed to make a difference. It is one of my goals to share my learnings with you - to help keep you from making the same mistakes I have either made or seen made during my business career as a plant manager, director of quality, training manager, and industrial engineer.
The responsibility is not all yours. I have often heard educators and trainers say that if the students don't learn, then it is their fault - they should have listened more closely, done their homework, or asked more questions in class. While these factors do influence the likelihood of a concept or tool being 'learned', I feel that the trainer, teacher, or consultant bears the brunt of learning responsibility. It is the consultant that designs the course in terms of what is offered, how training time is spent, and how the exercises and questions are facilitated. Blaming it on the students is a cop-out for failing to optimize your course design, content, and materials.
"How are you different?" is a key question that you should ask of any consultant that is trying to get you to do business with them. A good consultant should be able to compare and contrast the tools they offer, the courses they present, or the type of advice they give against similar offerings on the market. Most importantly, a good consultant should be able to directly show you how working them will save you time and money -- more time and money than you are going to invest in obtaining their services. It is your responsibility to ask these types of questions, just as it is the consultant's responsibility to be able to effectively answer them.
Consulting services should carry a 100% guarantee. If you don't get the amount of value you expect from a consulting transaction, then that consultant should either work with you for free until you feel you have obtained that value, or they should be willing to give you your money back - it's that simple. As one form of adding value, your consultant should be willing to offer you free advice after the sale to some extent - in other words, they should not try to nickel and dime you for every billable hour . If they promise you outrageous outcomes, then you should hold them to delivering on those outcomes.
How much should a consultant cost? The short answer is "It depends on how much value they can provide." In general, consulting fees range between $75 and $150 per hour. I honestly believe however that there are way too many consultants out there who charge fees that are on the high end of this spectrum even though in a comparative sense, they have no business doing so. The best consultants offer a sliding scale for their fees based on (1) the size of the organization, (2) the size of the group directly receiving the services, and (3) the quality and breadth of the services themselves. For example, what type of handouts (take aways) will your consultant give you? Will you simply get a sketchy set of powerpoint slides or will you get a workbook of tools? Will you get post-transaction advice for free (up to a point), or will you have to continue to pay by the hour? Are you getting a collection of concepts that can be obtained over the Internet or from a book purchase, or are you getting specific 'how to' tools and cutting edge / best practice examples?
If you want to get more out of the consulting dollars you spend and increase the likelihood that your improvement efforts will be successful, take the time to ask me some questions (my opinions are essentially free) by sending me an e-mail and we can take it from there. I want to make a significant difference in any organization that I work with, and most of all, I want to be a different kind of consultant.
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“The only thing I know is that I do not know it all.” -- Socrates