Top 6 Mistakes Startups Should Avoid When Hiring Consultants

writing-828911_960_720Hiring consultants is a great way to get expert help for your startups — but there are some potential landmines to avoid. Here are some common mistakes to steer clear of when working with consultants.

1. Seeking free advice

Consider this scenario. A startup is ready to move to the next level but needs help defining the path they will need to follow to get there. The smartest way to get answers is to hire a consultant. Unfortunately, some clients choose to “interview” multiple experts instead, asking open-ended questions about how would advise them to proceed. Then, this advice is used to develop a clearer plan — for free. Clients should be respectful of any consultant by paying them for their time and expertise, no matter how small the scope of the project.

2. Neglecting to introduce the consultant to your team

Your consultant will probably need information, such as documents and files, from members of your staff. Avoid being asked a slew of questions about the new consultant and why they are there by introducing everyone right from the start, especially if they will be working together. A simple email will usually suffice.

3. Not insisting on confidentiality

Consultants are not employees and work for many different clients — possibly the competition. The only way to ensure complete confidentiality is by having the consultant sign a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement. If you’ve never worked with one before, there are samples and templates available online.

4. Adding deliverables without compensating for them

It’s the consultant’s job to be specific about what deliverables you can expect to receive as part of a service package — as well as the associated cost. Of course, it’s normal for simple questions to come up, and professional consultants will be happy to answer them quickly. However, problems arise when a client asks for major work that wasn’t included. Always ask the client for a statement of work (SOW). Then, if needs change, you will have somewhere to begin negotiations.

5. Assuming one consultant can do it all

You might be surprised by how many people in business assume a consultant with expertise in one area can handle projects outside that area. For example, it’s unlikely that a marketing consultant an expert in IT. If you need help with information systems or data management, hire someone who specializes in that area. Since there will always be exceptions, and there are transferable skills in any specialty, the best way to determine a consultant’s areas of expertise is during the interview.

6. Sharing work outside the business

Any deliverables you receive from a consultant should never be passed along to someone in another company without permission. Remember, the consultant custom-prepared the work for your business, and it would be unethical to share it with another organization without the compensating the consultant.

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