So you’re thinking about hiring a consultant, sustainability or otherwise. What is the best way to get the most out of the relationship?

One of the tenets of Green Buoy is “strong businesses grow when owners do what they do best.” I am a complete believer in that a smart business owner is laser-focused on making their business run and they either hire employees or consultants to do the rest.

Yes, you can do sustainability by reading blogs and books and taking extra time to do it yourself. But if you’re in any kind of growth or scale phase, why take your time away when you can hire someone. Then everyone can focus on their zone of genius. That’s my two cents on that.

The safest way to get the best out of a consultant is to know yourself and your goals well. A clear understanding of what you want out of the interaction will go a long way.

Get clear on your goals

You should have a clear understanding of your company goals, goals for the consultant interaction and how they fit together. If the consultant isn’t going to help push your company goals ahead, why hire them?

Usually, for something like sustainability, the consultant assists with a specific project or product. Everyone should be clear on those goals, what the consultant’s result should be and how they will work on it.

The consultant should have an idea of how their role fits into the company’s goal. This will help them align with the entire company and make a better plan of action.

Know and Share Your Communication Style

Do you work 7 days a week? Do you prefer email, phone or video calls? Do you want a weekly report or wrap up? Do you want an email reply within a specific time? These are not good or bad they are just you and the best way to have a great consultant relationship is to lay this on the table to your consultant.

Your employees probably know this, your consultant might not. Having set communication plans will make everyone feel more comfortable. It may seem like overkill, but better to get it out at the beginning.

Be Clear on Which Employees Are Involved

The consultant should be aware of everyone they are interacting with, who they should go to for questions or who will be a “listen-only,” part of the interaction. Again, like communication styles, it’s just best to lay it out and have an understanding.

It also helps you allocate precious employee time and internally track accomplishments.

Deliverables & Feedback

These next two might seem obvious but I can’t overlook this! Discuss the process, the deliverable, the length of time and any check-ins or communication during that time. Make sure everyone is on the same page about dates for all of the above.

How will deliverables work? How many rounds of feedback will they be? A lot of this is at your discretion or the consultant’s, but the most important part is to have an answer to all of this. Don’t waste your time or theirs by being unclear. A good rule of thumb: if you think you’ve over-explained, you’re probably right on track.

Know What You Don’t Like

Is there anything about office culture or anything that people do that drive you insane? Long presentations? No email subjects? We all have ours! Don’t hesitate to include these in your communication styles. Just re-frame them as preferences. An understanding of this, in general, is helpful when hiring a consultant. It helps ask for deliverables as you like them.

Welcome the Outside View

Hiring a consultant is a great opportunity for an outsider to view your company. If you care enough or feel comfortable, ask for their feedback! Does your “amazing office culture” translate to outsiders? Are your presentation styles working for them? What drew the consultant to your company? For the most part, people love to feel included and important and asking for feedback is a way to utilize that need.

Important Questions to Ask

  1. What Interests You About Working With Our Company?
  2. Who Else Have You Worked With?
  3. What’s Your Communication Style?
  4. Length of Typical Engagement?
  5. Describe the Benefits of Your Service

Hiring a consultant is a unique experience for each company, but there are general best practices to follow. Do you agree that these are helpful? What would you add to this list? Share in the comments!

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This article was originally published on Green Buoy Consulting’s blog.