What to Do When Hiring a Consultant Doesn’t Work?

What to Do When Hiring a Consultant Doesn’t Work?

So you hired a consultant. Not just any consultant, but one from a big-shot company because you wanted the job to be done right. 

But things don’t turn out quite as expected—the consultant you hired didn’t at all meet your expectations as you would’ve hoped. “But I hired someone from so-and-so consulting firm, and everyone always talks about how great their work is… why didn’t it work out?”

In the fast-paced business landscape of today, more and more executives are turning to consultants as their go-to solution when faced with complex challenges. The promise of expertise and innovative solutions can be exciting, but it’s also what makes it even more frustrating when this temporary partnership doesn’t unfold as expected.

In this article, we’ll delve into four critical considerations for you as an executive to keep in mind when the consultant you hired does not meet your anticipated outcomes.

What does a consultant do?

Before delving into the reasons why hiring a consultant may not have gotten you the results you desired, it’s important to establish a clear understanding of what a consultant’s role entails. 

The basic definition of a consultant would be an industry expert who’s there to provide expert guidance on how to solve specific problems, or offer strategic advice. Notice how the definition doesn’t include anything hands-on—giving advice, making suggestions, setting up strategy, and offering counsel. They’re specialized—as in they have the know-how, skills and experience to address a particular challenge within an organization— and they have unique insight, but that’s as far as it goes. 

Sometimes, executives and CEOs aren’t aware of this, and so they end up with a subpar experience hiring consultants even from the most renowned consulting companies. We wrote a whole article addressing the many roles a consultant can or may partake in, and how to choose the right consultant for your company. You can read it here

But this article isn’t here to talk about the role of a consultant—we’re here to discuss what to do after you hire a consultant, and for one reason or another, it doesn’t work out, and what to do next time you decide to hire one again.

Four Things to Keep In Mind After a Bad Experience with a Consultant

1. Seek Insights from Those with Successful Experiences Hiring Consultants

One of the cornerstones of effective decision-making is learning from the experiences of others. What better way to learn than to learn from those who were in our shoes and successfully made it to the opposite end? 

When you’re contemplating hiring a consultant, it’s important and invaluable to engage in open and candid discussions with experts and professionals who have successfully employed consultants in the past. These conversations could give you a unique opportunity to glean insights into the nuanced aspects of working with consultants. These professionals can shed light on what worked well for them, the challenges they encountered, and the strategies they employed to maximize the benefits of the consulting engagement.

These discussions can help you set realistic expectations for what a consultant can and can’t do for your company, and can even help you choose a consultant who’s a better fit for your company. 

2. Study Success Stories and Case Studies

While every business situation is unique, there are often commonalities between challenges faced by different organizations. To gain a deeper understanding of how to approach hiring a consultant, it’s beneficial to study success stories and case studies of companies that hired consultants to address issues similar to your own.

By immersing yourself in these real-world examples, you’ll begin to better understand the methodologies and strafes that yielded positive results for these said companies, which can help refine the selection process when choosing the right consultant for your company for next time. Case studies are also a great way to learn from the challenges and setbacks of others, and can offer you more clarity on the realistic benchmarks and expectations you need to set for your own future projects. 

3. Treat Hiring a Consultant as a Trial and Error Experiment

Whenever you’re hiring a consultant, we recommend you always come in with a mindset of experimentation, rather than expecting a guaranteed solution. In the complex world of business, one-size-fits-all answers are rare, and consulting engagements are no exception.

The best thing you can do to ensure a more successful partnership with a consultant in the future, is to have very clear, measurable objectives right at the outset. It’s important that you already have benchmarks that can act as a basis for assessing progress and project success. It’s also great to have an assessment system in place that can help you keep track of the consultant’s progress and the alignment of your project with your objectives. 

Consultants usually come in with their own toolkit of methodologies and tactics to get your company to the end results it desires, but of course, as mentioned earlier, there really is no one-size-fits-all methodology, and so your consultant will probably tweak and adjust things so that it better aligns with your project goals. Remain open and embrace iterations and adjustments if needed.

In any case, it’s good to learn from setbacks and to reflect on your last encounter with your consultant and assess what went wrong. Always make sure that you’re learning and constantly making an effort to improve each time around. 

4. Don’t Give Up, Take a Step Back

It’s frustrating when a consulting project doesn’t deliver the expected results. However, giving up prematurely shouldn’t be the solution. Instead, consider taking a step back and reevaluating the situation.

During this pause, engage in reflective discussions with the consultant and your internal team. Assess what has worked, what hasn’t, and why. This introspection can lead to valuable insights and help refocus efforts on achieving the desired outcomes.

Remember that persistence pays off and often leads to breakthroughs. Also taking a short break from the project might help recharge your creativity so that you return with renewed enthusiasm. This is but the world of business—it pushes you to become more comfortable with setbacks, challenges, and unexpected twists and turns.

Growth and Improvement is the Goal

Hiring a consultant can be a powerful strategy for addressing complex business challenges. But, it’s not a guaranteed solution. By seeking insights from experienced professionals, studying relevant success stories, treating the consultant partnership as an experiment, and persevering through frustration, you can maximize the potential benefits of working with a consultant.

Remember that the journey of a consulting engagement may be as important as the destination. Embrace the opportunity for growth and improvement, both in terms of the project’s outcomes and the development of your organization’s capabilities. With the right mindset and strategic approach, you can navigate the challenges of hiring a consultant and position your organization for long-term success.