Use Caution: Business Consultant with Hammer

Matching business consultants with businesses

From Allan Tsang, a member of Presidents' Council, a business acceleration and technology incubator program of VT KnowledgeWorks:

In this economy, how do you pick a consultant you can trust?  Here is how business experts pick business consultants when they've got problems to solve: 

Maturity.  Maturity may not be counted in years, but it can help.  Time is a great teacher.  Why?  Because you want to benefit from their mistakes so you can avoid them. 

Wisdom comes from experience, experience comes from mistakes…that means the more mistakes they have made, the better.  It usually means their advice is more than theoretical.  They have been tempered in the fires of success and failure.

Questions…questions…questions.  Do they ask more questions than give answers?  Their job is to ask great questions to help draw forth the right questions for you and for your company.

I do not count on consultants to hand me the solutions on a silver platter.  My business is unique and so will be the solutions.  By answering their tough questions, I will inevitably come up with great solutions because I know my business better than they do.

Accountability.  They establish this with you when they say what they do and do what they say.  I realized very quickly people are better talkers than they are doers.  Calling you when they say they are going to, being on time for meetings, getting the information they said they were going to get…those are all signs of accountability.

Do you like them?  Yes…like!  Can you have a conversation with this guy or gal?  Is he or she your equal? I do not want a parent figure to advise me.  Can I share my problems, issues and concerns comfortably?  This is a gut thing.  Call it trust or whatever you like.  But once the other above three criteria are in place, what else is there?  I want someone who cares for me and my business; just not so much.  After all, we're not family.88owls matches professional business consultants with businesses

Industry knowledge.  Do they have it?  This is a plus but not always necessary with a consultant.  If they have a lot of industry knowledge but it's NOT broad, forget it.  They would be much better as a subject matter expert or consultant. If they have a lot of experience across the board AND also in your industry, that is better.  Avoid the consultant with with only a hammer.  All your issues start looking like nails.

Allan Tsang is the founder of, a community of business consultants with more than 10 years of industry experience. matches business consultants with businesses seeking consulting services.  You can follow 88owls on Twitter @88owls.

This post originally appeared on Handshake 2.0.

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