October 25, 2013
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My mentor gave me some valuable advice about how to run my business.

To be a successful leader you don’t have to know how to do everything; you just have to know someone who does.

Enter consultants.

The challenge is that hiring consultants can be a daunting task so you need to have the right checklist handy when doing so.

You already know the obvious criteria like checking references.

But you may not know the less obvious questions to ask when hiring. Here are three.

1. Does she have proof of resources? After they are hired, many consultants will take much longer to do a job than expected or initially promised. It’s because to seal the deal they might overpromise. For example, you hire a contractor to remodel your office space. The crew shows up the next day and completes the tear down but after that they don’t show up for two weeks. This is because the same crew is starting ten other remodel jobs during that time. The manager said “yes” to all to line up long-term work for the crew.

Be sure to get some sort of assurance up front that the job will be completed in a timely manner without interruption.

2. Does she have the relevant experience in your specific industry? This sounds obvious but industry experience is very specific nowadays.

You know not to hire an accountant to market your new dating website.  But you may not realize that a social media consultant who tweets about hot iPhone apps to his thousands of followers may not be the best one to socialize your BlackBerry app. The same goes for B2B and B2C. Someone may know how to sell flower bouquets to corporations for events but may not know how to sell them to brides for weddings.

3. Could you be stranded on a deserted island with her? Don’t just think about getting along. Think about being stranded with her in a remote place during a stressful time when your lives are at stake. Can you quickly decide who will gather the coconuts and who will build a shelter or would you instead argue about how to go about it?

Make sure there is personal chemistry with the actual consultant assigned to you and not just the person who sold you the service. One way to do this is to spend as much time as possible with the actual consultant who will be assigned to help you before you sign a contract.

Lastly, if finding the perfect human consultant is too much of a burden, consider on-line self-service tools instead like Salesforce.com for customer relationship management, QuickBooks for bookkeeping, and Tooliers.com for business consulting.

You can’t hire a website to paint a room but it may surprise you how far web-based services have gone, especially with advancements in mobile computing, network bandwidth and analytics.