Last week we considered the question “Are you ready to hire a consulting firm?” and proposed a series of questions to inform a self-evaluation session, in which you reflected on the strengths and weaknesses of your business and yourself.

Now it’s time to make a list of questions for your potential consultants. Here are some to start with:

  1. What was your previous professional experience prior to consulting?
  2. Are you a specialist or a generalist?
  3. What is your prior experience with clients of our company’s size?
  4. What kind of specific problems have you helped solve in the past?
  5. Do you have a broad knowledge of other industries?
  6. Do you have knowledge of our industry?
  7. Do you have experience in our type of business (B2B, B2C or SaaS)?
  8. Have you written anything, published or not, that deals with issues we face?
  9. Can you tell me about your process and strategy?
  10. Can you provide references?
  11. Do you work alone or are other members of your firm involved?
  12. How do you divide tasks?
  13. Do you subcontract any aspects of the job?
  14. Are you collaborative? What does that look like to you?
  15. How do you evaluate success in consulting?
  16. What’s your preferred method of communication?
  17. How often will you report on progress, and how?
  18. What is your payment structure?
  19. What happens if we terminate the contract?
  20. Why should we hire you over other consultants?
  21. What access do you need to our data?
  22. Will you sign a letter of confidentiality?
  23. What do you think is the biggest change that has happened in my industry recently?

Review your self-evaluation and expand this list with your own questions. Consider which questions and which factors carry the most weight for you. For example, is it more beneficial if your consultant has deep knowledge of your specific industry or general industry experience? How much do you value a consultant’s previous professional experience?

Once you start interviewing, take notes on each prospect’s replies. Consolidate responses in a spreadsheet for effective comparison. Hiring a consultant is a big investment, with proportionate risks and benefits, so it pays to be thorough and diligent. However, don’t let that become an obstacle: the longer you wait before getting professional help, the more entrenched your problems are likely to be.

As you consider the vital questions of whether and how to hire outside consultants, feel free to call me. As a chief operating officer and business unit leader with 30 years of managerial and consulting experience, I’ve spent a lot of time immersed in these issues, and I’d be happy to discuss your situation with you.