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How do you make it all fall easily into place?

Preparation

If you prepare correctly then hiring a Consultant should be easy and trouble-free; after all, the whole aim of hiring a Consultant is to help you achieve your goals- not to add needless headaches, stress and cost, right? So here are a few simple tips for hiring a Consultant:
  • Know exactly what you want the Consultant to achieve;
  • Choose the right Consultant;
  • Sign a contract;
  • Monitor Progress.
Sounds complicated? It isn't.

Know what you want the Consultant to achieve

Clearly you have an idea of what you want a Consultant to achieve for you or you wouldn't be considering hiring one. But a general idea of what you want often isn't enough. When a general discription is given it can be interpreted differently by different people, and this is a recipe for potential problems further down the track. Before you authorise a Consultant to commence work make sure you know exactly what you want him/her to achieve, and write it down. The act of writing down your requirements (or 'brief') can help to clarify in your own mind what you want. We're not always aware of exactly what we want, or of how realistic it is, until we write it down. It's a running gag in the Recruitment Industry, for example, that every employer wants to hire a sixteen year old with twenty years experience.

You may consider writing a 'brief' to be a needless waste of time, or too difficult, or something best left to the lawyers; it isn't. It will be useful all the way through the project, and could potentially prevent many problems and misunderstandings. It is also essential that the Consultant has a detailed brief so that he/she can prepare a detailed quotation or tender. If the project is large enough to warrant having lawyers examine your documents, then by all means do so- but even for small projects it is important that you put your brief in writing at the earliest possible stage. Give your brief to any Consultant(s) you are considering hiring to be sure they understand exactly what you want and that they can give you a detailed quote/tender; they may still need to ask questions, or may recommend changes, even at this early stage, to ensure the project runs smoothly. Ensure any changes you agree to are incorporated into your written brief as your brief will form part of your contract with the Consultant (see the 'Sign A Contract' section below).

Free download: 'HOW TO WRITE A CONSULTING BRIEF' -a $100 value.

Choose the right Consultant

Clearly, choosing the right Consultant for your job is of paramount importance to the success of your project. But how do you know which Consultant is right for your needs? This used to be difficult to know, as almost anybody can call themselves a Consultant; most industries are not regulated at all. Bearing in mind that any Consultant you employ will likely be privy to commercially sensitive information regarding your business, and will likely be steering your business on a course that could determine its prosperity, even its viability, over the coming months and years it is crucial to know that the person you are hiring is who they represent themself to be. A good Consultant can help grow your business and resolve structural conflicts in your systems. A bad Consultant can be, at best incompetent; at worst can steal your commercially sensitive data, customer records and any other information of value to your competitors. It is expensive and time-consuming to investigate a Consultant's background before hiring them, and yet failure to do so could be very costly. This is why you should always employ a Consultant who is a member of the IFEC. Not only have all IFEC MEmbers been extensively background checked (Criminal History; Credit History; Qualifications; Experience and Character), they are also obliged to adhere to the IFEC Code of Ethics, and offer you a range of additional benefits to ensure that your relationship will be consummately professional at all times, including an objctive and free dispute resolution service.

FIND AN IFEC MEMBER or POST A CONSULTING BRIEF or CONTACT US to prepare a shortlist for you- all at no cost.

Sign A Contract

You've already prepared a Consulting Brief and chosen a consultant (either through direct contact or through competitive tender) and now it's time to start the work on the project, right? Well... almost. Before you authorise work to start you should ensure that all the details are recorded and agreed by both parties via a contract. Once again, this can seem a daunting task, and one best left to the lawyers. A lawyers assistance can, of course, be of great value when it comes to written contracts, particularly where the value of the project is substantial. For smaller projects, however, the cost of a lawyer may not be warranted, or you may choose to minimise legal costs by having a lawyer check over a contract you've prepared yourself, rather than write one from scratch. Even if you choose to not seek legal advice a contract is a still a valuable way to ensure all parties are on the same page, and can prevent misunderstandings. Even a contract that isn't legally air-tight on all points can still have great value and can afford considerable protection to all parties concerned. Generally speaking, the IFEC Consultant will prepare a contract for your signature, but you may prefer to prepare a contract yourself. Your contract should include all important details, including the Consulting Brief that was agreed upon earlier, start and finishing dates and, preferably, dates of project milestones (to assist in monitoring the Consultant's progress- in this way you can pick up on problems at the earliest opportunity). Your contract should also contain dates and/or milestones when payments are due and, of course, agreed payment amounts. The contract should be signed and dated by both yourself and the Consultant in the presence of a witness and copies retained be each party. The contract protects the interests of both parties and helps to ensure that no misunderstanding occurs.

Free download: 'CONTRACT TEMPLATE' -a $500 value!

Monitor Progress

The contract is agreed and signed and the Consultant has started work. Done and done. Errr.... nearly.

We've all heard the saying "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings", right? And so it is with any project. It's your project and your money, so its up to you to monitor progress and ensure the project is on track and on time at each step of the way- failure to monitor the project could, despite all best efforts to date, allow the project to drift off course. The sooner course-corrections are made the less damaging and expensive the errors will be. Hopefully you have identified milestones in the project where you have agreed to review the work to date, and perhaps to make a payment to the Consultant if the work meets the agreed requirements. This will enable you to monitor the project 'organically'. Even if you haven't included such milestones in the contract you can still insist on regular project briefings from the consultant at appropriate intervals. This is good practice. When reviewing the project's progress be sure to provide any constructive feed-back to the Consultant at the time. It's easier and less expensive for him/her to make adjustments/amendments as you go than it is to be told at the end of the project that something isn't right. If you don't say anything when reviewing progress, the Consultant will assume you have 'signed off' on the work to date (and Courts may well agree)- so be aware of the importance of checking work thoroughly and providing appropriate feedback. If you do give any feedback, particularly if that requires a change, be sure to document your comments. A simple way to do this is to confirm your comments in an email to the Consultant; this will provide a record of any changes or issues discussed, which can prevent disagreements or help to resolve them. Many contracts specify how communication is to be made, and you should ensure that you also communicate any feedback in accordance with your contractual requirements.

Be careful, however, not to 'micro-manage' the project: looking over the Consultant's shoulder and second-guessing every decision is not helpful, and is likely to damage your relationship with the Consultant (and a good working-relationship is important to both of you). Remember that you have employed the Consultant because of their expertise, and you have agreed on the project brief. Now, trust in their professionalism to complete the job: monitoring their progress should be a safe-guard rather than an intrusion.

If you've followed all these steps and still an unexpected problem arises that you can't resolve by talking to the Consultant directly then REPORT it to the IFEC and let us help you resolve it.

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