Choosing a Consultant/Contractor

As a long-time Consultant/Contractor, I have had the opportunity to see the pros and cons for companies, when considering contracted help. Whether you call us Consultants, Contractors, Freelancers, . . . we are generally temporary, short-term help brought into a company to address, or help to address, a specific need. I have met many consultants over the years and I have to admit, I have mixed emotions about many of them. There are some people out there who are very talented – no doubt about that. Then there are a some who are very good at one thing – but don’t have a clue about the big picture. Finally, there are those who just don’t have a clue!
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So, the first issue is to find someone who can help you with what you need. I offer up this observation though – don’t get too caught up in finding someone with every item you have listed in your requirements document. Take a look at the bigger picture. Think about hiring someone who might be able to do more than one thing for you as well.

For instance, you may think you need someone with more than 5 years of internet marketing with a focus on B to C. The person who looks good from that standpoint may have that as their only Marketing experience – which may be ok. But, there may be someone who has 10 years of total experience in a variety of things including Product Marketing, MarCom, maybe a little customer support and has been doing internet marketing for the last 2 years only. I would bet that this person might bring a more interesting skill set and a better frame of reference to your company.

The same goes for industry knowledge. I find many companies get caught up with requiring that you have several years doing a specific job in a specific industry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad thing – I just think it is a good idea to sometimes look ‘outside the box’. Many of us have a strong enough background to be able to come up to speed on a different product or technology very quickly. It is the skill set and the ability to generate ideas and implement improvements that is really key to a successful consultant. Bringing in someone from a different industry can sometimes bring in a whole new batch of ideas, processes, systems, etc. that could very well be exactly what your business needs in order to improve. I can’t tell you how often I have walked into a company and heard the same answer to so many of my questions – “That’s just the way it’s done in this business”. That is never the right answer in my book! Many businesses/technologies are quite incestuous. The same people move from one company to another and soon many of these companies are all functioning in similar ways. After a while they stop looking for new and better ways to do things because their way is all they know. Fresh eyes, with a diverse background, can be just the medicine for a company looking to break away from the pack. The right consultant can often become that catalyst for positive change.

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