There are several factors that could lead a small business to hire a consultant, even if it’s temporary. In general terms, you might need specialized expertise for a specific period of time, such as while networking your computers or launching a web site. Or, you might want to have stable subcontractors whom you can bring in to meet seasonal demands or to handle larger projects.
There are many different types of consultants. The following are six types of independent contractors you might consider hiring depending on your small business’ needs:
Computer Consultants come with varying levels of skill and expertise. Make sure that the consultant is comfortable with a broad range of hardware and software and that the individual is actually a consultant, not a reseller.
Information Technology Consultants do not offer the same services as computer consultants. IT consultants are more strategic than operational and can help pinpoint technology needs, hire and oversee your service providers, advise on product selection and manage complex projects such as database development, network architecture and e-commerce design.
Human Resources Consultants can be brought in if a company has a hiring or staff management problem that cannot be handled internally. HR consultants can handle executive recruiting, temporary staffing of skilled workers, policy and manual drafting, and benefits administration. HR consultants can range from sole practitioners, or they can be from boutique firms or large outfits.
Sales Consultants are often hired for a number of reasons: Perhaps your track record of deal closings is not as good as it could be. Or, maybe you know how to close a deal, but have limited experience building and training a sales team. You may also need help creating a compensation and incentives structure for sales employees if you’ve grown in size.
No matter what type of contractor you are seeking, there are some guidelines you should consider as you undertake your search and hiring process:
- Tap your personal network, use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Craigslist and ask for recommendations from professional associations in your area.
- Consider the size of your business and your particular needs when deciding whether to hire a large brand-name consulting firm or an independent contractor
- Conduct a comprehensive interview
- Forget the words “verbal agreement.”The structure of your business relationship, the scope of work, fee arrangements and project timeframe should all be spelled out in a legally binding contractual agreement.
- Test the waters
- Keep costs under control
- Don’t forget to build an exit clause
Working with experienced consultants can be an effective way to grow your business without taking on the risk of adding permanent staff. However, remember that a consultant is only as good as the client relationship allows. Be a good partner with your consultants by committing the time upfront to explain projects, making yourself available when needed and working toward making consultants feel like they’re part of your company.