Locating the Black Sheep from the Flock of Consultants

For those who want to measure the reputation of consultants before hiring them, Google.com provides an easy way. In the search box, type the search query: “Consultants are” and the Google auto suggest will throw up these suggestions :

The unsavory reputation of consulting industry is probably well known. Although, Google instant suggestions have no authority to declare that all the consultants are useless. Still, it is important to understand why consultants are always ill thought of by some people. People who have been taken for a ride by the black sheep of the consulting fraternity.

In spite of all this, consultancy is the fastest growing business and consultants are being paid handsomely by companies who benefit from their services. Consultants have successfully transformed many failing businesses into profitable and futuristic businesses. Business owners at all times require help of an outside expert to take their business to the next level and to gain diverse skills and expertise. For this reason, accomplished and committed business consultants are unable to figure out what makes the consulting industry’s reputation as a whole bad.

It is the BLACK SHEEP!

Business consultants, just like every other business flock, do have some black sheep among their ranks. For the most part, it’s these black sheep that get a bad name to the consultant community across the board.

A badly managed business slowly becomes inefficient and unviable, leading to its ultimate demise by being wound up. But a Bad consultant can, with little efforts, have a very long life in the business of consulting, without being recognized. This happens only because clients cannot differentiate between a good consultant and a fake consultant who fakes it till he makes it.

It is very easy for a black sheep to disguise and lose oneself in the crowd as a consultant. At times, he is never caught until the very end when death overtakes him. Such people are a threat to the consultant family as a whole. Therefore, identifying a right consultant is a difficult task for every business planning to hire a consultant. They need to keep away from fake consultants who present themselves very well.

I am sharing below some traits of different types of the black sheep in the consulting industry. It will help Business owners to identify and beware of hiring these black sheep as a consultant:

1. Absence of Niche Areas of Expertise:-

Such consultants are usually jack-of-all-trades. They pick up the quotes here and there, and try to impress their clients by showing off their diversity of knowledge, rather than focusing on expertise in any niche field.

Consultants, who do not have a niche area of expertise, are unable to get down to the niche details of the problem that their clients have. They focus on the overall picture instead of detailing and delving on relevant and crucial points. As a result, these types of black sheep are all set to pull in all directions without any positive results.

2. Being Highly Flexible with the Rates:-

Consultants of this type don’t have any predetermined rates because they don’t know how to price their services. These types of black sheep do not value their time or input but bank more on the paying capacity of the client.

Their hourly rates may vary from USD 20 to as much as USD 200 for the same service to different clients. It is because they vary their rates depending upon how much a client is willing to pay. This clearly asserts that these black sheep do not value their time or input at all. (Which is worthless anyway.)

3. Trying to Sound Busy:-

Clients need to learn to differentiate between consultants who are actually busy and consultants who pretend to be busy. At the time of interview with a client, a black sheep will always try to show as if they are engaged in high priority projects, even when they are free.

Black sheep do not plan time yet they always try to impress prospective clients by feigning time constraint and not being actually busy. While with one client, they will always receive calls from others and show off as if they have bigger business than their clients do.

On the other hand, a genuine consultant has no need to boast or show off to get the assignments. He is more focused on vetting the client and finding out if the client does have an identified and actual need or is just fishing and wasting his time.

4. Not Providing Proper Referrals:-

It is important to note that black sheep will always avoid providing the referrals. They will cite various excuses and if at all are forced to give the referrals, they will present the details with a rider that “this client did not abide by my suggestions and incurred huge losses”. Or else they may say that their previous clients will not give good feedback about them in order to protect their business secrets, etc. Therefore, such type of consultants should be tested with trial tasks before being relied on completely.

5. They are Ready to Misguide instead of saying I don’t know

Black sheep never accept their ignorance. On matters in which they lack knowledge, they will never stand up and accept so. Instead of that, they will take a stand without having the expertise. They would even have the clients take the wrong path and incur losses, but will never tell about their incompetency to handle the project at the proper time.

In order to identify these types of black sheep, clients are required to ask various project relevant questions during the interview. The answers of consultant will help the client recognize whether a consultant is among the black sheep or not.

6. Black Sheep Never Link their Fees with Results:-

A Black sheep will never accept value based pricing as a basis of the payment. Simply because they are clever enough know that their work is not going to add any real value to the client’s business. For this reason, these type of consultants always insist on lump sum fees and installments irrespective of the results or milestones achieved.

The above are pointers and if these traits become evident then it is a red flag which the client should take note of. For their own best interests clients should always vet the consultant for his domain knowledge and get proper referral and move ahead slowly with measurable results when working with new Consultants.