How to Find the Right Consultant
There is an estimated range of 400K-800K consultants employed in the U.S. today. The majority of consultants are within the technology and business industries. A quick search on the keyword “consultant” results in 100s of options. There are even reviews on top consultants to point you in some direction. There is a smaller niche specialized in healthcare consulting. While the healthcare field is growing there are still far fewer specialists than in other industries, this does not necessarily yield an easier decision in finding a partner. To find the perfect pairing, there must be a basic understanding of what is needed from the consultant. With the right consultant by your side, you can rest assured that together you will develop an effective strategy that will drive growth and profits for years to come.
A consultant should be invested in your success. It goes without saying hiring for the right skillset is critical. The consultant should also have a vested interest in fostering a true partnership. It helps to look for someone knowledgeable, reliable, and compatible with your team’s culture. The consultant must be able to understand what you are trying to achieve to translate into a functional simple to understood path forward.
It’s important to have trust and transparency in the consultant before signing any contracts or making any commitments. Remember that finding the right consultant is more than just an interview. It’s a conversation. Understanding what each consultant values and how they approach their work will be important. Deciding based on a resume does not ensure success. It may only deter it.
When selecting a consultant, think about the type of consultant you need. Do you need help in strategy, project management, or execution? The differences are important. Consultants that help with strategy, may not be able to truly implement the proposal. In this case, you may need another consultant to execute your plan. The reason is the skillsets are different. A consultant who researches, analyzes, and hypothesizes is there to help evaluate. While a process-oriented firm will take your vision to new heights through development. If you are looking for a consultant who can accommodate both, this may be more difficult to locate.
That’s one of the reasons consultants need to be diversified. For example, my experience is both on the provider and insurance sides of healthcare. When analyzing a problem or proposing a solution, it is critical to foresee issues that could arise. A good consultant anticipates roadblocks. Furthermore, having real operational and negotiation expertise helps to allow for accurate timelines on projects, the details matter. Most network development consultants will “get” contracts for an organization. Rarely, do they negotiate. The variance is substantial, especially in health insurance. A provider who does not negotiate terms could result in financial losses, damaging contractual language that inhibits operations or requires extensive quality metrics above the provider’s capability. This is why it is imperative to understand your options.
Once you know what kind of consultant start researching who can best fulfill that role and if they have the expertise required to deliver results. Make sure everyone involved is comfortable with the consultant before making any commitments.
More often providers and/or companies are looking for specialized help for a particular topic. A consultant must be able to take a complex problem, propose a solution, and isolate it into simple, easily understood steps that are ultimately implementable. The overall goal is to move the business in a positive direction. That can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
It is necessary to understand the consultant’s background, experience, and process before committing to a partnership. Interviewing the consultant on their previous experience will provide a framework for their overall capability. It will not likely provide an ideal solution to your current problem, since every company is slightly different. These variables must be properly understood to obtain real lasting results.
Consider asking potential consultants questions such as:
– What strategies have been successful for other organizations?
– How do they approach problem-solving?
– What resources are available to support their analysis or recommendations?
– What kind of measurable success can they provide?
– How often will updates be provided on progress
By looking at these things, you can get an understanding of the focus area for the consultant. Their process must be aligned with your developmental style. Asking questions about their experience will also help you determine if they understand the complexity of your organization and can bring fresh solutions to the table.
The client must understand the consultant’s approach, resources, and communication style. Put in the effort to select someone who truly understands your organizational needs and can develop a strong partnership with you. This is essential for finding success through strategic consultant engagement.
The relationship between a consultant and client should be seen as a partnership more than an employer/employee situation. Both parties need to understand the goals and vision. Honestly, the right consultant will be passionate and have the willingness to share in your achievements.
Take the time to research consultant options and ensure that they are a good fit for your organization. Ultimately, selecting the best consultant isn’t just about finding someone with the right experience — it’s also about building a valuable partnership that will foster positive change. One of the keys to our success is building a framework for the future. We cannot stress enough the need for transparency. This creates a solid foundation. In healthcare, where the focus is always on quality care to the patients, nothing in our strategy can deviate from this vision. Luckily, we share that passion and commitment with our clients and their patients. Plus, it helps – we love building strategies.
At the same time, it’s important to consider their ethics and values not just in terms of what they bring to your organization but also in how they interact with clients and their colleagues.
Both parties need to deepen their understanding of the potential relationship by evaluating each other. The evaluation process should lead to meaningful conversation naturally. If it does not, it is not the right fit. In the end, once the organization understands what is needed, findings a consultant with those qualifications is simple.
Generally, a good consultant should have:
1. the background/specialization required to analyze the issue
2. values and a vision that is aligned with the organization
3. the ability to integrate into the organization culturally
4. a desire for a long-term partnership with a proven track record of success
The combination of these qualities is ideal for the client, in any industry. There are several types of consultants, particularly in healthcare. Each has a specific focus or area of expertise. Depending on the project this experience is pivotal to the success of the project. This process will lead to deeper conversations and an observation period. This is the start of the engagement process. Without an understanding of the need, there can be little progress made to partner adequately.
The first step for any consultant is learning. There is no way to resolve a problem without listening and observing, especially when it is a workflow-related issue. The roadmap to success is not about completely overhauling a company, most of the time. It is about strategic tweaks. Strategic tweaks are defined as minor adjustments to a plan of action to provide enhancements, optimization, and/or resolution. To understand development, there must be an observation period.
The consultant must also evaluate what works and what needs improvement. A consultant should always be looking for opportunities to improve the process in whatever context they are working. Evaluation helps identify potential problems before they arise and enables the consultant to develop strategies to prevent them from occurring or make recommendations on how best to address them when they do present themselves.
This is the client’s opportunity to provide much more granular details to the organization. Often this can be part of the vetting process, as clients will have the ability to interview multiple consultants. Any good consulting firm will expect competition. Clients should introduce consultants to their team, as well as their culture, values, and goals. We cannot stress the importance of team development during the observation period.
It’s important to do due diligence. During the observation phase, the consultant is learning about your organization. To ensure success at the beginning of the engagement, clients should readily share information. The consultant has signed an NDA at this point, now it’s time to start diving into details. Both parties should have a high-level understanding of the project. The amount of information that is shared during this stage is crucial. It will set the tone for the entire project and the success of the outcome. Consultants will have several questions, for which, clients should be available. In addition, an introduction to the organization is an important piece of observation.
Teams that can readily partner and coordinate with the consultant(s) will elicit much higher results. From a cultural perspective, employees will embrace the project better with an outside influencer where there could be opposition. Also, introducing the consultant as a resource enhancement is an acknowledgment to the team the company is trying to help and provide more tools. This also allows the client time to observe workflows, process dynamics, and development prospects.
Partnerships should be established and understood before the consultant’s arrival. It is crucial to sketch a strategy with specific goals and outcomes expected, to get the most out of any consultant-client relationship. Clients should also ensure that they have outlined all their expectations clearly before selecting the best consultant for them. This will help streamline collaborations, promote trustworthiness between both parties, and provide valuable insights that could be used in future projects or strategies.
It is essential to consider the consultant’s understanding of your organization and its objectives. Do they understand the initiatives you wish to pursue and have experience in helping clients reach success? Ensure that the consultant is familiar with your industry and can provide insights into potential strategies for achieving growth beyond what your organization could achieve on its own. A consultant should be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a strategy before implementing it, ensuring that all options are considered while striving to meet or exceed client expectations.
It is really imperative to understand the client. The right partnership will provide transparency and trust for both the client and the consultant. Ultimately, enhance collaboration and the resultant end-result of the engagement.
The formulation of the observation phase builds the foundation for the plan. This is often sometimes a period of quiet by the client as the consultant formulates. However, a good consultant will continue engaging the client throughout the preparation of the strategy. The reason is to allow further communication. Consultants are not aware of prior projects or initiatives companies have tried before the current engagement. This is an adherent disadvantage. Clients should feel empowered to be actively analyzing and strategizing with the consultant. Often it is not a “new idea”, but a hybrid of this original notion. In trial research, each trial is only a slight variation from the other, until success is obtained. The same is true in healthcare.
Healthcare has several facets and operational directions for success. Understanding the ideas that have already failed allows for a newer twist that could lead to better synergies. The best consultant will analyze the data into a clear strategy that is a realistic work lift for the company. A work lift is a viable option that requires the least amount of time and resources yielding the greatest possible chance for achieving goals. Consultants should provide options for moving forward, highlighting the benefits of each option. The client is the one that is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the engagement; therefore, the risk is all theirs. This is an important point. The consultant is the best fit with advice on the strategy that is most advantageous but also allows the client to provide feedback. The truth is there is no perfect plan. Perfection is achieved when all the variables of the plan come together in a meaningful manner. A consultant needs to understand the fluidity that is necessary to achieve results with the ability to adapt quickly.
The consultant must have a relationship-based approach to ensure that it is beneficial for both parties. It should also include an element of trust and transparency. By focusing on fostering a healthy partnership, not only does the consultant bring value in terms of strategy, but can help deliver the end results as well.
Ultimately, selecting the best consultant comes down to finding someone who understands your business goals, has the industry experience and knowledge fosters a positive working relationship with you and your team, is willing to adapt and take feedback to perfect the plan, and is transparent about progress along the way. With careful consideration and research into each consultant candidate’s experience and expertise, you can be sure you are making the right decision.
Once the relationship has been solidified, growth naturally occurs in strategic development. This is crucial to the implementation (workload) that is going to drive a positive outcome. Each consultant should have various strategies for a successful implementation. The most difficult implementation is not creating a plan but adapting.
The consultant who is seen as an extension of the team will have a much easier time moving the organization in another direction. In some engagements, this is simply a hand off of the strategy as there could be a team who is fully capable to implement. Client engagements that drive the best results utilize the consultant as a project manager to oversee the process. This means the consultant is continually working to ensure the plan is on track. There could be slight modifications that will need to occur, often there are other resource or technological items that arise during implementation. This is normal. For example, a consultant may identify the need for additional resources, training, or other support services that were not included in the original strategy. Likely, this will develop organically as the plan works to create the end product. If the consultant maintains involved, the deviation will be seamless. Otherwise, clients may need to re-engage with the consultant or figure out how to pivot on their own. Often clients do not pivot from the plan, which could be detrimental to the end result. It is the ability to implement strategic tweaks that will ensure continued success.
The consultant relationship is integral to any new venture or strategy, as it allows businesses to make well-informed decisions based on expertise, industry knowledge, and past experience. Clients should understand the uniqueness of their organization. This is often what cements their market presence. A consultant throughout the implementation should be customer centric.
Customer-centric is a term used to focus a team, even a consultant, to anticipate the need of the customer, client, and market. Companies that focus on the customer rarely fail. Finding the right consultant who understands longevity and fluidity is ultimately the right choice.
Consultants are taught to ensure there is a solid ending to an engagement. From an invoicing perspective, this makes complete sense. Once one engagement ends, another begins. In each engagement, there must be an agreed outcome. The client carries the risk, which is why results must be measurable. The best advice in finding a great consultant is these metrics will be meaningful to your organization. In healthcare, there are several metrics for revenue cycle management. The most popular are revenue over 120 days, collection rate, and denial rate. These metrics are great for an overview of the revenue. For providers, understanding the type of denials incurred within the 1st 45 days is essential. It allows for a pivot decision to be made 75 days (or 2.5 months) earlier on potential problems. If providers are receiving the same high volume of claim denial, allowing an additional run-out period only increases the problem. Decisions must be made more quickly.
This is the reason longevity with consultants matters. Any great consultant is going to create value. For consultants, like ourselves, this value is embedded into the contractual relationship. Recently, consultants have moved to value or risk-based arrangements. Especially within the healthcare industry. The margins are shrinking, costs are rising, and real innovation must be achieved. Discussing a partnership that allows the consultant to regularly monitor the success of the project is beneficial for the client. This accomplishes a few goals.
Risk – The consultant shares the risk equally with the client. Historically in consultant arrangements, the risk is carried by the client. If the project fails, it is the client that must deal with the consequences.
Usable Metrics – Any consultant can create industry-standard metrics. The ideal solution is to create customer-centric meaningful metrics for the client that are viable. There are several case studies on metrics. The best example is the automotive industry, which spent countless hours analyzing and creating metrics. Ultimately, none were usable. Customers went to other options. As a result, car manufacturers went under.
Guarantee – Consultants that are willing to stay connected to an engagement believe in the result. This is a benefit to any client to ensure the investment has been worthwhile.
Consultants should guarantee the results and stick with the client throughout the entire partnership. Furthermore, consultants should understand their client’s goals, objectives, and initiatives and how these all fit into their overall strategy. This is where a consultant can really make an impact by helping to guide that strategy and provide ideas on how to move forward more efficiently and effectively.
The consultant should be seen as a partner with the team to move forward and ensure success. Organizations need to find consultants who will help them see things from an objective perspective so clients can make better decisions for their business and organization.
When selecting a consultant, it is important to keep in mind what you want to achieve from the partnership. Make sure that the consultant you select has the experience and knowledge necessary to help you reach your goals. Furthermore, ensure that they understand your organization’s strategy and can provide objective insights to help you move forward more efficiently and effectively. By finding the right consultant, you can create a strong partnership that will help your business or organization reach new levels of success. Once you have that partnership, it will prove to be invaluable.