Ten Tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant – 4. Find the consultant

After you’ve decided on the criteria for choosing a consultant, it is time to locate possible candidates. Unfortunately, finding the right consultant can be a frustrating experience if your organization doesn’t go about it in a thoughtful and methodical way.

You have settled on the selection criteria, but it may still be difficult to confidently assess the consultants before the work is done. As a result, it is very important to identify a good set of consultants to enter the evaluation process.

Prior Use: The ideal way to find a good consultant is to have had previous experience with one. If you have used a consultant for similar activities in the past, and were satisfied with the results, you should be able to expect the same performance in the future.

Referrals: Ask around within your own company to see if other areas have used quality management consultants. You may be able to contact your counterpart at another site to obtain a reference for someone they used for similar work. Also see if your friends at other companies are willing to recommend a consultant based on their personal experience.

Contacts: Check with others in your industry regarding their use of quality management consultants. Remember to call the contacts in your trade and professional associations to see if they have a recommendation. You can also go to local firms outside your industry since their consultants may also be qualified for your business sector.

Directories: You can search the RAB auditor directory listed earlier to see if any of the persons are in your local area, have the necessary skills, and are available for hire. Note this certification attests to their auditing capability, not their consulting or training skills.

You can also look at the Consulting Guide in the September, 2001 issue of Quality Digest. Of course, the magazine has not evaluated, nor does it endorse, any of the consulting firms.

Advertisements: Trade and professional magazines are sources for identifying consulting firms and individual consultants. However, many successful consultants rely upon repeat business and referrals. Lack of advertising should not be viewed as a negative.

Trainers: If you were impressed with the instructor for a recent quality management course, see if the training firm also offers consulting services. Maybe you can arrange to have the instructor assigned as your consultant.

Registrar: If you have already selected a registrar, you can ask for a list of consultants. The registrar will not suggest a specific person to avoid a potential conflict of interest.