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Hiring consultants: a practical guide to growth in the digital age

The growth of digitally connected communities over the last decade has challenged corporate culture, fundamentally changing hierarchies within the business world and creating a myriad of tech-enabled opportunities for the savvy CEO. While bringing in external talent through hiring consultants is a longstanding practice to solve key challenges and achieve business growth, businesses must understand how the methods for hiring top-tier consultants have been changed by these recent technological and workplace developments.

Consultants provide much more than just the answer to your questions. They can also provide essential strategic planning services, enhance performance management tools, and carve out a successful business plan that helps you prepare for a lucrative future. While many businesses may not have the need or the budget for the services provided by a mega-firm like McKinsey & Company, which can cost you well over 1,000 USD per day, there is a wide range of other highly-effective consulting options to help businesses achieve rapid and scalable growth. Three of these options are outlined below:

Hire freelance consultants to rapidly grow your business

The freelance ecosystem has changed dramatically over the last decade. No longer associated with a cheap or disposable workforce, top professionals are turning to freelance work for the many benefits it offers, and elite companies follow the talent. According to a recent survey of 1,500 corporate hiring managers by Toptal, a network of freelance finance professionals, software developers, and designers, over 90 percent of organizations use external experts on a project or temporary basis, with 80 percent of these firms engaging talent that work remotely. In response to this surge in demand for freelance employment, platforms that recruit and promote talent have become lightyears more sophisticated.

To facilitate the process of hiring quality freelance consultants, employers can turn to these exclusive networks of highly-vetted professionals. These platforms provide unprecedented access to the world’s top consultants across a wide array of business areas, and offer the luxury of custom-matching talent to the specific needs of your business. Independent professionals have highly diverse backgrounds and skillsets, as they tend to work with numerous clients making them more flexible and capable of dealing with complex projects, whether that’s financial modeling to budget efficiently, or optimizing pricing to hit revenue targets.

Furthermore, the individualized aspect of hiring freelancers means that companies no longer have to rely solely on a consulting firm’s reputation and can now know exactly who they are hiring, where they have previously worked, and what prior employers have to say about them. Finally, as freelancers are usually part of a wider network, they can serve as important touchpoints to additional talent in your industry.

Independent professionals can afford your business a flexibility and niche expertise that wasn’t possible prior to the trend of top professionals shifting to the remote workforce. If you choose to operate outside of a pre-existing talent platform, however, it’s important to have the necessary communication tools to establish a close communication with your consultant to ensure maximal value.

Turn to local and independent firms

Independent consulting agencies are another option for businesses that are looking for a more personal experience. Independent consulting firms often offer specialized services from financially-focused firms or project management experts, ideal for optimizing specific areas of your business model.

Companies like The Cambridge Group pride themselves on their “unique approach” in which they view your company through the eye of the customer, rather than the traditional business-centric approach. Providing highly experienced teams led by a project leader, the Cambridge Group focuses on developing personalized and actionable programs that match your current capabilities and future business needs. Taking on an industry-focused consultant will highlight what areas of business you need to focus on to advance in your industry, in addition to a wider network of like-minded experts that will be valuable as your business continues to grow.

Working with firms presents certain drawbacks relative to hiring freelance professionals. Businesses seeking expert advice must carefully evaluate whether or not a consulting firm will be able to provide the talent necessary for their specific need. Furthermore, the overhead of hiring a consulting firm may be excessive for a smaller-scale project, and the lag associated with working with a larger organization may be prohibitive to businesses looking for immediate guidance.

For earlier-stage businesses, consider joining an accelerator

For businesses in their nascent stages, joining an accelerator is a way to gain quick access to a support network that will guide you from ideation to sustainable business growth to a successful exit. Accelerators were initially developed to help early stage startups to scale their business by offering a combination of funding, talent, and consulting services over a set duration of time. Almost all accelerators will require you to go through a rigorous application process, providing a business plan and rough idea of goals to be achieved during your residence. Upon acceptance consulting services will be provided, which take into consideration your own expectations in combination with providing up to date industry knowledge and advice, allowing you to improve your business plan based on this information.

The flipside of the many benefits to accelerators is the competitive aspect of joining, with dozens or even hundreds of startups applying to just a few slots. This being the case, make sure to fully devote yourself to the application process if you think your business would benefit from the services an accelerator has to offer. It may be worth engaging a few hours of work with an independent professional who has prior experience with accelerators to maximize your chances of crafting a winning application.

Conclusion

Gone are the days when just a handful of white shoe consulting firms could help you scale your business to its full potential. The rise of the Internet and the increase in resources for startups means that hiring freelance consultants, employing an independent consulting firm, or benefiting from the services of accelerators can have a transformative, positive impact on your business. Understanding the pros and cons of each will ultimately help your business learn how to be both pragmatic and flexible with its finances, and prepare for future growth by minimizing risk and maximizing accessibility to lucrative opportunities down the road.