Some FMCG organisations are comfortable with the idea of using consultants while others avoid them like the plague. Having been on both sides of the fence with respect to supply chain consultancy services I can appreciate the pros and cons for each party. There is some truth but an awful lot of misconceptions deeply held on the subject and I thought I would look at what is fact and fiction, in my humble opinion!
1. They are very expensive.
Fiction. At the same experience level consultants will undoubtedly be cheaper than the full people cost (e.g. tax, insurance, pension contributions) of a full time employee. Perhaps fees sound a lot when expressed as a daily rate but in reality they are likely to be very competitive if you compare this against what your full time staff really cost the company.
2. They don’t know any more than we do.
Fiction. One of the benefits of consultancy is that you see a multitude of circumstances in very different companies, cultures and companies in a variety of sectors. The cumulative experience gained is something you are unlikely to find in long term employees in an organisation where the freedom to think outside of the box is not always welcome.
3. When they have gone everything reverts back to as it was.
Fiction. Well, it certainly cab but only if you let it! Good consultants will ensure knowledge is transferred and thoroughly tested through one on one or team training before ending a project. Look for a consultant where skills transfer to clients is a priority.
4. They always change things.
Fact. Enabling change is precisely the aim. You would not hire a consultant to maintain the status quo as you want something different to happen, e.g. lower costs, better processes and greater efficiency. Change is indeed often tough but an outsider leading this can take some of the “sting” away from line management.
5. They do “just enough” so they can return later and get paid to fix the problem again.
Fiction. The reputation of consultants can be easily destroyed through bad publicity whether deserved or otherwise. Sustainable improvements in supply chain performance get noticed and similarly, word gets around quickly if anyone is unprofessional. If you feel the need to call in consultants for a problem that has already been addressed then maybe your original choice was defective.
6. They are either just out of university and know nothing or they are pensioners.
Fiction. There is no perfect age to be a consultant but you do need a degree of experience before you can impart this to others. A 21 year old consultant in a very nice suit or smart skirt would indeed probably lack credibility but some companies insist on putting such resources forward to major clients.. Do not be afraid of a consultant at the other end of the age scale as they are often the most willing to share a wider range of experiences.
7. They only work a few hours a day (probably to dash off to the Post Office for their pension payment?)
Fiction. From personal experience I know this to be completely untrue. I have worked extremely long hours to get jobs done against tight timetables. Consultants only get paid for the days they work and clients rarely extend contracts so you have to get the job done by hook or by crook.
This is just a brief appraisal and there are many more pieces of fact and fiction that could be added. When I was on the other side of the fence I shared some of the negative views but I now appreciate the true reality and the value experienced consultants can bring to your business.
Ok, must stop now as the Post Office closes in half an hour, my hip is giving me trouble and I cannot find my zimmer frame.
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