Greater Good Blog

How to Get the Most Out of Consultants

Hilary Cherner

At Arabella, we work with many different clients, from institutional foundations to individual philanthropists. We strive to provide strong client service, and our approach to ensuring we meet their needs evolves with each engagement. At times, this means putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes, which helps us see the issues at hand from their perspective and allows us to better anticipate their concerns and questions. Over the years, trying to see things from their point of view has helped us realize what practices clients themselves employ to make the most of an engagement. Whether you are working with Arabella or another consultant, follow these tips to lay the groundwork for a strong working relationship:

Be clear about what you want. Take the time at the front end to make sure you are on the same page. Don’t be afraid to spell out what may seem obvious; often what may seem obvious to you isn’t obvious to your consulting partner. Consider sharing your expectations around how you prefer to be communicated with, who the primary and secondary stakeholders are, and what sort of challenges you anticipate.

Be engaged. Engage at key points throughout a project so that you can stay up to date, weigh in on progress, and avoid surprises in the end.

Share both good and bad feedback. What is working? What is not? If they are like us, most consultants aim to please and would welcome a nudge in the right direction. Communicating challenges in a timely fashion can lead to adjustments in approach and a happier client—and consulting team—at the end of the engagement.

Be open to shifts. Course corrections are to be expected throughout a consulting engagement. We operate in a fast-paced environment with lots of moving parts. Just because a particular approach made sense (and thus was written into a contract) at the beginning of an engagement, doesn’t mean it will still make sense several months down the road. Being open to adjusting the project’s scope to accommodate those changes will ensure you get the outcome you seek.

In short, nurturing the relationship up front and maintaining it throughout can go a long way towards getting the most out of your work with consultants. What practices have you used when working successfully with consultants? Share them in the comments below.

Hilary Cherner oversees Arabella Advisors’ consulting practice, managing the consulting staff and helping to ensure the highest quality of guidance for Arabella’s clients. She also manages a variety of client engagements, providing guidance on strategy, evaluation, and project implementation.

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