Consultants, specialists, outsourced experts — whatever you want to call them, business advisors of all stripes get a bad rap.
It’s not that they aren’t in demand. Management consulting is a $250 billion industry. They just don’t always live up to the hype.
Too often, a consultant will cajole a room full of executives with a long acclamation of self-important jargon, catchphrases, and false promises. This is, quite obviously, an attempt to earn your business. Unfortunately, it’s also a sign that your advisor won’t always be as straightforward as you need them to be.
A business advisor’s job is to help you find solutions to problems, improve the way your enterprise operates, and help you build a technology roadmap for the future. That often requires facing hard truths. If you’re currently working with a consultant who isn’t driving these results, here are six things they may be holding back from you.
1. Your Goals Are Unrealistic
Nobody wants to tell the CxO they’re wrong. But sometimes, that’s exactly what a business advisor should do.
It’s not uncommon for executives to set unrealistic goals or be overly-optimistic about their products. But if you haven’t matched your company’s resources to demand or you don’t have the proper business capabilities to meet your goals, you’re always going to come up short.
Advisors aren’t supposed to be yes-men. You need an advisor that will talk straight and tell you the truth, even when it hurts. They should back up their observations with actionable plans to help you set and achieve more realistic goals.
2. Your Products Are Stale
Consultants have no problem evaluating people and processes. But when it comes to products, they often stay silent or are out of their element. Your enterprise could be doing everything right internally, but if your product isn’t that compelling to begin with, no change in strategy, culture, process, or technology can correct it.
A product doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical thing. Services can also go stale, too, if they don’t keep up with demands in the marketplace or the latest trends.
Most leaders don’t want to appear to have a lack of confidence in their product. They may have a hard time hearing from a consultant or business advisor that their product isn’t so great. But often, questioning your product can mean the difference between explosive growth and faltering in the market.
It might not seem like it, but if your business advisor wants to talk about how your product is lacking, they’re doing you a favor.
3. Change Takes Time
Change isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if you want to compete in today’s rapidly evolving marketplaces. More importantly, change takes time. Some consultants won’t tell you this because they have an incentive not to.
Consultants tend to want to pump out deliverables, get paid, and move on to the next paid job. Only the best business advisors and IT specialists will stay with you until you start seeing the results (or lack of results) that their advice has wrought.
For example, let's say your company is trying to go through a digital transformation. It makes sense for an IT consultant to give you a roadmap to help you reimagine and revolutionize your enterprise with technology. But if they consider their job finished once they hand you that roadmap, they’re avoiding the hard part: seeing the plan through to the end.
4. You Don’t Need a Heavy Consulting Agreement in the First Place
Sometimes you don’t need an army of consultants to achieve your goals. Sometimes you don’t need a consultant at all. Naturally, some consultants and business advisors have no incentive to tell you this and are happy to take your money for services you don’t need.
In some cases, you may just need the help of an individual business advisor to help you get a different perspective and look at your enterprise architecture objectively.
5. The Sponsor Isn’t Up for the Task
An advisor may be tasked with advising an executive only to discover that the executive — let’s say they’re the CFO — just isn’t up to the task.
This is an awkward situation. Does the advisor tell the other executives that the CFO isn’t capable, or do they keep their mouth shut? A good business advisor will do whatever is best for the enterprise, especially when that means making hard choices and telling leaders things they don’t necessarily want to hear.
That said, you can’t always guarantee your advisor will be this forthcoming.
6. Your Advisor Isn’t Up for the Task
Just because your advisor has a great track record at other companies or in other industries, doesn’t mean they’re suited to your needs. In some cases, you may have worked with a trusted advisor for months or years in one department only to discover they lack the skills to advise you in other areas.
Rare will be the advisor that admits they aren’t up to the task, however.
You should routinely evaluate your advisors. If they aren’t a good fit for your needs, don’t hesitate to politely part ways with them. This can be hard with someone you consider a trusted friend and ally, but it’s important to keep your evaluations objective for the sake of your enterprise.
Find the Right Business Advisor
There’s no shortage of consultants in the world. As of 2017, there were over 659,000 management consultants operating in the U.S. If your current business advisor seems to be holding something back, it may be time to re-evaluate their tenure and look for someone who is a better fit.