A consultant is a professional advice-giver. Unlike an employee, a consultant comes onto a job for a temporary period to advise and/or supervise; in this role, consultants can charge higher rates and take on only the projects in their specialty field. The knowledge and expertise consultants boast tend to be unparalleled, making them invaluable tools for budding businesses — but many business leaders might wonder, why hire a consultant when you can get a full-time employee for the long term, instead?
There are dozens of reasons that you might prefer to hire a consultant over an employee, especially in broad and important fields like human resources, marketing and strategy. If you are grappling with a difficult hiring decision, here’s why you might err on the side of consultants, first.
1- Different (Read: Better) Perspectives
Because consultants do not operate within your business day-in and day-out, they can bring fresh eyes to problems that have long plagued your employees. Consultants can find it much easier to come up with new ideas that resolve lingering issues and bring new life to an organization. However, distance isn’t the only way consultants develop better perspectives.
Typically, successful professional consultants don’t graduate college and immediately go into consulting work. Rather, consultants can develop their consulting practices because they have a well-known and established experience that businesses crave — experience that has taken a significant career to accrue. Thus, consultants are better-equipped to recognize issues within your organization and craft viable solutions for the short and long term.
For example, it’s not uncommon for startups to struggle especially in the field of human resources. First, startups make the mistake of setting HR at a lower priority; then they often rely too heavily or too long on insufficient tools that hinder overall business growth. HR consulting firms can quickly identify what solutions would work better for a startup, considering its size and goals. This is because HR consultants have a deep familiarity with all things HR and thus can easily diagnose common HR downfalls and summon better alternatives.
2- Improvements to the Current Workforce
Consultants don’t just fill in the gaps of your current workforce; they can also elevate your current workforce to serve your business better into the future. This is because consultants often serve as teachers, coaches and advisors to employees who are struggling to gain the skills necessary to improve their performance.
For instance, if you are planning to adopt a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool that combines information for sales and customer service, you might hire a consulting team to assist in transitioning your current workforce from the old software to the new. Consultants might teach sales and customer service how to work together better in addition to providing tutorials for using the new software tool.
You can hire consultants to provide one-on-one or group training, and you can hire consultants to host seminars or give presentations on topics that your workforce should know more about. This will keep your workers informed about important issues and ensure your talent is sufficiently equipped.
3- Opportunities to Save Money
Consultants aren’t free — but they usually pay for themselves through their improvements to your business. Because consultants can identify inefficiencies and improve the processes within your startup, they will help you generate more revenue and cut costs elsewhere, making investment in their services more than worthwhile.
Plus, many consultants work both in consulting and in freelancing, which means you can often hire consultants on a short-term basis to fill employment gaps that are negatively impacting your business. This is ideal for seasonal startups, when it isn’t economical to go through a costly recruitment process when you only need workers for a few weeks or months. Because independent contractors like consultants only work on a temporary basis — usually dedicated to a specific project — you can avoid many of the costs associated with employment, like taxes or training. However, when you do this, you should take note of the Department of Labor’s strict guidelines regarding temporary workers to ensure you aren’t non-compliant and subject to hefty fines.
Furthermore, as your startup grows, and you want to expand to a foreign country, whether you’re hiring a new employee or consultant, you can outsource your HR Services all together to a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). If you’re expanding to China, for example, through PEO services you can hire in China, recruit and manage your workforce without having to set up a legal entity. PEO services, of course, are not free either, but will definitely offer you the opportunity to focus on tasks that drive your business growth, and to save money in the long-run
Chris has served as a business advisor to a big list of small and micro businesses; localized businesses and social enterprise in particular. Chris is also an avid reader and loves to stay updated about latest tech and innovation.