Skip to main content
Business Leadership

How do I Know if a Consulting Engagement is Successful?

By July 23, 2017February 20th, 2023No Comments

Consulting engagements come in all shapes and sizes.  When a company hires a consultant to work through a project or set of issues, there is an investment of time and money made.  It is important that any time a company makes an investment in the business, there has to be a way to track ROI.  You must be able to determine if the investment was worth making.  This rule applies to vehicles, equipment, inventory, people, and event consultants.

Simple, yet clear…

I believe that consulting engagement agreements need to be fairly short and simple, but also must contain one key element.  That element is a set of deliverables.  The company and the consultant must agree up front what success looks like.  This can be tricky sometimes because typically, a good engagement requires participation from both the consultant and the client.  How then do you measure the success of the engagement?

My firm has values core values.  Those values are: Authenticity, Clarity, and Results.  I shape each engagement around these three values.  Being authentic means dealing with people in a straightforward way.  Having clarity means that everyone knows where we are going and why.  Defining the results means knowing where the journey is supposed to take us.

I believe that it is possible at the outset of any engagement to reach a basic understanding with the client.  My firm is accountable for certain items in the deliverable and that the client is also responsible for certain items.  Being clear about those responsibilities and accountabilities at the beginning makes it much easier to determine if the engagement is successful.

Let it go when it’s time to let go…

As a consultant, I also ascribe to another thought process called “fail-fast”.  I do not want to waste the client’s resources or my own on things that are not working or will not provide value to the client.  It is often tempting in an organization to allow the concept of pride of ownership to allow a project to live too long.  I believe that if something is not working, it doesn’t matter how good of an idea we thought it was.  Once it is clear that the expected value is not going to be delivered, it’s time to back up and try something else.  I don’t think it is a good idea to waste energy and mental cycles trying to negotiate the politics of the situation.  It is far better to just say: “well, this isn’t working”. The you can look at other ideas to solve the problem?”

In summary

To close it up, whenever you hire a consultant, I think it is important to have the clarity of vision between consultant and client at the beginning.  Make sure that the agreed outcomes are clear and achievable.  While it may be tempting to say “this engagement is only successful if EBITDA increases twenty percent”, that is an outcome that is very difficult to guarantee.  I would personally see it as a red flag if that were a client’s singular expectation.  It is far better to look at the specific tasks that you believe will lead to the increased performance. Then you can set the objectives based on improving those things.