If you’re thinking about hiring a consultant, first, ask yourself if you’ve ever said, “I might need a consultant.” If you have, then you likely need one, even if only to assist you for a short time for a specific purpose.
If you desire to take yourself and your business to the next level, you may just need a consultant. The collision industry is full of “ex-bodymen with body shops” and not enough “businesspeople with collision centers,” which is why those professionals with business and insurance experience have been able to take unfair advantage of so many others who don’t possess the business acumen needed to survive…let alone thrive.
Choosing a Consultant
Choosing a consultant for you and your company’s needs is like picking out a pair of shoes. You want one that fits the need you’re seeking (i.e. marketing/brand development, improvement in production/efficiency, management, general business practices, sales, personnel/human resources, etc.) and is comfortable to wear for long periods.
However, not all consultants are a good fit. For example, Auto Damage Experts (ADE) offers repairer coaching and consulting for a specific type of owner/manager who possesses certain characteristics we believe are necessary to be successful. Our success is directly attributed to our clients’ success, and as such, not every repairer may meet our criteria.
There are numerous industry consultants available, and, like everything else (including shoes), there are those who offer the highest level of performance and those who offer, well, not-so-much.
The first step is to determine what it is you seek to achieve. Once you have an idea, it’s time to start asking for referrals from industry professionals and colleagues via social media sites where those you respect may see your inquiry.
You should also reach out to industry associations (state and national) and trade magazines (BodyShop Business) and ask for referrals and contact information of people you may want to interview.
Next in the process is to make contact with the various candidates and speak with them, ask questions, take notes and, if interested in learning more about them and their services, ask for additional information (programs, agreements, commitment, fee structure, etc.).
Make notes of your impressions and, if you like what you heard and it seems as though that consultant may offer what you’re seeking, ask them for current and past clients as references.
Note: Not all clients are good clients, so read between the lines when speaking with them. For example, I joined a local gym once and all I got out of my annual fee was a lousy T-shirt which I never wore because it was too tight! Of course, after joining, I only went back to work out once…so who’s to blame for my failure?
Contact one or more of the consultant’s references and ask for a list of prepared questions and make notes of your findings, including the positives and negatives. Do this for each person contacted. Ask them how the relationship provided them benefits and if they’re still enjoying those benefits today and, if not, why?
Once you have concluded your calls for a specific consultant, do what has been referred to as the “Ben Franklin method” of decision-making. On a blank piece of paper, draw a line down the center of it and, at the upper left, write “Pros” and on the upper right, write “Cons.” Begin to list the positives under “Pros” and any negatives under the “Cons” column. You can also rate your degrees of thoughts on a scale from 1 to 10 if you wish. (Google this for more information on the process).
Do this for each consultant candidate and, when completed, find quiet time and sit down and compare them to determine which you feel fits best with your personality, your business experience, and your specific desires and business goals.
Once you make this important selection, the next step is to commit the time and resources and start the process.
It’s a Process
Understand that generally speaking, working with a consultant is a process and often requires time you may find hard to carve out of your already busy schedule, but you must remember, that like a tool, the only way to get any return from your investment is by using it effectively and timely. The likelihood is, that over time, the results will garner you more time to enjoy the greater profits derived from your decision and efforts.
Remember, “It’s not about doing one thing 100-percent better, it’s about doing one hundred things 1 percent better…and doing it consistently.”
I look forward to more questions and offering my input to help make this industry better.