How to Work with Consultants

working with consultants

How to Work with Consultants

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Unknown

Being a consultant is all about carrying about people, and helping them to reach their objectives. The greatest benefit a consultant brings to the table is their outside perspective. Startups and corporations are so entrenched with their day-to-day activity, their peripheral vision has often become non-existent. In addition, a consultant typically has expertise or unique experiences that can be valuable to an organization. Working with various clients in various businesses and industries provides a consultant a unique perspective on how to solve problems.

A consultant helps to create peripheral vision, and offers expertise in areas management needs help figuring out. Click To Tweet

It is important to know how to best work with a consultant to maximize your budget, and create a high performance relationship.


The Role of a Consultant

The role of a consultant is to work in the best interest of their client at all times. The time a consultant spends on a client’s project should always be measured against asking the question, Is this in the best interest of the client? A good consultant never bills the client for unnecessary or unimportant work. And, a good consultant desires to help the client experience positive change with positive results because of their effort. The ultimate reward for a consultant is to be valued by their client so that they keep coming back for more guidance. 

The following are some areas a management consultant helps entrepreneurs and C-level executives.
Financial & Legal 
Innovation & Creative 
Business Management
Expense Management
Vision Casting
Leadership Development
Asset Management
Strategic Planning
Risk Management
Technology Development
Crisis Management
Tax Planning
Marketing Strategy
Business Development
Legal Strategy
Tech Strategy
Operations & Workflow Efficiencies



Just like any relationship, the client and consultant relationship must develop trust so that the workflow can become smoother and easier over time. The more trust between the client and the consultant, the more can get done efficiently and cost effectively. Seek to establish a trusting relationship as quickly as possible by taking the time to discuss expectations.


Setting Expectations

Consultants have to constantly manage client expectations and budgets in relationship to their capacity. A good consultant approaches clients with the hope of exceeding the entrepreneur or C-level executive’s expectations. Alignment in expectations between the client and the consultant is absolutely critical to achieving a strong long-term relationship. Misaligned expectations is the most common reason why both the consultant and client become disappointed. Good communication always is helpful in becoming more aligned. It is the consultant’s job to establish expectations and work towards clear communication. Defining realistic and achievable goals, tasks, milestones for the client’s budget is one of the most important roles of a consultant.

The most common mistakes clients make is setting unrealistic expectations on a consultant. This is the worst thing a client can do. Expecting or demanding the impossible, never yields desirable result for anyone. 


Scope Creep

Scope creep is when a project never reaches and endpoint, and cost accumulates without any final deliverables in sight. Sometimes rework and changes are critical during the course of a project. But, the main reason why scope creep occurs is because the client continuously requests changes and rework to be done. The best way to manage scope creep is to have clearly defined project objective, goals, and deliverables. The process of developing a plan and roadmap is something many clients don’t want to spend the time or money doing. However, this creates more cost and less efficiencies as the consultant and/or project team does not have a proper roadmap to operate from. Both the consultant and the client should stay disciplined about creating and sticking to a project plan. For tech projects, new features, additions, changes, modifications that is not in the original plan should be recorded and considered for the next version of the system or application. 


Project Management

Currently, Agile and Scrum are project management methodologies that have become popular because they allow products to be developed quickly by utilizing three essential components: 

  1. Empirical Feedback
  2. Team Self Management
  3. Incremental Product Development Using Short-Term Iterations.

Time Management

A consultant must manage their time well. Time and expertise is what consultants offer to their clients. Both the consultant and clients need to manage time well to have a successful relationship. A consultants compensation and livelihood is typically based on providing clients time. Last minute cancellations and changes to meeting schedules are very difficult for a consultant to manage. and should only occur in an emergency situation. Showing a consultant you value their time, will free them up to work for you in the areas that count the most. The best thing a client can do to increase efficiencies and reduce cost is always be prepared, and always be on time.


Responding to Communication

The normal response time to communication should be 24-hours. However, if possible, a consultant should strive to respond to their client within 12-hours of receiving communication. Impromptu communication can be difficult to do for an organized consultant. Clients should also plan on responding to consultants in the same manner. This helps build trust.

A good method to use if you can’t provide a full response or answer within 24-hours is to inform the client or consultant you received their communication and will get back with them. For example, “I just want to let you know I got your message, and I will get back with you ASAP.”


Business Management

Documents, strategic plans, agreements, and information flow are important parts of managing a business, and working with a consultant in a professional manner. Some entrepreneurs function and operate without such an approach to business. A more off the cuff approach is used which creates a culture of always being in critical crisis mode. This tends to happen because of a lack of discipline or knowledge about business processes. Speed is necessary in today’s marketplace, but planning and processes are also necessary. Entrepreneurs limit their capacity to handle and lead larger budgets, teams, and projects because they are not accustom to higher level business processes. An entrepreneur should strive to become a seasoned business leader by gaining awareness, understanding, and the discipline to handle more complex business tools and activities.



Whether you are an entrepreneur, C-level executive, or a consultant, being mindful of each others roles in the relationship will help establish strong lines of communication and efficiencies. Managing time and expectations are the two most important factors that make or break most consultant/client relationships. Hopefully, the advice given above will keep you from falling into the most common mistakes, and create a successful relationship between you and your consultant(s).

James Zimbardi
[email protected]

James Zimbardi is the CEO of Zynergy. He has over 20-years of experience incubating startups, launching companies in various industries, and leading digital business innovation projects for large corporations. His expertise is leading cross-functional teams and progressive thinking startup companies through the process of launching new ideas, products, and services. Mr. Zimbardi has a Bachelor in Business Administration in Marketing and IT, and an MBA from MIT as a Sloan Fellow in Innovation and Global Leadership. Company Bio | LinkedIn Profile

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