From time to time we all have an occasion to need some “outside” help with problems that arise in our day to day business activities. Many of us turn to a consultant or coach to assist with the issues. Hiring a consultant is much like hiring a senior level employee and should be treated with the same due diligence. Frequently we hear that the consultant was not all that helpful, other times it was just what was needed. How do you assure that your experience is just what was needed?
Ten Things To Consider:
What the consultant does or recommends can have a big impact and can have long lasting effects. The interview and background review should include the following;
1. Experience: How many years has the consultant been in the industry and at what level of responsibility? How many years has the consultant been in the position. What does the consultant do to maintain their knowledge of the industry, e.g. do they regularly speak at conferences, write articles? Ask for an updated resume.
2. Years as a Consultant: How many years has the consultant been consulting and can they give you references that support their ability to assist you? You will want to have a consultant that has not only experience, but also someone who has been a consultant for a while and understands the role of the consultant. Ask about their style and how they function in the consulting role.
3. Depth of Resources: Does the consultant work alone or do they have associates that are expert in different areas e.g. Accreditation, OASIS training etc., ICD-9 coding, Sales and Marketing etc. With the complexity of the Home Care industry, it is imperative that the consultant either is an expert themselves in the area you need assistance or have Associates who are expert in the area. Ask for their background as it relates to the area of practice you need assistance with or who of their Associates will be providing this service.
4. Cultural Sensitivity: Interview the consultant for their ability to be sensitive to culture. If you have a culture based in religious beliefs or one of bottom line practice, it is important that the consultant be able to modify their approach to your organization that will allow them to effectively interface with staff. Construct interview questions that will elicit this information.
5. Assessment Skills: The consultant must be able to fully understand your issues and problems as you perceive them and be able to determine how much of it is perception and how much is predicated on data and facts. The ability to quickly assess an organization and develop effective approaches is critical to the success of your investment. Ask how the consultant will do this assessment.
6. Personalized plans: Does the consultant use a basic plan for all contracts and modify it to meet your needs or is it a plan that is developed only for you and your organization? Because of culture, area of the country and structure of the organization, and staff, no two agencies are alike. What works in one agency may have elements that work in yours but the plan must be personalized to your needs. Ask how the consultant prepares the recommendations for your agency.
7. Reference Checks: Can the consultant provide you with references for the type of services you provide and for the kind of assistance you are asking help with? Do they primarily specialize in Medicare services or do they offer a wide range of experience in community based services and does their reference list reflect this?
8. Cost or Fees: Cost is of course a factor in the decision to hire one consultant over another, but should not necessarily be the deciding factor. A consultant with limited experience may take longer to provide the recommendations and then may not be what you need, thus costing more than a tenured experienced consultant. In the proposal, is there evidence that the consultant is attempting to control the costs? Is there language that says for example, costs not to exceed a certain amount for specific sections of the proposal? Discuss how they can help limit the cost with the same deliverables.
9. Reporting structure: Whether you are hiring a consultant to do an interim management contract or an organizational assessment with recommendations, there needs to be an understanding, either in the proposal or verbally as to when the report(s) will be provided and to whom those report(s) will go. An organizational assessment with findings and recommendations is not helpful if it is delivered to the organization three or four months after the assessment. Two to three weeks is the normal expected time for such a report. If the contract is for interim management, a monthly written or verbal report of the status of the organization and issues, with a dashboard report would normally be expected. Ask the consultant how they provide reports of their findings and their time lines for such reports.
10. Follow-up: What is the follow up plan after the initial consulting? Is it part of the fee or is there an additional cost? Follow up to assist with the implementation of the recommendations sometimes is critical. At this phase the most important question is are you willing to make the changes in practice and possibly staff to achieve the goals that the consultant has helped you develop. Ask how the consultant can help with that and what the additional costs may be.
Finally, if you have hired the best consultant for your organization, received a great report with recommendations but never follow through, you have wasted not only the money but some of your credibility with your staff. When there are problems the staff know what is wrong and most usually want to see things changed. Others will have a vested interest in not seeing any changes and may overtly or covertly try to sabotage the changes recommended by the consultant. A good consultant can assist you not only with the implementation of the recommendations, but with strategies to achieve buy in by your staff and coach you to success.
Kenyon Homecare Consulting Can Help:
If you would like help looking for the right consultant for you, please give Kenyon Homecare Consulting a call at 206-721-5091 or contact us online to schedule an appointment to speak with a senior consultant today.