What to Look For in a Consultant

The past two posts dealt with possible reasons to hire a consultant to analyze a recreational facility. Once the decision has been made to enlist a consultant's help, what kind of consultant should a facility choose?

Whenever any job goes out to bid, responsible owners and managers always consider who to hire. The ins and outs of hiring contractors are beyond this document today, but there are a few things to consider whether hiring a consultant to give input on fixing a facility.

Does the consultant have enough experience, and the correct type of experience?

I would expect a consultant to have more than 20 years experience in the field where I need the advice. Any less than that and the consultant might not have experienced enough ups and downs. For niche sports like ice hockey, figure skating, aquatics, Lacrosse, and indoor soccer, the best consultant is the person who works in the field on a daily basis. The daily work is important because headquarters staff usually get out of touch with the daily workings of a sports facility. However, if you are a multi-location company looking for help with head quarters issues, the best choice would be a person with recent daily headquarters experience.

Does the consultant have an appropriate formal education level?

Education level is important, but the importance of it should be related to the job at hand. If you are hiring a consultant to advise you on HVAC systems, then the best person would be a refrigeration contractor with appropriate state licensing and work experience. If you need a system designed, then an engineering firm would be the best pick. If the problem is related to a business analysis or a feasibility study with more than 100 pages, then the best person would likely be someone who writes well, has writing experience, and knows what goes into professional publications. Usually this type of person has an MBA at the minimum; for complicated projects, the person should have a PhD. Also look for industry-specific certifications, like STAR Certified Ice Technician (CIT) or CIRM (Certified Ice Rink Manager) as indicators of a well trained individual whose motivation and dedication to the field shows by a high certification.

Does the hiring manager feel confident the consultant can establish a good rapport with the staff?

Getting along with others, cultural issues, and manner can all be blocks to successful consulting. Getting along with others is crucial. If you feel your consultant is just irritating everyone, then send him or her back and hire someone who matches the organization. Cultural issues like fluency in the language spoken at the facility can be an issue too. Manner is a catchall phrase meant to encompass warm relations with others, talks on the same level as the people in the conversation, patient in the face of adversity, and always prepared.

Does the consultant come recommended?

Recommendations are the best way to find out if a consultancy has a previous history of successfully completed jobs. Consultancy can be difficult and if a consultant has a good track record with reputable references, then that consultant is likely a good pick for the job. We always check in newspapers or on the internet to find jobs a consultant worked on that are not on his or her reference sheet. Sometimes the unintended reference can be quite enlightening and cause to assign the work to another group.

Did the consultant bid somewhere in the middle? Or was the consultant on the inexpensive or expensive side of the prices quoted?

In any business transaction, there are usually problems with both the high bidder and the low bidder. The high bidder usually does a similar job as the bidder in the middle, but usually is just a waste of money. Bidders in the basement, unless they are building a reputation, usually have an unsavory reason why they are trying to motivate managers to hire them. This could be something small and unrelated like the consultant needing money for some personal reason. Or possibly the consultant can't get work because word has spread about him or her. In any event, usually the middle bid is best, because that person priced out the job correctly and is not displaying potential problems.

Will geographic distance have any bearing on the services needed?

Sometimes consultancies put together a team where one person on the ground feeds a whole team with information. This can be a good arrangement. The person on the ground finds the issues, and the team writes the report, or makes suggestions that the ground person might not have thought about. Some issues, like financial analysis, can be done anywhere. This type of job could be done by anyone in the world who has the correct experience and education. Consider the job, and how the location of the consultant affects visits to the facility, or final presentations.

Finding the sweet spot of the right consultant, the right price, in the right location, with the right education and experience sounds difficult. In reality, this is easier than it looks. Once the hiring manage finds the right individual, the job will get done quickly and well.

Rink Management Services Corporation offers all levels of consultants, combined with a presence in most of the major sports facilities markets in the US. Give us a call, we are sure we can add to your discussion on the best consulting group for your job.

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