A consultant is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise such as accountancy, the environment, technology, law, human resources, marketing, medicine, finance, public affairs, communication, engineering, graphic design, or waste management.
A consultant is self-employed or works for a consultancy firm, usually with multiple and changing clients. Thus, clients have access to deeper levels of expertise than would be feasible for them to retain in-house, and to purchase only as much service from the outside consultant desired. It is generally accepted good corporate governance to hire consultants as a check to the Principal-Agent problem.
A consultant is also the term used to denote the most senior medical position in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland (e.g., a consultant surgeon).
Ways in which Consultants Work
Often a consultant provides expertise to clients who require a particular type of knowledge or service for a specific period of time, thus providing an economy to the client. In other situations, companies implementing a major project may need additional experienced staff to assist with increased work during that period.
More recently the term is also used euphemistically for temporary staff. That resource is only temporarily employed by a company to augment the company's core set of employees without providing any unique expertise. This usually indicates that the consultant could be expended when demand for that particular skill diminishes, though this expandability is sometimes recompensed with higher pay.In this usage, the consultant is usually employed through a limited company which they themselves own, or through an umbrella company. Consulting has come under some criticism because of staff augmentation and the high amount of jargon consultants use, also known as consultantece
Sometimes a consultant is not an independent agent but is a partner or an employee of a consultancy, that is a company that provides consultants to clients on a larger scale or in multiple, though usually related, skill areas. This has advantages both to the client and to the consultant by:
- Providing a pool of talent that can be quickly mobilized as required
- Reassuring the client about the quality of the consultants supplied
- Giving the client access to the experience and methodologies of the whole consultancy rather than an individual
- Introducing the consultant to new experiences and techniques which may, eventually, permeate through the consultancy as a whole
A consultant giving career advice and training to an individual or a team is often termed a coach, and a consultant assisting an organization to develop a new strategy or solve a particular problem is sometimes referred to as a facilitator.
Strategy consultants are common in upper management in many industries. There are also independent consultants who act as interim executives with decision-making power under corporate policies or statutes. They may sit on specially constituted boards or committees.
A career in which a professional is hired, usually for a short-term basis or for a specific project, to provide professional or expert advice and insight into a subject that the company's own employees don't possess expertise in.
Types of Consulting Work:
Types of Consultants
- Independent Contractor:Someone who provides services for a company or individual, but who is not an employee of that company or individual. A contractor can work on-site or off-site, depending on the project with specific instructions from the person or company who has hired the individual.
- Self-Employed:A self-employed might own a firm or regularly hire sub-contractors to complete parts of their contracted work in a predominantly own office space.The self-employed are subject to the same policies of taxation, insurance and benefits as a contractor, in that they are responsible for providing and handling each on their own.
- Consultancy Services:These are a particular type of service delivered under a contract They are distinguished from other contracts for services by the nature of the work performed.
There are consultants for almost all types of industry. The most common types of consulting services include management, technology and web consulting.
- Business Consultants:Individuals providing consultancy related to business be it a new incorporated firm or an established organization to help improve everyday business operations.Professional business consultants have expertise that can be focused on a particular specialty without reorganizing existing resources.
- Marketing Consultants:Marketing consultants help get the word out about the goods and services by analyzing the target audience and the benefits of advertising in different mediums. Whether traditional media or online, advertising business consultants can look into the spending pattern of alloted budget. The majority of business consultant contracts are short-term investments for a quick boost in productive while saving any long-term effects on the overall organizational structure. Seasonal consulting work can also be a cost effective solution that outsources work on accounting or taxes and other cyclical commerce transactions.
- Specialty Consultants:Specialty consultants are a group of practitioners in the field of engineering, architecture or building system mechanics, specialized in their field of service.
- Political Consultants:Political consulants are a group of business professionals who assist and advise political campaigns.
- Technology Consultants:Technology consultants provide implementation, support, training, and strategic planning services to an organization in order to help manage technology, implement a project, or determine a solution to effectively meet the needs of a company.
- Web Consultants:Web consultants provide assistance with web site goals. Services include setting goals, defining the target audience, developing marketing strategies, optimizing search engines, designing the site, and producing effective copy.
- Image Consultant:An image consultant is a man or a woman who specializes in visual appearance, verbal and non-verbal communication. An image consultant counsels individual and corporate clients on appearance, behavior and communication skills through individual consultations, coaching, presentations, seminars and workshops and also developing fashion and style for clients.
- SEO Consultants:Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of methodologies aimed at improving the visibility of a website in search engine listings. The term also refers to an industry of consultants that carry out optimization projects on behalf of client sites
- Investment Consultants:A set of professionals who provide aid in the investment decisions of individuals and financial committees and officers of institutions.
- Engineering Consultants:Engineering Consultants are a group of people providing aid in the field of engineering and its related activities.
- Management Consulting:Management consulting (strategy consulting) refers to both the practice of helping companies to improve performance through analysis of existing business problems and development of future plans, as well as to the firms that specialize in this sort of consulting. Management consulting involves the identification and cross-fertilization of best practices , analytical techniques, change management and coaching skills, technology implementations, strategy development or even the simple advantage of an outsider's perspective.In other words Management consultants analyze and propose ways to improve an organization's structure, efficiency, and/or profits.
In present scenario of growing competition and thrust to get better output organizations often opt for human resource consultancy i.e. in other words Management consultancy.
Steps to Start a New Consultancy Firm
To start a new consultancy firm there should be a blueprint to follow and check against so that major components are not left out.
Purpose to Hire a Consultant
- Assess the area(s) of expertise, areas of interest, need for training and the commitment to develop a consulting business. Identify the type of consulting business to be established. Determine consulting rights and the conditions under which consultancy can be undertaken.
- Will the business be conducted as supplementary to the full time job done at present or will be done full time
- Will the business require one-on-one consulting for solving problems, observations, making recommendations, or trouble shooting. Will the business require conducting workshops If yes will the workshops take place primarily in-house at individual institutions, or will they be conducted nationally or regionally in key locations. Will the business require products such as books, monographs, videotapes, audiotapes, or CDs
- Identify the target audience(s) and the market niche and the competition around
- Identify the name of the consulting business. This name will summarize the focus of the consulting business and announce exactly who you are and what you do.
- Identify the legal structure of the business as sole proprietorship,partnership, corporation, S corporation, or Limited Liability Company.
- Most beginning consultants begin as sole proprietors.
- Write a business plan.which acts as the guidepost for everything that is done in the consulting business. The plan includes the specific products and services that will be offered, a marketing strategy, a financial plan, and a management plan.
- Will the business be conducted from residence or at another primary location.
- Determine financing needs. Itemize the start-up costs and source of these funds for the business for one year. Part-time consultants can usually develop their business by using personal funds only unless new and expensive equipment is required.
- Select an accountant, lawyer, banker, and other specialists as needed.
- Determine the pricing structure for consulting fee.
- Obtain all necessary tax and business licenses locally and state-wide.
- Create materials to promote professional image. These include quality business cards, letterheads, brochures, handouts for conferences,
- CDs, books, booklets.
- To supplement staff time:When the project is a nonrecurring one and is evaluated to consume more time.
- To supplement staff expertise:Some tasks, because they occur so infrequently, call for special skills that cannot be learned quickly or easily by staff
- To ensure objectivity:Projects like department reorganizations or complex redevelopment plans that will displace residents can be very controversial, emotional, and political. A consultant may be able to find a "win-win" solution and can often be accepted by various parties as an objective mediator in any local disputes.
- To obtain a variety of skills:A small community with limited budget and planning staff can hire a consulting firm with access to a number of people with different skills. It would be difficult or impossible to hire enough part-time staff to find that variety of skills or find one individual who was that multitalented.
- To deal with legal requirements:If a local government puts a freeze on hiring or is unwilling to commit to any long-term employment, an agency may only be able to hire a consultant to deal with an impossible work load or project.