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Consulting is not a dirty word: 5 tips for working with a consultant

BeautyMatter was born from Founder Kelly Kovack’s desire to provide a fresh voice to a beauty industry hungry for more content from her perspective, and through her lens. BeautyMatter aim to fill the void, connect the dots, and provide an informed, analytical, and compelling point of view. Exploring limits and blurring boundaries, they offer highly curated news and original content by thought leaders and beauty insiders.

Kelly Kovak:

“I have been advising clients for the majority of my career and, with each new business meeting, I hear the litany of consultant horror stories. I’ve also been on the other side of the desk, having shared the misfortune of some of the very same experiences. However, I’ve also had consultants and freelancers who have become full-time employees or long-term business collaborators. I love consulting and continue to be drawn to it – not out of need, but rather for the ability to touch multiple brands, work with diverse people, and tackle unique challenges.

External agencies or individual consultants can be valuable resources for companies of all sizes, but as with most relationships, it requires commitment, work, and communication on both sides to reap the benefits. As with most business objectives, having a plan sets the stage for success. In the best of all possible worlds, you will be able to provide a well-articulated explanation of your needs, stipulate background parameters, expertise necessary, services you’re seeking, and characterize the type of relationship you want to cultivate with the consultant for a defined term. However, you may find that the initial engagement is actually to help you identify the problems you face. Either way, acknowledging your needs is the first step to a solution.

Five Tips To Productive Consulting Relationships

1. Have you done your homework?

In today’s hyper-connected world, everyone has a digital footprint. Both sides should enter the first conversation having done their due diligence. Everyone’s time is valuable, so having done this work up front will provide context for the initial meeting and allow for an informed and targeted conversation that should determine if there’s a move forward together, not yet, or that it’s simply not the right fit. Remember, first impressions matter.

2. Is your house in order?

A good consultant should have a list of requirements or a process for engagement. This is an opportunity for both parties to gain insights into what a working relationship might be like. Before signing an agreement, establish what documentation, product, access to staff or clients, and time commitment are required to initiate the project. This is not a place to cut corners: if you, the brand owner, are not able to grant access in terms of time and resources or don’t have the ability to prepare documentation in an organized manner, then perhaps the timing is not right. It’s crucial that a consulting project is set up to succeed if you are seeking ROI from the relationship.

3. Are you looking for a miracle?

Unfortunately, they don’t exist. While it would be nice if it were that easy (but few thing are), most business success requires time, a plan, execution, and constant evaluation. Both sides need to be realistic and clear about the expectations, goals, and term(s) for working together. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No matter how good the consultant is, how deep their experience is, or how many contacts they may have, things take time. If they promise you miracles to land the project, run for the hills. As a brand, if you’re going to go down this path, be sure to make the investment required to reap the benefits.

4. Are you crystal clear or as clear as mud?

Communication is imperative for the project to be completed on time and for the agreed-upon goals to be achieved. Consultants are not mind readers, nor do they have a crystal ball into your past or the day-to-day workings of your business. Conversely, clients sometimes don’t know what they don’t know. It may not always be easy, but open dialogue, brutal honesty, and clear communication ensure efficiency and productivity and eliminate the potential for misunderstandings. Identify a point person for the relationship and a process for decision-making. Projects only move forward when decisions are made.

5. Can you handle the truth?

If you are contemplating hiring a consultant, very often there’s a problem or the need for expertise in one or more aspects of your business. While it may be difficult, you must put aside your embarrassment and fears and be prepared to air your dirty laundry. Laying the groundwork for a project with complete transparency establishes the expectation that you will receive frank and honest advice in return. Whatever the magnitude of the advice, only you can make the final decision whether the prescription is justifiable and correct. Furthermore, you will then need to summon up the courage, flexibility, and resources to take the next steps.

The bottom line is that times have changed, and the ability to successfully work with outsourced talent at all levels is becoming the new business model. Successful consultant engagements can have a profound impact on your bottom line and the long-term success of your brand.”

Visit and follow Kelly Kovak on LinkedIn here.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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