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Whether you have your own business or work for someone else, you will probably work with at least one consultant.

There are many good consultants if you use them correctly. However, there are also many consultants who are primarily self promoters and sales people who may take advantage of your vulnerabilities.

Most successful businesses are grown by people who have high standards and never think they are good enough. They also are typically people who are good at something and as a result, find themselves with a growing business that exceeds their skill set. The combination of self-doubt and the constant changes that go along with growth creates the market for consultants.

Ideally, a consultant should be someone who understands how to manage change, where you are at and where you want to go. But the good consultants will also understand what you can do and what will be too much for you given the various aspects of who you are and what you are personally capable of doing.

The danger is that many consultants are primarily sales people who have had some success working for other people and they are better at selling themselves than they are at doing what they say they can do.

The following items may help you to avoid this.

Remember that no one knows your business better than you.

Don't let anyone tell you that you don't know what you are doing.

Don't let them play on your insecurities or self doubt. There is a reason you have gotten as far as you have. Don't ever forget that and don't ever give up control.

Listen to your gut. Consultants are often very talented at gaining your trust, finding out what you dream is and then selling you on how they are going to help you realize your dream. The problem is, there is a difference between saying you can do this and actually making it happen. Make sure they can make it happen.

Set short term goals and benchmarks (weeks, not months) and then stick to them. If they are not met or exceeded, there is a reason. Don't ignore the results. If they can't deliver, pull the plug or renegotiate a more appropriate contract.

Never set up an open ended or long term contract. Consultants should never be allowed to run your business. They should only be contracted to come in, do a specific job for a specific result, and then they should leave. Many consultants will get the short term result and use that to try and turn it into a long term contract. The reason is simple; It's easier to stay with one business rather than having to constantly generate new business.

Never trust the stories or references the consultant gives you. Ask for the reference of at least one company that had a bad outcome. If they don't have one, they are probably lying. That should be all you need to know. You can also ask them about a time that did not work out and find out why they think it didn't work out. Do they take responsibility or do they blame the client?

Never give up control or give them access to financial decision making. They will spend your money like water. This is because they are probably more familiar with working in a bigger company that had more resources. It is seldom that they have had a business where they have had their personal resources at risk. No one knows the value of a dollar as much as you. Don't let them call the financial shots. It's your money. Never forget that.

Get a copy of their Errors and Omissions Insurance binder to make sure that they are legitimate. If they don't have this, then there is a good chance they are not a professional consultant.

Document everything. Make sure that you keep all contracts, that they are fully reviewed by your attorneys and that they are fully executed. Make sure they have specifics about the job that is going to be done, how it will be accomplished, the budget and the benchmarks for performance throughout the project. Make sure it has language for terminating the contract for low performance that is suitable to you. If everything goes well you won't need it. If there are problems you will be glad you have it.

That is basically it. I hope you have the perfect business for you.

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