If asked what is a consultant? The answer can be relatively easy. A consultant is any person who applies his or her experience or knowledge to help achieve a goal. A contract consultant is an individual who typically works for himself but he also may be associated with a consulting firm. He is a person who for a fee gives advice or provides a service in a field of specialized knowledge or training. Most consultants carry their own tools and equipment. The consultant can work alone or in conjunction with the client's staff.

The consultant can play a multi-faceted role. He can, for example function as an advisor, a fixer, a boss, a generalist, a stabilizer, a listener, an advisor, a specialist, a catalyst, a manager and a quasi-employee. The actual work that consultants perform for one company to another may vary greatly, i.e. tax account to office decoration. However, the typical underlying reasons that a consultant is hired are universal. A problem exists and the owner or manager of the company has decided to seek the help of an expert.

Bringing in an expert can save time, effort and money. It has been estimated that approximately seventy percent (70%) of all companies call upon consultants at one time or another. Many companies claim that they receive a higher return for their invested dollars by using consultants for specific tasks.

Most companies have experienced the problem of needing short-term technical expertise. Perhaps the company's existing staff is already working to capacity. In many cases, the engineering skills required for a project can be satisfied with a full time employee. When they can not fully justify bringing someone on board full time, their answer is to hire a consultant. By doing so, the businessman solves his immediate problem without permanently increasing his payroll and payroll taxes.

A consultant can be hired when the company may not have any one on staff capable of solving the specific problem. At such times, a costly learning curve on the part of the engineering staff is associated with the project. One example is using a consultant as a viable alternative during the development stages of new products. Hiring a consultant with experience in a given area can then cut days, weeks or even months off a project schedule. In addition, he can help the staff avoid mistakes they may otherwise make. When the project reaches a certain point, the permanent staff can then take over.

A consultant can deal directly with owners and upper management. In this role, a consultant can provide an objective third-party view point. Critical objectives can then be identified and advise given in confidence.

A consultant is a viable alternative in assisting in feasibility studies or in proposal preparation. Perhaps the manager cannot justify shifting the duties of existing staff members. Another time that consultants become useful is when a company is just starting a business. Consultants can begin the development of the company's new product while full time permanent technical staff members are being hired.

The essence of management consulting is to help a client obtain information and advice which leads to real and lasting solution of a problem.

Consultants think, analyze, brainstorm, cajole and challenge good organizations to become even better by adopting new ideas.

All of the above sounds good, however how does one differentiate between any consultant and the truly gifted consultants. In regulated industries, such as the medical and legal professions, recognized experts bestow the title upon the individual. This indicates that the individual completed certain courses of study and was tested and found to possess sufficient knowledge to merit the title. In many other fields, titles seem to have no relationship to experience or knowledge. Just about any one can hang out their shingle and call themselves a consultant.

This is an excerpt from the book Consulting: A Job Or A Lifestyle – ISBN: 1598000640.


Dr. Uchil is an entrepreneur, business-owner and author embodying almost three decades of management and consulting experience. Prior to founding The Uchil Group and Uchil, LLC, Dr. Uchil spent over eighteen years in a variety of senior management roles at several large consulting organizations. In addition to his PhD in Business Administration Dr. Uchil also holds an MBA in Consulting Operations Management, a BSEE in Electrical Engineering and a Diploma in Electronics and Telecommunicati...

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