For many people hiring an outside advisor is not something within their comfort zone, maybe not even within their field of vision. For example, many people don’t realize that some function could be brought to their practice by an outsider, so they don’t consider hiring an outsider. Others may have the vision, but lack the confidence in outsiders. Many want to do it all themselves. Still others do have a vision and wish to hire an outsider. How should you go about it? What you really want is to find someone to fix your problem at maximum benefit for minimum expense and bother.
The last thing you want to do is to decide to hire an expensive advisor to complete a project which not only is unnecessary but takes up your administrative time, thereby creating a problem where none previously existed.
I have prepared the following checklist based onthousands of initial consults with prospective clients.
1. Define your goal. Ask yourself, do I really have a plan or need, or do I just feel uncomfortable about something? Am I just bored? Did someone scare me into thinking I have a need? Am I just curious?
Am I in an emergency and not thinking straight? In other words, does what I am considering doing make sense? Your answer will become clear based on the following.
• What exactly is it I am trying to accomplish; what is my goal?
• Is my goal realistic, achievable and within my budget?
• What evidence of need to accomplish the goal do I have?
• Will my proposed solution achieve the goal?
2. Define exactly what objectives are required to achieve the goal.
• Defining your objectives will help you to define the skill set and service you require.
• Lay out, think and rethink each objective required to reach the goal. Sometimes looking at the sequence will bring about unexpected clarity which re-orients your thinking.
• Organize your objectives into the categories “beginning”, “middle” and “conclusion”. This process provides a “surface” for your project and will identify which objectives are missing or unnecessary.
• Set a measurement tool beside each objective to let you know if the plan is on track, and the sequence will be useful to evaluate your progress.
• Define “Plan B”. What happens if the result of your project changes the original need for the service?
3. Interview prospective advisors. Make a list of potential advisors, schedule initial consults and answer the following questions.
• Can you or one of your existing staff members complete the project? Do any of these people have the skill set and experience to efficiently complete the project?
• Do you personally have the resources to delegate the project to someone in your organization even if they are capable, or would you be pulling them away from something else?
• Interview prospective outside advisors. Ask yourself, can I administer this person or firm to make sure that this project stays on track and achieves my objective?
• Are they a hard sell? Are they professional or do they discredit competition?
• Is their agenda primary or do they listen to your agenda?
• Are their fees and services in line with your expectations?
• Is the service offered a “one need fits all”, or does it specifically address your concern?
• Are you comfortable with the professional
• qualifications, experience and personality of the person who will be doing the work?
• Is the person or firm properly qualified, licensed and insured to provide the service?
• What happens if you need to terminate the service provided? Can you retrieve prepaid fees?
• Is a bigger firm better, or will your fees be wasted supporting irrelevant overhead? Will you achieve more personal service with a smaller firm?
• Is the advisors cost justified?
• Take some time following your initial consult. Trust your gut instinct. Are you comfortable proceeding with this project in the hands of anyone you have spoken to?
4. Finally, before you make any commitment, shift your gaze to envision the end result – how will achieving the goal affect your practice, and how will you know whether the advisor achieved your goal? Carefully analyzing the answer to this question will bring the first three steps clearly into focus and enable you to quickly choose the correct path. PA