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Why SPEED Works: Get Ready for Project-based, On-Demand Success

The on-demand workplace is here to stay, and it will continue to gain momentum.

Change is the only thing that is certain in work and life, and there’s no end to the changes occurring in the workplace and workforce. The on-demand workplace is here to stay, and it will continue to gain momentum. But, like during any time of great change, I sometimes encounter resistance. Common roadblocks include:

Consultants are too expensive.
I don’t have the budget.
I can’t get buy-in.
We’ve always hired employees.
Hiring a consultant seems too risky.
I worry about cultural fit.
I’m way too busy.
Can I trust an outsider to be loyal?

These are some of the reservations that I hear. I enjoy talking with people about their concerns and here are some of the things I share with them, regarding:

Costs: Ah yes, let’s address the elephant in the room. There is a pervasive perception that consultants are overpriced mercenaries who create pretty PowerPoints but don’t do much work. I’ve seen that perception many times. Does that mean there isn’t any truth to it? Unfortunately, as in any profession, there are some consultants who overpromise and under-deliver, leaving you with the sinking feeling that you’ve been taken advantage of. Consultants are not created equal, and this is why I developed SPEED: to help you create the best team of on-demand consultants and get the most from them. Consultant rates vary widely depending on their expertise, discipline, industry, and/or capability, and supply/demand in any market. And knowledge transfer is a valuable asset to any team.

Budgets: You can always choose to reallocate funds to drive your most important business goals. Retainers and return on investment (ROI) should be reviewed on a continuing basis. Ask these questions: are you really getting the most value? Is the organization you’ve budgeted for driving your business? How do you know you are maximizing your results?

Buy-in: Implementing a new approach isn’t always easy, especially in large, seemingly slow-to-move companies. You may need someone senior to you to convince company gatekeepers that hiring a consultant is the most effective route.

Outsourcing: The status quo is usually the path of least resistance and does not enable you to innovate and move forward. It’s easy to have the attitude that “I don’t want to bring in outsiders” or “I’ll just stick with what I have.” I challenge you to be a “change agent” and review your goals and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to encourage agility and add value to your organization.

Risk: If a company has not previously brought in on-demand consultants for strategic projects, there likely will be resistance from an operational and cultural perspective. You will probably have to build a solid case for the consultant’s role. Connect a project’s goals to clear deliverables that only an expert can provide. And a short-term contract, say for three months, is a great way to test the consultant option with little risk. One of the great selling points of hiring an experienced consultant is that they are comfortable navigating in a cross-functional organization. They often are adept at extracting order out of chaotic situations and at winning people over. There is acceptance and trust once employees can see that their experts are there to help them shine. Company leaders often recognize the value of consultants because they see that the consultants can serve as the bridge that joins different teams, groups, and business lines or locations together.

Culture: Consultants can and do work well in different company cultures; it’s part of their skill set. Know your culture and see if your consultant has held previous, similar roles in other organizations.

Full-plate: I hear that people are “too busy” almost every day from mangers and executives. It seems like everything is in crisis mode.  

Trust: You may be asking: “How can I trust that consultants aren’t going to take our ideas to the competition?” This is a big issue in highly competitive industries where the same top consultants are constantly recruited. The best way to protect intellectual property is to perform a thorough due diligence review of the talent companies you choose to partner with and of your consultants. Make sure your legal team has solid non-disclosure agreements and/or confidentiality agreements. In order to know who you are working with, you may want to do a background check as well. Great consultants know they must uphold confidentiality to inspire trust. It’s the key to their professional longevity and success in the on-demand world. They know they need to deliver in every way—including, and most importantly, inspiring your trust.

We encourage clients to talk with us throughout their working relationship with our consultants. Each company, project and contract is unique. Communication is the key throughout any working relationship. Whatever your needs, we’re open, we’re here, and we’re ready to serve your needs in the On-Demand Economy.

In my next article, look forward to opportunities for the new workplace in the new year.

Lisa Hufford is founder and CEO of Seattle-based Simplicity Consulting, a consultancy of experts that partners with technology companies to strategically deliver Enterprise Marketing Services. For more than five years, Simplicity has been named to the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Lisa has been named an Inc. Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs, and has been named by Ernst & Young as an Entrepreneurial Winning Woman. She is the author of Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-Demand Teams That Drive Innovation, Control Costs, and Get Results.

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