1. The truth about consultants

by Nora IsaacsWe know what you're thinking. You may have even been burned by one.

by Nora Isaacs

We know what you're thinking. You may have even been burned by one. But "consultant" doesn't have to be a dirty word.

Want to ramp up your e-commerce efforts overnight? Need to bring your company's technology into the 21st century? Trying to crack new markets? And want to do it all with a minimum of heartache and disruption? Just bring in the hired guns.

We've all heard the horror stories of the hotshots who stay too long, charge too much, and don't get any real work done. The trick is finding the right kind of consultant for your needs-and signing up one who can really get the job done. A good consultant can jump aboard to solve a specific problem, handle a project that your staff can't manage, or move your company in a new direction.

Consulting is big business: By 2003, it's expected to be a $55.8 billion market in the United States alone. Thanks to the Internet and e-commerce, it's no surprise that IT consulting is the fastest-growing area. But consultants that specialize in business strategy, change management, and process improvement are also in high demand.

It's not just big companies with lots of money that are hiring either. Midsize businesses and even startups are bringing them in. So can you. But how do you know you'll get what you pay for? And where do you start?

Here's how to choose a consultant for management projects, technology work, or specialized services, and a guide to the top ones.

 

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2. Do you or don't you?

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