5. Choosing a consultant

A consultant can give your company a big advantage -- or cost you dearly.The deciding factor in choosing a consultant is finding the right firm for the job, even if that means keepinga project in-house.

A consultant can give your company a big advantage -- or cost you dearly.

The deciding factor in choosing a consultant is finding the right firm for the job, even if that means keeping a project in-house. The table below can help you sort through the choices.

Considering an e-commerce plan? A typical evaluation from McKinsey & Co. follows.

What Do You Want to Do?
Implement a new process or project; revamp the way you do something



Ground Zero - Most growing companies can't spare the resources-people, space, expertise-for a major endeavor. For a specific project, a management consultant is overkill. Instead hire a specialty or technology consultant to design and implement the new process.

Head Start - If you have the expertise to undertake your project-and a clear goal for what you need-forgo the consultant and develop it in-house. This may mean hiring additional permanent staff to cover other areas of the company and to keep the project going.


What Do You Want to Do?
Grow your business



No Clue - First figure out what you want to do-for example, increase sales or profits, add offices or retail outlets, expand customer base, or acquire or merge with another company. If your management team can't articulate a goal, turn to a general management consultant who can help you through the entire process.

Concrete Goal - If you have a measurable goal but don't know how to get there, call a strategy consultant to help map the course, then do it yourself.

Tight Budget - Companies on a tight budget should consider a regional partner who will typically demand less than a large firm.


What Do You Want to Do?
Come up with an e-business plan



Start Here - If e-business will be the primary focus - for example, if you're overhauling your entire business model - get a management consultant with a proven track record in e-business that can help you think through the entire process. Not sure if this is the right route? Check out "Develop an E-Business Plan" for details.


What Do You Want to Do?
Adjust to a changing market or economy



Know the Score - If you know the obstacles or changes in the marketplace and how they affect your business, you've got a head start. Add bonus points if you can grasp your key competitors or potential partners. What you probably lack is staff, so skip the consultant and hire a permanent employee for the project.

At a Crossroads - Even though you have this info, you may need help sorting it out. If that's the case, bring in a specialty firm that deals with business strategy or mergers and acquisitions.

Too Busy - If you don't know where to start or are too stretched running your core business, sign up with a management consultant.


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4. Reality Check

6. Develop an e-business plan

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