7. Top management consultants

These companies represent the cream of consulting crop.When two global health-care corporations decided to merge, there was potential for major confusion.

These companies represent the cream of consulting crop.

When two global health-care corporations decided to merge, there was potential for major confusion. They called in Booz-Allen & Hamilton of McLean, Virginia, to untangle the mess and help them combine IT infrastructure and take full advantage of the economies of scale.

That's just one type of job covered by a traditional management consultant like Booz-Allen & Hamilton or McKinsey & Co. The industry is worth some $62 billion worldwide, according to the Kennedy Information Research Group. Management consultants also help with strategic planning, choosing partners, setting up interim senior management, and creating third-party alliances.

Management consultants are big-picture people. Before calling one, make sure you have that picture fully painted. Define the precise solution you are after, map out your budget, and decide when you need a project completed. Then arrange introductory meetings with a few companies to find the right fit.

During an initial consultation, create a realistic timeline for completion of the project that seems reasonable to both parties. Grill the consultant on your return on investment - in other words, make the consultants explain why hiring them will pay off. Be wary of a contrived sales pitch, especially from powerhouse agencies that employ hundreds of consultants. For the initial consultation, management teams tend to send their best salespeople.

"You often see the A-team in the selling process, but the people you get are definitely not the A-team," says Esurance.com's Glynn Evans.

At the beginning of the project, management consultants should meet the entire team of staffers they'll be working with. Spell out which meetings they need to attend and decide how you will communicate, whether it's a weekly e-mail, a daily phone call, or a monthly report.

Upper management is usually involved in the beginning of a consulting relationship and becomes less so as the project moves forward. Once the project gets rolling, the consultant should have a single specified point of contact within your company.


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8. Management consultants -cd

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