As a consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes is the man that the police turn to when they can’t solve a problem. He has a detached viewpoint of the situation — and everyone in it — and he has vast knowledge about crime and forensics. What he lacks in people skills he makes up for in results. While working with Sherlock on a day-to-day basis may seem like a nightmare, bringing him in for particularly perplexing problems is well worth it.
Similarly, when regulated companies are faced with a problem, an outside consultant can seem like a great solution. For companies in highly regulated industries, hiring a consultant is frequently a question of compliance. To become compliant, paying an expert a one-time fee to come in and fix an issue sounds like a great idea – and in many cases, it is. While you’re probably not trying to solve a murder, taking a closer look at this high-functioning sociopath can help you find a consultant in your own industry.
Sometimes what you really need is someone who can tell it like it is, hopefully with more tact than our favorite detective. Rank-and-file employees are not those people. If they discover a problem, they may be very hesitant to pass that knowledge along to a superior. Employees may also hesitate to make suggestions that would lead to changes in their jobs. For example, someone who works with a paper-based quality management system (QMS) might worry about their job security if they pointed out the efficiencies of an electronic QMS.
Sherlock and his fellow consultants have no such problem. He makes recommendations with an unbiased viewpoint, and without fear of losing his job. Since he is hired for one case at a time, solving that case is his only interest at the moment. For consultants in general, this detachment also means that they are unfamiliar with the company’s history, its limitations, its goals, etc. If an understanding of the company’s circumstances is essential to solving the problem, bringing a consultant up to speed can be a time-consuming endeavor.
In highly regulated industries, compliance is everything. If a company in one of these industries is considering turning to a consultant to help it reach compliance, it should be a consultant with experience in that industry who has extensive up-to-date knowledge about the regulations involved. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of industry experts who have taken up consulting and many of them have decades of experience. However, that experience costs.
While Sherlock might solve some crimes just for the fun of it, most consultants come with a hefty bill. If a company has correctly matched the consultant to their need, the price of that consultant will be worth it. The amount and kind of experience are what dictate which consultant is the right one for the job. Even if Sherlock’s knowledge in some areas is lacking, he can still tell you everything you need to know about crime.
A one-time payment, even a high one-time payment, makes more sense in the long run than going through the trouble of bringing someone on as a full-time employee. Someone with comparable experience to a consultant would be very expensive if hired on as a full-time employee. This is especially a wise financial decision when the expertise of the consultant is only needed once, such as with an implementation, an overhaul of an old process, or to solve a string of serial suicides.
The problem is when that single consulting experience isn’t as beneficial as the company hoped it would be. If there are more problems that need fixing or if a consulting criminal enters the picture, the consultant may need to be called back in. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, it can lead to a dependency on the consultant that ultimately proves to be more expensive than hiring a full-time employee would’ve been.
The decision to hire a consultant is anything but elementary. Ultimately, whether to use a consultant is dependent on the problem at hand and what a company is hoping to get out of that consultant. Picking a consultant comes down to experience and price. You wouldn’t call in Sherlock Holmes to find your lost bunny, so only pay for the expertise you need. The right consultant is an important part of the quality process, especially when it comes to complying with regulations or implementing a new QMS.
Sarah Beale is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in business administration from DeVry University.