by Ashley Burgess
At Wazuku we’re a consultancy that hires consultants. That might sound like a contradiction, but in reality it means we know what we’re good at, and when we would benefit from expertise we don’t have in house.
We also understand that the benefits of outsourcing go way beyond solving short-term problems or managing one-time events.
Here are five powerful reasons we believe outsourcing can benefit any business.
There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately. But at those times when you’re absolutely sure that you’re right, talk with someone who disagrees. And if you constantly find yourself in the company of those who say 'Amen' to everything that you say, find other company. – Condoleeza Rice, in a 2012 commencement speech to Southern Methodist University
Whether your company is going through a major strategic change or just needs a brand tweak, consultants bring an objective outside viewpoint. They often help you get out from under the day-to-day operations of your business and on to the business of articulating and achieving your ultimate objectives.
Hiring them also often gives you the support (and push!) you need to finally make change happen.
Besides, the old adage is true. It is lonely at the top. As a CEO or board chair, hiring a consultant you can trust – someone who not only gives you perspective, but also has your back and is willing to challenge you when you are going sideways, gives you a level of comfort you might not have otherwise.
2. Change Management
Getting employees onside with major organizational changes, like a merger or embarking on a strategic planning process, brings considerable challenges you might not have the skillset to manage. Consultants can help you keep the waters smooth, and slowly get your team on board by conducting focus groups and facilitating information sessions where staff members have an opportunity to express their fears and feel heard in an impartial and safe setting.
3. Try before you buy
If you are entertaining the idea of bringing a certain specialty or a specific expert in-house, outsourcing is a great starting point. You can test the waters for fit and strategic opportunities before you committing to a long-term relationship. If you nail a project with your consultants, you may decide to bring them on as staff, or to collaborate on other projects. On the other hand, you might realize the fit isn’t right, or that the temporary fix a consultant provided was all you need for now.
There are always situations where it’s better to bring in someone from the outside to corroborate management observations that will ultimately require uncomfortable, but necessary, change if the organization is going to move forward. These are cases where somebody’s going to have to be the bad guy. Often, as CEO, board chair or senior executive, in order to protect your good working relationships with your team, you don’t particularly want it to be you. In this case, the consultant’s role is to act as a buffer and be the gal in the black hat. This approach works well when there is conflict at the highest levels of leadership and you don’t want to be perceived as picking sides.
In addition, knowing an outside expert is behind difficult decisions often brings a level of comfort to both senior management and team members.
5. Advancing Strategic Initiatives
At the risk of sounding devious, there are good reasons for bringing in consultants to push through an agenda that favours a sensitive corporate objective. For example, the board, CEO, or even senior management team might advertise to staff that they are engaging a consultant for a particular purpose, like the development of a human resource strategy, when in fact the consultant has been hired to do something much more in-depth, such as a business valuation.
Great consultants are like magicians, able to mastermind manoeuvres, bring people onside and achieve results without anyone knowing that there was a pre-determined agenda in place. That being said, the best ones are not puppets – they’ll usually play your game only if they believe your objective is in the best interests of your company.
Any organization can profit from these deeper benefits of outsourcing, but there’s a caveat: you must be willing to invest the resources to engage first-class consultants. This is not just a financial investment (the best consultants don’t come cheap), but one of trust: you need to let your consultants delve into the heart of your organization and then have the courage and willingness to hear and act on what they have to say.
We have been fortunate to engage consultants who have become real partners and have helped us grow our business significantly. At the same time, we take pride in the fact that our Wazuku team does the same for our clients, across the country and in all our areas of expertise.
Ashley Burgess is Wazuku’s Manager of Operations & Finance. She plays a pivotal role helping Wazuku achieve its Canada-wide business objectives and operational results, including outsourcing talent when necessary.