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How to Hire a Business Consultant


When health care organizations hire business consultants, a number of key business factors may influence their decision. In choosing a specific consultant, key factors may include references, the consultant’s experience and education, professional associations and certifications, as well as the consultant’s code of ethics and mission statement.

Most organizations spend more time selecting their office furniture than choosing their consultants, and often with better results. Perhaps the personal aspect of hiring a consultant makes it a more difficult task.

Simione Healthcare Consultants advocates that organizations adopt a priority matrix approach to hiring consultants. This method will help remove some of the personal aspects of decision making, and give weight to other important factors that will support the organization’s goals.

What factors should be considered in the hiring process?

References:

Current clients, associations, your peers, consultant’s peers, past clients

Current clients are likely to give a good reference. However, check that you are comparing “apples to apples” in your discussion of consultant recommendations.  If you have a defined need, like starting an “IV therapy company” for example, check that the reference supplied to you that was involved in a similar assignment. With larger firms, you need to check that the reference relates to the actual person that will be handling your assignment. The other references should be checked, as much as may be possible, to also get a feel about the consultant’s reputation.

Knowledge:

Experience, education, professional organizations, certifications, trade associations

Is the consultant’s prior experience useful to the assignment? Consider education and certifications as factors that can show a consultant willing and eager to learn more and help you. In addition, you should want a consultant who is a member of their professional organizations and your trade associations with access to new information about their discipline. These memberships indicate someone who desires to maintain and increase their professional education, and likely shares your mutual goals for the industry.

Organization:

Firm size, web site, mission statement, code of ethics, availability, location, personality

If you are considering hiring a firm with many employees, then it will be important to evaluate the person or persons doing the actual assignment. Additionally, you will need to evaluate the organization. Do they have a mission statement and a code of ethics?

Is the consultant’s location of any importance to you? The consultant’s timely availability is important to most assignments.

The consultant’s web site can tell you about the firm’s employees and their background. It can also tell you if their expertise includes the services that you are interested in obtaining.

A consultant’s personality is the #1 factor for most people in current hiring practices. While important, it needs to be placed within the context of the consultant’s assignment. If you are installing a new accounting system, for example, the consultant’s interaction with you as the CEO may be less important than their interaction with your CFO and the accounting staff.

Priorities:

Importance, weighting, matrix

Once you have evaluated all of these factors, you need to determine their relative importance to your decision determination. The use of a priority matrix can be helpful.

An example, Project A is the consideration of hiring a clinical consultant firm to educate clinical staff about the revised PPS system.

Project A

ASPECT

Max Points Assigned

Firm #1

Firm #2

Firm #3

Personality

20

2

1

1

Education

10

8

8

1

Certification

5

0

4

5

References

10

1

9

1

Experience

15

1

5

1

Associations

5

5

5

5

Organization

5

3

5

5

Costs

15

1

1

0

Location

15

1

1

5

Totals

100

8

7

7

 

Firm #1 has its biggest advantage in costs and location. Given the nature of the assignment, they may be closer to the hiring organization and cheaper for the assignment.

An example, Project B, is the consideration of hiring an interim CFO while the organization engages in an executive search for a new CFO.

Project B

ASPECT

Max Points Assigned

Firm #1

Firm #2

Firm #3

Personality

10

1

1

9

Education

10

1

1

1

Certifications

10

1

9

9

References

10

8

9

9

Experience

15

1

1

1

Associations

2

0

0

2

Organization

15

1

1

1

Costs

20

1

1

1

Location

8

4

2

6

Totals

100

8

8

9

 

In this example, Firm # 3 has a slight advantage due to their better location and
belonging to associations.

If more than one person is doing the interviewing or taking part in the selection process, then the organization will need to have a common matrix to be used by all.

Processes:

RFP, contracts, scope of work, WIP, deadlines, money

As part of the process, you need to determine how many consultants you will interview for the assignment. Most organizations committed to competitive bidding processes in their purchasing operations will recommend a minimum of three (3) and up to five (5) using an RFP. An RFP is a request for proposal and is usually an open or general call to receive proposals from the consulting community for the organization’s specific project. An RFP is recommended for more expensive projects, IT conversions for example, and when a project can be clearly defined and does not require immediate completion. The project timeline needs to allow for writing the RFP, the RFP being sent out to the consulting community, and receiving and evaluating responses. A consultant agreement should be a written contract with scope of work, interim timelines, deadlines, and fees, including any travel and support costs, clearly stated.

If you have taken a logical approach to hire a business consultant, you still may have a “tie” or an inability to decide between two consultants. In this scenario, personality or compatibility may still be the most important single factor in the hiring of a consultant. It can become the tiebreaker, but it should not be the only factor.

About Thomas E. Boyd

Thomas E. Boyd was appointed as Vice President of Reimbursable Services at Simione Healthcare Consultants in 2014, following 20 years as principal of Boyd and Nicholas, Inc., THE COST REPORT PEOPLE®, which he co-founded with Thomas Nicholas in 1993. Tom has more than 30 years of Medicare reimbursement experience, including almost 12 years with one of the Medicare intermediaries for home health agencies, and has been a consultant to Medicare- certified home health agencies and hospices since 1989.

Tom has spoken on home health financial and compliance issues before NAHC, NHPCO and more than 20 state and regional home health care associations.

He holds a B.A. in management and accounting from Sonoma State University, and a MBA from St. Mary's College in California. He is a member of the HHFMA workgroup, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the U.S. Chess Federation.