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Questions to Ask When Bringing In Experts
By Janette Racicot

Published in Technology Meetings Magazine

Let me guess. You're doing more with fewer staff and less time. So how do you work efficiently without sacrificing quality? One answer is to get help from outside. Outsourcing will raise questions, but many managers have pondered them before. Here are some of the big questions.

Is outsourcing really a good idea?

Look to your own company. Do you have an advertising agency, private counsel, or an accounting firm? Could management whip up an ad, review a contract, or track assets? Some jobs are best done by experts. Hiring independent professionals can be less risky than using employees in areas outside their fields.

Here's an example. A major systems company was disappointed with its annual training conference. Retention and product satisfaction were low. Although it could have attempted to solve the problems, management engaged a training professional. That consultant identified the issues, set content standards, restructured presentations, and improved each presenter's delivery in ways that never would have been attempted internally. The next conference evaluations showed a major improvement. Worth the investment? They say “Absolutely!”

What jobs are best for outside experts?

Look to areas that require skills, standards, and consistency that may be impractical or impossible from the inside. A professional trainer allows employees to focus on the jobs that only they can do, such as strategic planning, product design, and sales. If you wish you had more time and energy to dedicate to certain programs, those may be perfect jobs for a consultant.

For example, a North American software vendor planned to expand its sales channel training into Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. The company's relationships, content, and planning processes had to be fine-tuned for each country. One dedicated resource was able to customize the training content and fill the seats in a dozen countries, leaving management time to build invaluable relationships with international colleagues.

Could strategic relationships be affected?

If it's done right, they will be affected for the better. When strategically important partners join to create a training event, the process is inevitably full of complications. With so many “equals,” it is impossible for one player to set and enforce goals, schedules, and standards without risking long-term relationships. Plus, many of those players are competitors.

Investing in an objective third party may be the only way to ensure a smooth, successful program. A single point of contact to set deadlines, ensure quality, and resolve issues frees managers to work on strategic agendas and long-term relationships, and is likely to provide a training event that none of the individual players could have delivered on their own.

What about costs?

The benefits of hiring an outside training professional include rapid availability, finite expenditure, and defined program conclusion. Of course, some budget is required. You may find yourself comparing, say, a $60,000 fee for a four-month project to a $50,000 salary if you wanted to hire a new employee to do the job. The benefits of the latter include additional job responsibilities and a dedicated commitment to your company.

But to really understand costs, think beyond salary costs. There are also benefits, vacation, and facilities, and how about the opportunity costs incurred during the interview, hire, and settling-in period? Don't underestimate the competitive edge lost while you are waiting. Plus, can the salary you're paying buy the years of experience you would get with an outside expert?

Janette Racicot is president of Racicot & Associates, which specializes in helping companies improve their most important marketing and traiing events. To share your thoughts with her, call (617) 484-3201, or send an e-mail to jracicot@jracicot.com.

341 Trapelo Road
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Tel 617.484.3201 | jracicot@jracicot.com