Getting Your Money’s Worth With Consultants

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How to build a win-win relationship that leads to success for all parties.

by CRAIG CARDELLA

No hotel manager or owner can be an expert on everything. That’s why successful hoteliers employ expert consultants to help them navigate key issues. Management will often find issues that need improvement, but they may not have the skills or experience to craft a viable solution. Spending money to make money makes good business sense. But hoteliers are often frustrated with mediocre results from consultants. That is a solvable situation.

Let’s explore how to make sure you are hiring a great consultant – and how you can be a great client in return. Here are six tips to ensure you always get your money’s worth.

Identify the issues

Consultants aren’t mind readers. Start with these questions:

  •     Could our hotel operation could be better if we did (name the issues)?
  •     What did it cost to avoid dealing with this issue (in present dollars and future business)?
  •     Does the cost of improving something result in net benefit to our business and our lives?

Find the right consultant

Finding experts to meet your specific needs requires work. Check with professional associations like AAHOA and your brand team to identify potential choices. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential candidates, call references and ask about dealing with your specific issues. Finally, keep exact notes of your research to use when evaluating experts.

Afford your consultant time and access

A consultant must become part of your team. Maintain good communications, and let your consultant know when you’re unavailable. Your needs may change during the job, so stay connected and be adaptable.

Also, allow complete access to your business. People and data must be readily available for a consultant to get a clear picture of your situation. Then afford as much time as required to help the consultant understand what you’re dealing with and find solutions.

Listen to your consultant

You’ve hired an expert because of their proven skills – listen to their advice. Most clients only use about 25 percent of the recommendations they paid to receive from a consultant.

When you receive recommendations, ask questions to obtain clarity about any particular points. Be persistent, and then listen and apply their advice. Make sure to estimate the costs of changes, and keep in mind that partial implementation seldom achieves good results. Predetermine the metrics of success and measure your results. Keep score to win.

Understand contracts and fees

You’re paying for skill and expertise, so when it comes to signing a contract, be sure to know exactly what it covers. For instance:

  •     What is the length of the contract? Have target completion dates and enforce them.
  •     What services will your consultant provide and what must you do to help?
  •     What are costs if a project requires additional experts like lawyers or appraisers?
  •     When are fees earned and when are they paid? Have a dispute resolution plan.

Get everything in writing and understand all terms before signing

Know what you are signing, and stick to the written agreement. Document any changes and keep track of progress in writing. The contract should define who will actually do the work and define the final results including the scope of the written report. Don’t allow undisclosed subcontracts.

The preparation required to utilize a skilled consultant will make your business better. A few bonus tips for how you can ensure consultants offer your company the best solutions possible:

  •     Identify your core company values in writing and explain them to your consultants.
  •     If you are a branded franchise, don’t just use brand slogans, be specific and personal.
  •     Ask consultants about their values and ideals to be sure they fit yours.

Skilled consultants do their best work for the best clients. Teamwork based upon clear communication is the foundation for achieving great results. Take time to connect as business partners and friends. Your business is family, so your consultant should feel included.

Avoid the tendency to hire someone who mirrors your ideas. Hiring a consultant who agrees with everything you do now won’t help you improve in the future. Be professional and agree not to be offended if the consultant points out problems that you don’t see. Bringing in a consultant requires you to stretch and grow, not stay as you are now.

At the end of a successful project, your consultant should feel like part of your management team. If not, one of the parties has not done their best. After 30 years in consulting, I still can recall my best clients and the worst. It always came down to having a plan, following the plan, and doing the little extras that contributed to success.            ■

Craig Cardella is CEO of Property Tax Eagle, a Founding Member of AAHOA. Craig served in local government for many years before becoming a real estate developer and property tax consultant. Property Tax Eagle specializes in hotel property tax and related state and local tax issues. Craig will gladly answer your questions by phone or text at 222-251-7465 or email craig@propertytaxeagle.com.

Photo credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock.com

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