When to use global consultants, and when not to

For the past decade, I’ve been engaged in consulting, primarily with organizational growth, engagement with China, global mergers and acquisitions, and sourcing for foreign capital. Along the way, Blue Water Growth also has done domestic projects to help organizations grow the top and bottom line.

As you might imagine, I’m an advocate for the use of consultants, but there are times when you’re better off going without.

It’s a good idea to use consultants when:

  • Time is of the essence. Particularly with low unemployment, finding staff rapidly and getting them familiar with your project needs can consume so much time that the opportunity passes before a capable team is deployed. Consultants provide accomplished hands in an instant.
  • Specific expertise and experience are important. Organizations that embark on growth projects often venture into fresh areas and examine new markets, new products and an expanded supply chain. Even a highly capable team may find itself in unfamiliar territory when trying to grapple with these challenges simultaneously.
  • Your team is occupied with the day to day. One hazard that companies face with unique and aggressive projects that require time-intensive expertise — such as the acquisition and integration of a new company — is the new project steals time and focus away from the demands of day-to-day operations that have been highly optimized.
  • The existing team can use coaching to get to a new level. A skilled consulting team working with the existing managerial team over the course of a project may be able to train people in new skills and expand new areas of interest, so the existing team has greater bench strength at the conclusion of the engagement.
  • The consultant has international experience. When a high-growth project involves significant international components, working with people adept in the foreign culture, business systems and legal systems of that nation can prevent you from making serious mistakes.

It’s not a good idea to use consultants when:

  • The existing management team has the skills, capability and adequate time. When a business has been stable, the existing team can become complacent. A challenging new project that stretches talents and capabilities may be just what it needs to get to a new level.
  • The execution of the new project isn’t mission-critical. If the initiative is exploratory and not vital to the growth and success of the business, allow junior managerial staff to take it on. They may demonstrate undisclosed skills and competencies.
  • The value of the new project, if successfully executed, will be less than the cost of the consulting engagement. Most consultants prefer projects where there is significant long-term value, as those engagements are normally more rewarding and deliver the most satisfaction to both sides of the transaction.

The key to a successful engagement is to identify the right time and place to utilize consulting talent. When used effectively, consultants can bring in experienced staff with unique talents and save time, as they boost top- and bottom-line growth and solve problems without distracting the existing managers from the critical execution of day-to-day challenges.


David Iwinski Jr. is the managing director of Blue Water Growth. A global business consulting firm with extensive experience and expertise in Asia, Blue Water Growth services include merger and acquisition guidance, private capital solutions, product distribution, production outsourcing and a wide variety of business advisory services for its Western and Asian clients.