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Tying the right knot Featured

1:14pm EDT July 18, 2002

No marriage is made in heaven, and that includes the union of consultants and corporations.

The typical annualized investment for contracted project work can be $200,000 to $400,000, says Marilou "Louie" Myrick, CEO of ProResource Inc. Founded in 1989 and headquartered in Cleveland, ProResource offers flexible management and project professionals on a short-term or long-term basis.

Myrick's market space is expanding as the number of former corporate employees hitting the consulting trail increases, as does the number of corporations looking for help in project management.

For consultants, the work offers a greater life and work balance, the challenge of problem-solving and an opportunity at a time when the door to middle management positions is frequently closed. For businesses, outsourcing offers controlled costs, reduced risk, a compacted learning curve and added velocity to responsiveness.

With so much potential, the contract-hiring field is wide open. But Myrick says business leaders often ask their management teams for referrals rather than invest in a needs analysis.

To avoid hiring errors, ensure an experienced project consultant and yield a better return on investment, Myrick's best practices include understanding competencies necessary to achieve project goals.

"These competencies form the basis of the talent selection model with each set of selection criteria defined and ranked," Myrick explains, adding it is important not to forget the culture fit.

Behavioral criteria -- the soft side of management -- is often overlooked, but just as important as technical capabilities and experience. Myrick suggests the following steps for the successful addition of a contract consultant:

Define the project. Cover everything from goals to needs analysis to competencies required.

Interview candidates. Rank consultants against the needs analysis to determine the fit.

Involve everyone. When you launch the project, begin with a project focus meeting to define the plan, time line, deliverables, frequency of communication and access to information.

Putting her money where her mouth is, last month Myrick began offering monthly workshops to ProResource's consulting associates to improve their skills in organization, negotiation, communication and project management. Myrick says helping consultants improve their skills ultimately provides greater value to clients and consulting associates. How to reach: ProResource Inc. (216) 579-1515 or www.proresource.com

Deborah Garofalo (dgarofalo@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.