When should you fire a consultant?

Last month, I wrote an article about when to hire a consultant. There’s no doubt that bringing on a consultant is a big decision, but knowing when to fire one can be even more important. Generally, consultants fulfill skill gaps or solve specific problems for your credit union.  Unfortunately, they can tend to hang on too long and be difficult to get rid of.  Just like an employee, you may become emotionally attached, causing more harm to your organization if you keep a consultant around past their point of usefulness. Here are some key indicators that it’s time to fire your consultant.

  1. No longer getting value – This is #1 for a reason.  Unlike an employee who should be invested and developed to create key skills and resources for the company – I expect consultants to constantly be adding value, pushing the limits, and driving us to fully be engaged in their discipline. When all the ideas are coming from me, then it is a key sign that it is time to move on.
  2. Don’t fit with Corporate Culture – If you are like me, you may not hold a consultant to the same corporate culture standards as you do other employees.  This can work out fine, but it can turn into a real issue if a consultant completely violates your cultural principals. When your employees or teammates see you allowing team members (consultant or not) to violate key values, it can implicitly devalue the core tenants of your business and erode trust and morale among the team. So, if your consultant blatantly goes against what you and your company believe, it’s time to cut bait.
  3. Disruptive to other goals or team – Sometimes consultants need to be disruptive. They can often provide key momentum builders, energy and excitement around ideas and concepts.  At the same time, they can hog resources and stifle other priorities.  It is essential to monitor employees stress and the impact of consultants to make sure they aren’t being overly disruptive to the broader goals of the credit union.
  4. You have developed in-house expertise – One of the key goals before and during the consulting engagement should be for the consultant (i.e. the expert) to pass on knowledge, frameworks, resources and other skills to key employees.  Always have a deliberate plan to create playbooks, tools and trainings so that when the consultant leaves, you haven’t lost the expertise.  Once you establish the proper documentation and processes AND have in-house employees dedicated to fulfilling the tasks originally assigned to the consultant, you have successfully absorbed all you needed from the engagement and are likely ready to part ways.
  5. Breaching security – We are all in the business of protecting member data.  Consultants that don’t get that and don’t interact with our data and our teams with the same confidentiality level we expect from our employees should be dismissed.  
  6. Feedback is ignored – Giving feedback to consultants can be challenging on both sides.  Often you have hired a consultant for a specific expertise.  Sometimes their guidance is tough to digest and implement and sometimes it just will not work as prescribed.  In those cases, having a frank and honest dialogue with the consultant is critical.  If that still doesn’t change or improve the situation, then it may be time to go a different direction.

Of course there are lots of other reasons to fire a consultant.  If after reading this you think it is time, I might suggest the following ways to approach the situation.

First, arrange for a time to sit down with your consultant and be direct.  Then use one of the following approaches:

  1. Contract Timing –  The contract has ended and it is time to go in a different direction.  It’s us not you.
  2. In Sourcing – We have decided to bring on a full-time person.  Your work has been amazing – but we just think we need a permanent member of our team.
  3. Performance – Unfortunately you have missed a number of key deliverables, consequently we think it’s time to try something else.
  4. Financial – Our budget priorities have changed and we know longer have the budget for this initiative.

It can be uncomfortable to fire a consultant, but using the markers mentioned above and assessing the situation independently from your feelings will help you do what is best for your credit union. After all, consultants aren’t meant to work with you forever.

Kirk Drake

Kirk Drake

Kirk Drake is founder and CEO of Ongoing Operations, LLC, a rapidly growing CUSO that provides complete business continuity and technology solutions. With its recent acquisition of Cloudworks, Ongoing Operations ... Web: www.ongoingoperations.com Details