So, you’ve made the decision to hire a finance consultant, and you’re on your way to getting your team the extra help they need! How you prepare for your consultant’s arrival can be extremely important in maximizing the value they bring to your company. Based on our own experiences, we recommend you complete the following six items to successfully onboard your consultant and get them up to speed as quickly as possible:
1. Prepare All Computers & Software.
When your consultant starts their first day on the job, their workstation should be ready to go, so they can hit the ground running. Their computer should have all necessary software pre-installed and any required approvals to access specific programs, drives, files, etc., should already be authorized.
While this seems obvious, it is rarely the case that these things are prepared in advance. Often, a consultant’s first day is spent hunting down an extra computer monitor or mouse or sitting on the phone with IT attempting to get access to the shared drive. In one personal example, I had wait two weeks to get access to the planning system. Not an ideal start, considering my primary responsibility was to update the forecast. Removing these rudimentary housekeeping items from a consultant’s to-do list will free them up to focus on the value-adding activities for which they were hired.
2. Provide All Relevant Documents Up Front.
At the start of any engagement, one of a consultant’s top priorities is to get up to speed as quickly as possible. I often compare the first few days at a new client to being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Given enough time, most people can figure out how to get where they need to go. However, it’s a lot easier if they’re given a map or GPS device.
Similarly, I find it’s much easier to get the lay of the land at a new client when I’m given the right information. This includes examples of deliverables, process or org charts, presentations, financial models or any other relevant information that can better educate me regarding the client and its needs. Ideally, all of this information would be waiting in my inbox on my first day.
3. Discuss Company Culture & Expectations.
Certain information can’t be gleaned from a deck or training video. Prime examples of this type of information are company culture and expectations.
In my experience, every company is quite unique, and social and cultural expectations can vary dramatically from client to client. Some clients are quite sensitive about who is copied on emails, while others include everyone. Some may have a loose meeting policy, while others have a very formal or distinctive way of running or requesting meetings. A quick discussion of these company norms at the start of an engagement can go a long way toward integrating your consultant into the company’s way of doing things.
4. Set Clear Goals and Objectives for Your Consultant.
Consultants are typically brought on to help a company achieve specific goals or objectives. Whether they are tasked with an EPM implementation, building a new forecast model or just backfilling a role for someone on maternity leave, it’s vital that a consultant understands exactly what is expected of them. While this includes specific objectives (e.g., preparing a specific report each week), it’s also helpful to provide general guidance.
One of my recent projects involved the implementation of a Rights Management System (RMS). The primary objective was to get the system up and running by a specific date, but our client also made it clear they viewed the implementation as an opportunity to improve many of their processes and maximize productivity. Based on this clear guidance, in addition to launching the new system on time, we were able to make significant changes to the company’s workflows that improved the speed of the process and eliminated redundant activities.
5. Include the Consultant in All Relevant Conversations
For your consultant, the first few weeks on a project involve a great deal of information absorption. We’re trained to intake information and process it as quickly as possible, but I’ve found a helpful method for acclimation is to ask to be invited to meetings.
Sitting in on on meetings is an effective way of integrating and immersing a consultant into your company. Even meetings that don’t directly relate to the consultant’s planned tasks can be important opportunities to gain additional insight into the business and other groups and people in the organization. As such, I strongly recommend adding your consultant to that meeting invite in their first month on the job.
6. Schedule Regular Check-Ins
At the beginning of any engagement, I make it a priority to obtain regular feedback from my client. This can be a challenge, as project sponsors often have packed schedules and limited bandwidth to fit additional meetings on the calendar. However, particularly at the start of the project, these feedback sessions are invaluable, and they help ensure that I am staying on course and addressing a client’s needs.
Neither the client nor the consultant want to waste a week’s worth of effort because the consultant prioritized the wrong project. To avoid this scenario, try to schedule regular, even daily, check-ins the first week or two of an engagement. Even when the consultant is settled into their role, I strongly recommend having regular meetings on the calendar to make sure priorities are aligned.
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About the Author
Chris has more than 12 years of finance, operations and project management experience in the entertainment, non-profit and bio-medical industries. Prior to joining 8020, he worked as a Senior Manager in FP&A at Paramount Pictures. Additionally, he held various positions at Advanced Bionics, Warner Bros and RLJ Entertainment. His background includes extensive experience in content acquisition and distribution, financial planning and analysis, budgeting and forecasting, financial modeling, valuation analyses, and process improvement. Chris holds an MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.