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The Edge_March 2009 -


A Practical Approach to Hiring Your Next Business Consultant

Thomas E. Boyd, Principal

Boyd & Nicholas

For more than thirty years I have

observed health care organizations

as they hire various business

consultants. Unfortunately, there

have been many occasions where

I have wondered about the

method used to identify and hire

their chosen consultant. Reasons

can be as shallow as a shared passion

for golf, mutual friends, a

great sales pitch, or even drinking

buddies. In each scenario, little

attention is paid to the consultant’s

references, experience, education,

professional associations,

certifications, code of ethics, and

mission statement.

The reality – most organizations

spend more time selecting office

furniture than choosing a consultant.


As a Medicare intermediary auditor

and a financial consultant, I

have observed the process of hiring

a consultant for many years.

It is not entirely uncommon to

find organizations spending

$5,000 or more per month on

“accountants” at a rate of $25 an


hour (200 hours). While the

hourly rate might be viewed as a

“deal,” the agency ends up with

poor work product that could

have been completed by a professional

accounting firm in less than

20 hours at a cost of $2,000 ($100/


What’s more, I have seen organizations

hire CPAs and MBAs

without the hired consultant

being able to inform them when

and where they obtained the designation.

I have watched as

organizations hire consultants

simply because their office is

located nearby.

I even had a client hire me

because of the crazy tie I wore at a

NAHC presentation. While it was

a good decision for his organization,

it is important to note that

his decision was largely made

based upon personality and mutual



When selecting a consultant, it is

essential that organizations create

criteria to ensure that they are

hiring the best possible person or

persons for their business. I advocate

the use of a simple priority

matrix approach that removes

some of the personal aspects and

gives weight to other important


The following section offers an

outline of the criteria that should

be considered when evaluating

potential consultants for your



A. Current clients

B. Associations

C. Your peers

D. Consultant’s peers

E. Past clients

Let’s start with the obvious – if

you ask for a reference, it is likely

that the potential consultant will

only send you references who will

speak positively about his or her

experience. This is especially true

if you ask to speak with a current


However, check that you are

comparing “apples to apples”. If

you have a defined need, like

starting an IV Therapy company,

ask for a reference that has engaged

the consultant for a similar

assignment. With larger firms,

ensure that you are speaking with

a reference for the person that will

actually be working on your project.

The other references that should

be checked, as much as may be

possible, to also get a feel about

the consultant’s reputation.


A. Experience

B. Education

C. Professional organizations

D. Certifications

E. Trade associations

Is the consultant’s prior experience

relevant to your needs? Consider

education and certifications

as factors that can show a consultant’s

willingness and commitment

to continued professional


In addition, would you not want a

consultant who is a member of his

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