Five Secrets to Onboarding a Consultant – Walter Sabo

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Cover image for  article: Five Secrets to Onboarding a Consultant – Walter Sabo

Since 1983 my company Sabo Media has served as an advisor and executive on demand resource to the top media companies in the world. These companies include General Tire media division RKO, Sirius Satellite Radio, Press Broadcasting, National Geographic, Parade magazine and many others.

Each of them approaches the onboarding of consultants differently and here are the pathways to an effective engagement:

1. Don't have a contract. Instead have a rolling, mutual 90 day agreement. This allows management to deal with the internal doubters. There will always be people who feel threatened by hiring a consultant. The 90 day cycle eliminates their fears.

2. Start with a payment. An engagement fee establishes the formal nature of the agreement and commits both parties. All of our successful working relationships have started with a one-time engagement fee that precedes work.

3. A statement of deliverables should be broad enough to allow the consultant to surprise you with over-delivering. Consultants want to keep you as a client. They look for ways to give you more than expected.

4. Performance rewards are only motivational if the consultant has control of company assets. As a freelancer, especially in a public company, they won't have the ability to hire, fire, manage or make deals. Therefore a performance bonus is not applicable. Consultants are accountable by default. If they fail for you, they don't get more work.

5. Transparency. Tell everyone in the unit or company that you have hired a consultant, tell them why and introduce them to everyone. The more you demystify the consultant's existence the more productive the relationship will be. There may be extraordinary projects that should be kept a secret -- in that case, make the hiring of a consultant an absolute secret -- no rumors.

Well, 6: A consultant is not an employee. An employee is obligated, in some States by law, to follow your commands. A consultant is required to tell you the truth from their perspective. If a consultant feels that a project, plan or co-worker is not meeting your expectations, they must tell you that.

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