For trial sponsors, there are many advantages to working with independent consultants. Chief among them are their experience, their expertise, and crucially, their flexibility. For consultants, the freedom of conducting their business on their own time and schedule is the main draw to working independently.
No matter which side of the fence you lean on in this argument, working with a consultant enables the sponsor the ability to put in place an arrangement that’s adaptable. For clients and consultants looking to embark upon a new working relationship, here are three things to consider:
1) Structuring Agreements
Early in the process, it’s vital the client and consultant sit down to clarify expectations and objectives. It’s incumbent upon the employer to find out what the consultant’s motivations are. What’s more, it’s important the consultant develops a greater awareness of the company and the product.
Furthermore, meeting with the prospective client can offer a glimpse to any potential issues that may arise during the trial. If there are any early indications that the relationship might not work, it’s better to end talks sooner rather later, as the implications could be costly.
For both sides of the aisle, it’s important to establish a robust agreement that fleshes out the scope of the consultant’s work. If you’re the consultant, be sure to defer to a legal advisor to help customize an agreement that safeguards your interests.
2) Determining Client-Consultant Interactions
After the initial meeting takes place and both parties sign an agreement, remember this is only the beginning, and it might be the relationship doesn’t pan out as was originally hoped. Therefore, expectations need to be documented and updated throughout the course of the consultant’s term of employment. Before a consultant joins the team, it’s important to address the following:
- Determine the length of the contract (i.e. will it be short-term or long-term?)
- Find out about the consultant’s availability
- Enquire about the number of clients they work with
- Establish and clarify the organization’s timeline
- Budgetary restraints
- Will the consultant supervise a team?
Such factors can make or break interactions between the client and consultant. By clarifying and communicating these elements, ideally within the contract, both parties can avoid future headaches down the road.
3) The Power of Regular Communication
Preserving the client-consultant relationship depends on regular communication. Without it, the relationship can breakdown rapidly. Both the client and the consultant must maintain constant contact and ensure everyone’s on the same page as far as roles and responsibilities are concerned.
Regular meetings can go a long way to charting progress on a project, as well as identifying any issues on the horizon. If the consultant happens to be behind schedule, with the help of the client, both parties should develop a mitigation plan help get the project back on track.
Ultimately, bear in mind, that there are two sides to the client-consultant coin. While each party might be different, they are both the equal. Frequent communication throughout the process can ensure there are zero assumptions and presumptions about who is doing what, when, where and why.
*Adapted from John Schultz's 'Navigating Both Sides of the Consulting-Client Equation'