Some people who hire business continuity consultants think of them as being like waiters: they expect the consultant to serve them at their leisure then quietly go away, allowing them to enjoy an excellent meal.
However, in my experience—I have been the CEO of a business continuity consulting and SaaS (software as a service) firm for 19 years—companies with this attitude do not get very much out of their consulting engagements, and their programs are the weaker for it.
The best business continuity managers and corporate leaders recognize that working with a BC consultant is, at its best, a lot like dancing the tango.
The tango is one of the most beautiful, soulful dances ever created, as well as one requiring complete synchronization between the parties. When one partner is even slightly out of sync with the other, the beauty unravels and the soulfulness of the dance is over. When the partners mesh, it is a complicated and yet beautiful expression.
The same is true of the best partnerships between business continuity consultants and their clients.
At MHA Consulting and BCMMETRICS, we have dealt over the years with a multitude of clients across the globe and in many different industries. We have been blessed with a roster of clients with high pedigrees, companies that are leaders in their markets. Without them, we would not be where we are today.
Over time we have formed a definite idea of the type of clients we wish to work with and the kind of relationships we would like to build. It does not include companies that view their business continuity consultant as a waiter, but rather those who view their consultants as partners in a shared enterprise requiring a dedicated effort on both sides.
This is not a question of ego or convenience. It is a question of quality and success. The waiter approach brings bad results. The tango approach brings good results. We want to work with companies that are committed to achieving excellence in their business continuity management (BCM) programs. Such programs:
- Are ingrained in the company’s culture.
- Are technically and procedurally sound.
- Minimize risk for the organization.
- Provide excellent value on investment.
So, how does an organization “dance the tango” with its business continuity consultant? How should the company’s personnel act to ensure that the engagement is a success and truly helps the organization strengthen its BCM program?
Read on for suggestions of what to do before, during, and after the engagement with your BCM consultant.
At the end, I’ll share some tips on what not to do, based on a recent experience of ours that, in our view, amounted to a missed opportunity by the client.
SEARCHING FOR A CONSULTANT
The following tips apply to the period when you are first shopping around for the right consultant:
- Know what you need and want in your request for proposal (whether or not you require a formal RFP). If you don’t quite know what you need/want, get help in writing it, even if it requires you to pay for the assistance.
- Be realistic in what you are asking the consultant to provide. Ensure that your requests make sense.
- Recognize that consultants are “for profit” organizations and do not work for free.
- Understand that best-in-class consultants are not cheap.
- Be realistic in your deadlines for data and information. You are not the consultant’s only client.
- Respond politely to the consultant’s emails inquiring on the status of their proposal, even if your response is to say leave me alone.
FINAL PRESENTATIONS AND SELECTION
Next comes the phase when the finalists make their presentations and the company makes its choice. Here are some suggestions for that phase:
- Show up on time to the final presentations. It is likely that your consultants have traveled many miles to get there.
- Be respectful and give consultants your attention during meetings and presentations. It really won’t kill you to put your phone, laptop, and other technology away for an hour.
- Stick to your timeline in making a selection. If you will be late, let the consultants know.
- Communicate your decision in a timely manner, both to the consultant who won the engagement and those who didn’t.
- If the consultant asks why they did not receive the engagement, give at least a brief explanation.
WORKING WITH YOUR CONSULTANT
Here are some tips for when the engagement is underway:
- Treat the consultant as a partner and not as a disposable item.
- Time is money. Use the consultant wisely, whether he or she is working onsite or remotely.
- Provide a project manager to help with scheduling, coordination, and data gathering.
- Use the consultant for their knowledge, taking care of the minutia of the engagement in-house, if possible. Otherwise, expect to be charged for it.
- Maximize the consultant’s time and you will be successful.
WHEN THE ENGAGEMENT IS COMPLETE
The engagement is winding down. Here are some suggestions to help it achieve a smooth landing:
- Make sure all deliverables are complete and agreed upon.
- Ensure you have all the data and information from the engagement.
- If the job was done well, help the consultant with a reference if possible.
HOW NOT TO DANCE THE CONSULTANT TANGO
I mentioned above that I would share some tips on what not to do in working with a business continuity consultant. The following is an experience that we at MHA had earlier this year after we were asked to participate in an RFP for a leading worldwide company.
Unfortunately, it amounted to virtually a textbook example of how not to get a good result from your BCM engagement.
Here is a breakdown of the main events and key bumps in the road:
- The company’s BCM RFP was unrealistic. It was obvious from it that the company had not developed a clear understanding of their BCM needs. We were compelled to edit the organization’s RFP so that it made sense.
- The company requested that the RFP response be in PowerPoint. This is highly unusual! We sent our response in a deck of 65 slides.
- Once we received word that we were in the finals, the appointment for our presentation onsite was made and rescheduled multiple times.
- Finally, we traveled a few thousand miles to do a final presentation onsite, spending close to $4,000 for myself and another consultant to fly, stay, and eat in the Big Apple.
- We arrived early for the appointment. The selection team consisted of six people; three of them were more than ten minutes late. Our appointment had been scheduled for only one hour, and it was not extended to make up for the time lost at the beginning.
- The original plan was to give a 45-minute presentation followed by 15 minutes of questions. Due to the late start, the question period had to be sacrificed.
- As we were conducting the presentation, four out of the six attendees were working on their phones or laptops.
- After all of this, the panelists advised us it would be another 90 days before a selection was made.
Obviously, it’s frustrating on a human level if your efforts meet this kind of response. More important, from the client’s point of view, is that if the attitude that the selection team showed in the meeting reflects the company’s approach toward the BCM engagement, the engagement is almost sure to be a waste of money, no matter which consultant is ultimately selected.
IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO
As a corporate BCM person, are you involved with hiring and working with business continuity consultants? If so, don’t think of the consultant as a waiter who exists to serve you. Think of them as a partner in a joint activity which is important to both of you. The organization and consultant should work together like two people dancing the tango. This is the way to get the most value for your investment, strengthen your BCM program, and promote the resiliency of your company, which in the last analysis is what it’s all about.