Hires, consultants or experts – when to hire who?

Getting the right people aboard, at the right time, is crucial to any project’s success. Who to hire when, is one of the most important questions you have to answer in any business venture.

An eternal discussion that always arises in some form or another, when starting a new project, is whether or not you have the necessary capabilities to fulfill the project at your disposal. If you don’t, the question the transforms into where and how you can obtain these capabilities. This article weighs your two options against each other and introduces a third way.

When deciding on whether you should hire a new employee or hire an external consultant for the project the first thing to consider is of course the timeframe as well as the nature of the project. Generally, a long project with several iteration-cycles and a vaguely defined targets might be better served with a new full-time employee, whereas a short-term project could benefit the most from engaging with an external consultant. Generally. It is obvious that different projects require different constellations, and while it may seem a bit banal, the easiest way to decide what you need is by comparing the pros and cons of both new hires and external consultants.

Considering the new hire, on of the biggest advantages is that you can rely on the employee full-time and they are part of your team. This means they can get to know the ins and outs of both the company and the project, without having to entertain other interests. Is your project highly specialized, you can gain a competitive advantage when attracting and retaining top-talent to your company, but specialized employees are usually expensive, so if your project is short term, with few to none subsequent projects coming up.

On the other hand, engaging with external consultants also holds its advantages. Any consultant you would engage with would be chosen to perform a very specific task or reach a certain milestone, and you will only have to pay for the time they actually spend on your project. A consultant also brings in a completely fresh set of eyes, and can be an effective countermeasure against company biases. At the same time, highly specialized consultants are busy people, meaning you might find yourself in a situation, where the consultant don’t have time for your project. Continuing, any consultant brought into your project will have no chance of knowing the ins and out of your company, meaning it will take them some time to get up to speed. On top of that, highly regarded consultants of course demand a higher fee, and even then, other unforeseen expenses might occur, and strain your budget.

There is a third way

Both of these constellations are very powerful when used to their full potential, and should never be disregarded out of hand, but what if your project doesn’t match any of the presented categories? What if your project might be in so early a stage, that you can’t defend hiring a new employee or engaging with an external consultant? What if you feel like you have all the competencies you need for the project, but could do with an outside-in perspective on your dispositions? What do you do then?

What if your project might be in so early a stage, that you can’t defend hiring a new employee or engaging with an external consultant?

Micro-consultations with industry experts seem to be the perfect middle ground. If you, in your project, are targeting a specific knowledge objective, you can refine the search parameters to find the most niche people to talk to. That way you can also illuminate your project from several different perspectives, rather than just one, as you would do with a hire or consultant. In itself, the format of the micro-consultation opens up a new tier of experts, that is not available to you, if you are looking for longer engagements.

To sum up, the success of your project often depends on the people you bring into it. You have to match the constellation to the nature of the project. When starting a longer project, there is a case to be made for a new hire, whilst shorter project with strictly defined targets might be easier to push to an external consultant. Industry experts can either be utilized as an in to a higher tier of knowledge than otherwise available, or as a supplement to one of the other constellations.