At the suggestion of a friend, I pulled this question from my rather informal list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) I Wish Were Asked. Here’s the answer I give when I’m pressed as to why … or why not … Cerulean:
First, is brand or expertise more important? Each of us has to decide if choosing a consulting firm should be based on brand and big advertising budgets (which you will be helping pay for), or if the consulting firm should be selected for its expertise, flexibility, and ability to reduce your risk through services such as warranties and post-project support.
When I give corporate workshops and conference presentations on best practices for supplier evaluation and selection – including evaluating and selecting consultants – I am consistently surprised by the low number of “yeses” to three simple questions:
- Do you insist that your consultants provide at least some form of warranty or guarantee for the advice they give?
- Do you screen consultants for the provision of some level of post-project support?
- Do you insist on some form of a money-back guarantee if it becomes clear that the consultant is not professionally or ethically sound?
In rooms full of 300+ executives, time and time again, only 1 or 2 people raise their hand to say “yes.” I find that astounding. As an industry, we have no problem scrutinizing the warranty terms of a $250 printer or Certificate of Analysis for a $500 drum of chemicals but yet we’ll happily shell out $25,000 with zero guarantee that we’ll get what we pay for.
If you want to see the type of consulting guarantee that I’ve found my clients like, you can see the consultant warranty that I tend to use (the language is obviously a bit different based on the contract and the work involved) on the Cerulean Guarantee and pricing levels.
Second, is tradition or currency important? There’s an old adage, “no one ever got in trouble hiring IBM.” But is that how you define success … as not getting in trouble? I caution colleagues about hiring a consulting firm that is still making recommendations based on last century’s best practices. The FDA of today is very different than the agency of ten or twenty years ago. There is no doubt that some expectations are the same, but with the agency having revised the GMP regulations in the first decade of the 2000’s, and now actively working on revising the GCPs and GLPs over the next decade, is the approach of the 1980s still the best? The answer will depend upon what you are trying to achieve.
Third, what type of attention do you want? Realistically, many consulting firms have a particular way of doing business. You’ve likely heard of the “McKinsey Way” or the old complaint that “we were sold by seniors only to have junior consultants show up.” Be aware that what you’re told in the sales meetings may very well be different than the actual day-to-day treatment from the non-sales personnel.
Because Cerulean only handles a select few clients a year, Cerulean clients have no worries about new project managers or subcontractors suddenly showing up, or paying for on-the-job training of new consultants still wet behind the ears, and so on. At Cerulean, you hire us, you get us. And because we depend solely on word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations, we have every incentive to do the best job possible.