7 steps to choosing the right environmental consultant.

Blog Post by Karen Wallis 03 September 2014

How to make sure you hire the right person for the job.

The Apprentice 2011

Do you find searching for and hiring environmental consultants stressful? Not sure where to start or how to decide on the right one? I get it; there are numerous consultancies out there offering a wealth of different services and products. When you’ve decided you need the support of an environmental consultant how do you begin to narrow down the field and choose the right person for the job? Well luckily, the process of finding and hiring the right consultant doesn’t have to be so hard – if you follow these simple steps you’ll be much better placed to make the right decision. Sound good?

1.    Understand your needs

In order to match your project objectives to a consultant’s abilities you must first understand what your project needs are and what role you’d like a consultant to play. Ensure you have well-defined objectives; this is something a consultant may help you with during an initial consultation.

Consider the following questions:

  • How much money can your company devote and what commitment is there to the project?
  • How much work can be done by in-house staff and how much will need to be done by the consultant?
  • What is your timetable for project completion?

By asking yourself these kinds of questions, you will begin to shape the proposal and be able to provide better quality information to each consultant you speak to when inviting them to submit a proposal.

2. Understand what services consultants can provide

Once you fully understand your needs you will have a better idea about what kind of support you need from a consultant. Consultancy services vary depending on areas of expertise and can include:

  • Providing an independent assessment / gap analysis of your situation
  • Helping to understand legislation and seeking advice from regulators on your behalf
  • Acting as a temporary or permanent supplement to your own staff
  • Identifying opportunities and developing recommendations for improvement
  • Providing expertise in certain areas
  • Helping with permit / tender applications and report writing
  • Assisting with operational changes and systems implementation
  • Performing annual tasks, such as internal audits and reviews
  • Conducting feasibility studies
  • Completing one-off projects
  • Supporting operation and maintenance of systems and processes

Just remember that consultants are there to add to your own expertise and improve your business operations. They shouldn’t be making decisions on your behalf, buying equipment or products for you that aren’t in your best interests, or providing generic services that aren’t tailored to your company needs. Customised support is always preferential.

3.    Find the right type of consultants to submit a proposal

Usually Google is the first option here right? Searching for consultants in your local area should bring up a few hits but also consider asking colleagues and neighbouring businesses for recommendations; you can’t beat word of mouth. Also consider looking in trade journals or professional websites such as LinkedIn, etc. Try to get a list of 3 or 4 consultants you can speak to about submitting a proposal.

4.    Understand the proposal content

A consultant should put together a proposal based on the work you require them to carry out. It should detail how they will address your needs as the client - the specific services they will deliver to complete the project, a timetable for completion / implementation plan, as well as a clear breakdown of the costs involved. I also think it’s a good idea for relevant testimonials from previous clients who’ve had similar work completed to be included so you can assess their work.

5.    Request proposal from several consultants

Ensure the consultants you’ve decided to obtain proposals from have all received your project brief. Try to obtain proposals from at least three consultants so that you have a comparison. Make sure you give a deadline from submission of proposals.

6.    Review proposals

Choose some criteria against which to evaluate the proposals you receive. For example:

  • Work experience – this is really important because you want a consultant with experience of the type of work you require. Can the consultant provided case studies of previous similar work done?
  • Professional qualifications – does the consultant have qualifications and training to carry out the work required? For instance, look for IEMA, CIEH, NEBOSH qualifications and CEnv status.
  • Working relationship – consider whether the consultant is someone you would feel comfortable working with; their availability during the project (e.g. to answer questions and respond to problems that may arise); their location (whether they are located close by or far away may impact on travel costs, availability and timeframe); their flexibility in accommodating your operating hours, etc.
  • Price – you can’t always compare like for like as consultants can take different approaches and strategies. Make sure the proposals cover similar amounts of work and that you are fully aware of what each proposal price includes and excludes so you can make a more informed decision.

7.    Negotiate a contract with the consultant you select

Ensure that you are both clear on the work to be carried out and what is to be achieved, that there is a written description of the work to be carried out by the consultant and a start date and timeframe for completing the project has been agreed.

And there you go, a step-by-step approach to selecting a consultant that should mean you are now well placed to choose the right person for the job. Good luck!


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