The short answer is….there is no short answer. When FrontLine Compliance receives an email or call from a prospective client looking into our services we vet them carefully. We have learned to do this over the years for two main reasons: (1) many firms still don’t understand what compliance consulting is; and (2) firms often request a specific service, such as a mock audit, that in reality is not the best fit for their current needs. Yes, you read that right, a compliance consulting firm just told you that a firm may not need a requested service after all! That does not mean they don’t need help, most firms do. However, a good compliance consulting firm will engage a prospect and learn about the firm before coming to any conclusions on the appropriate service offering for that prospect. Notice the word “service” was used and not “product.” True compliance consulting firms do not sell products. A compliance “consulting” firm that sells products is selling compliance solutions or tools to assist firms; they are not offering consulting services. We need good compliance tools and software solutions in our industry, but please do not confuse those product offerings with consulting – two very different things.
There are several key questions to ask prior to hiring (or switching) compliance consulting firms:
- Do you have a well-defined goal for a specific project that has been pre-approved by senior management? If you do not have a specific goal or there is ambiguity among team members, then you are not ready to hire a consulting firm.
- What is your budget for the project? An approved budget is crucial because quotes will come in all over the place and there will be no consistent range in pricing that shows standard industry costs. Service industries do not offer commodity pricing. Also, offer to share your budget limits with prospective consulting firms. If a consulting firm is a good fit for you they will want to develop a customized service program that fits both your budget and your compliance program.
- How will you define success in the consulting relationship? This gets back to defining what is most important for you to accomplish. Keep in mind that a good consulting firm wants a successful outcome just as much as you do – they want a happy client that will re-hire them! Will success be defined by how quickly compliance review backlogs are brought up-to-date or perhaps it’s more esoteric than that? Either way, you need to define it together at the beginning of the consulting relationship and make sure it is well communicated to all project team members so that expectations can be met.
So, this was the long answer, but one that ensures both parties are satisfied with the consulting relationship. A relationship that over time will develop into a true partnership between two firms with the same end goal – success!