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How do you hold consultants accountable?

Q. How do you hold consultants accountable?

A. Clubs engage consultants for expertise in a variety of services. The first step is to determine what your club really wants to achieve. Is it realistic? What do you hope to learn or solve? What would success look like? How do you envision the consultant’s role? Will they support your current staff or fill a gap in resources? Clarity around these nuances is critical.

Define the Project

Once you define the project, you can consider consultants with the appropriate expertise and experience. Ideally, develop an RFP—request for proposal—that will define what the project goal is and request the same information from each firm about their process, experience and approach. You can find samples of RFPs online to guide you. Interview a number of firms, and benchmark their responses to make the most informed decision possible.

Do Your Research

Also, review the firm’s client list and understand their approach to assess if they are the right fit for your club. Does the list reflect clubs with similar culture to yours? Have they done many projects similar to yours? Ask past clients: Were they easy to deal with? Were they smart about the industry? Each firm’s style may not fit with every club or every project, so it is important that you are clear as to how each firm is different in culture and approach. Further, the consultant needs to make the project as effortless and effective as possible for the stakeholders because they are volunteers. Ideally, it should be a valuable and productive experience for the club’s stakeholders.

While a budget is important, there is a range of consulting fees. How much is the club willing to invest to achieve a desired situation? Invariably, clubs may get a number of proposals reflecting a range of scope and resulting fees. The lowest fee is often not the best work product.

Get it in Writing

Once a club selects the consulting firm, a scope of services should be agreed upon that outlines specific goals. Create a formalized agreement and understanding of the mutual expectations and objectives of the project in order to monitor and track the project’s progress. It should include the estimated resources, time frame and additional costs based on the criteria set by the client. Note what is included and what is not. Agreeing on this at the onset of the project is important as changes to its scope during the project can result in delays or additional costs.

Work With Key Leaders & Staff

Buy-in from the board and key staff is especially important if the consultant is coming into a politically charged or sensitive situation. As outsiders, consultants rely on the staff and board members to navigate the workings of the club, aggregate data, etc., so they can accurately diagnose the club’s issues and propose solutions. Whoever manages the consultant must ensure that those involved understand the engagement’s goals and support the consultant. If the staff or board members feel threatened or perceive the engagement as unnecessary, it can hamper the consultant’s ability to get the job done effectively. In these situations, it can be difficult to hold the consultant accountable if they are faced with internal opposition.

There are many benefits to engaging an outside consultant to achieve your goals and objectives. Following these guidelines can help you find the right consultant and hold them accountable to achieve the desired results.

Dan Denehy is president of DENEHY Club Thinking Partners, an executive search and management-consulting firm that has positively influenced the member/guest experience at more than 200 clubs and resorts on more than 400 projects. He can be reached at [email protected] or learn more at