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How To Hire an ISO Consultant

Companies pursuing ISO certification or registration frequently begin the process by hiring consultants. Consultants help speed the process along and help you overcome any road bumps.

So how do you hire a consultant?

First and foremost know what it is you are getting: Many people think they are hiring a consultant to do a contractor's work. Don't confuse contractors with consultants. The difference between the two will affect outcomes, expectations and fees.

Contractor: A contractor will spend a significant amount of time at your company performing tasks such as conducting audits and writing procedures. The contractor provides an additional set of hands to do certain tasks for you. Contractors may spend 50 percent or more of their time working with you over several months. The contractor is a worker, not an adviser, and generally doesn't take part in the strategic project planning necessary to achieve registration.

Consultant: A consultants, on the other hand, is an adviser who will help lay out a strategic plan and organize the necessary resources. A consultant acts as a coach on the sidelines, encouraging and motivating your employees to perform the tasks necessary to reach registration. The consultant helps everyone stay on track, brainstorm solutions and knock down barriers.

Secondly, look for experience: Having a consultant that has experience is going to be more valuable to you than 100 consultants without it. Getting ISO certification is difficult enough as it is, so having someone who has gone the rounds before, and can add their own insight and knowledge to the process will expedite it, and make it much smoother.
Knowledgeable and capable consultants have worked with several companies and have learned first-hand some of the typical pitfalls companies face when pursuing registration. Because they have identified many of the same kinds of problems before and understand that it's possible to overcome these problems, consultants are less likely to be discouraged or frustrated by bumps in the road. Moreover, because consultants don't own the process and have less emotional commitment to the organization than do full-time organizational members, they may be able to bring an unbiased and unemotional perspective to problems and evaluate a variety of potential solutions.

Third, ask the right questions:

When it comes right down to it, the truth is that consultants need to be knowledgeable about quality issues, the standard, and auditing and documentation practices. So, make sure you ask the right questions to determine if they have the knowledge needed to get you the ISO certification you want and need.
Ask specific questions about experience. Ask for references. Ask for specific examples of ISO certification success. Ask for background information. Ask for a sample of their game plan for you.

If you are given a choice between a consultant with a strong quality background and one with more management experience, if everything else is a toss up, then you will be better off hiring the consultant with line management and budget responsibility experience.

Last but not least, don't just hire some because of proximity to you. It will be worth the airfare to hire someone who is more experienced. It is hard to measure their value, but don't necessarily hire someone who lives close to you. A more important consideration is the consultant's availability and responsiveness to your needs. Ask the questions that let you know. Make sure that before you actually hire someone that each time you try to contact them the response is good. Telephone, fax and e-mail are all useful tools for staying in touch with your consultant, see how well they respond with these areas.
How do you hire an ISO consultant? Through due diligence and careful interviewing you will hire an ISO consultant to meet your needs.

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