10 Questions To Ask Yourself When Hiring A Consulting Firm For The Life Sciences Industry

10 Questions To Ask Yourself When Hiring A Consulting Firm For The Life Sciences Industry

August 20, 2012 No Comments » Blog Post Snowfish

The life science industry is facing tremendous challenges, and you don’t need to face them alone. There are numerous management consulting firms that will help you tackle your most pressing challenges. Management consulting firms can provide deep insights and analytical abilities, unique processes for overcoming challenges, and needed resources to solve pressing business issues. Hiring a management consulting firm is a large and expensive decision, so you want to make sure you’ve hired the right partner.

In my more than 20 years in senior-level positions in business consulting and pharmaceutical companies I have faced numerous challenges. I have been fortunate to work with and for some great management consulting firms, and I have learned a lot about hiring the right partner. Below are my 10 key questions to ask when hiring a firm.

1. Have they worked in the life sciences industry and is that the primary focus of the firm?Many nuances exist within this very specialized industry and these can unfortunately be missed if the expertise is not there.

2. I see they offer multiple services. Can they show me a related white paper or detailed example? Let’s face it, a company can list any service on their website regardless if they have experience with it or not. By providing a white paper, a firm demonstrates that they have significant insight into a particular area along with a certain level of commitment to it.

3. Are the people I’m meeting really those who will perform the work on my account?
Often, clients are introduced to a team of very experienced professionals at the initial meeting and assume that these individuals will be performing the work. They then come find out once the contract has been signed that they are really the firm’s executives who will “be consulting on the project” and a far less experienced team will be assigned to the day-to-day activities.

4. How old are the examples and were they completed by the team working on my account? It is not uncommon to be provided with project examples that look great at face value but in fact they were completed for a product that has been off-patent for 10 years and by a team that no longer works at the company.

5. Do they offshore to lower wage workers? 
While offshoring may make a project less expensive, the trade-offs may include loss of insight and quality as well as risks to your intellectual property.

6. Am I getting the right level of expertise?
Hiring a strategic firm to put out a simple survey is unnecessary and a waste of resources. This is analogous to hiring Pablo Picasso to paint your bathroom. Alternatively, only experienced strategy firms should be charged with addressing complex strategic questions.

7. Should I be looking beyond my company’s preferred vendor list? 
Realize that there are multiple insights and often exclusivity breeds complacency. You owe it to yourself to see what other firms are doing good work in the area you need.

8. Am I really getting such a bargain?
A low-ball offer followed by multiple scope changes accompanied by additional fees often is more expensive in the end.

9. Do they have references readily available?
A company that has expertly delivered multiple times for their clients will have a list of references readily available and may even have testimonials on their website. Once you get the references on the phone, always ask them “who actually did the work.”

10. Is the proposal I’m reading clear, well-organized, and customized to my needs? 
The proposal you receive is an excellent indication of the type of work that the firm will deliver. For example, if it provides specific details about the product and disease state as well as the issues to be addressed by the project, the firm has already been listening and understands your needs and will continue to do so once they are awarded the work.

These are challenging times and a management consulting firm can be an invaluable resource for new ideas, expert analytics, and proven outcomes. I hope these 10 questions will help you find the right firm to partner with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post—is it helpful or not? Also, if you have additional questions to consider, please share them.

At Snowfish, we provide actionable insights for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We have worked with many leading companies in the life science industry for nearly a decade. Our website provides detailed information on our services and expertise, as well as many White Papers on our services and processes.

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