Updated: Mar 11
You just hired your first design consultant. That’s super exciting, but also a bit scary. You may be asking yourself how to choose the right consultant, how to work with them and what actually happens during the design process. Are you ready to get started?
When creating a product or service, it’s important to partner with someone who understands the customer’s needs and has the experience to create a design that meets them. This is why so many companies hire independent design consultants. There are many things that you can do to make sure that you’re working with the right person for your project. In this article, I share ten things I learned from my experience as a design consultant for clients in both small & large companies that will help you get the most out of your time spent with a design consultant.
1. Have clear goals in mind
Talking with a potential design consultant will help you figure out if they're right for the job, but it'll also give them a chance to get up to speed on your business goals and address key problems. What specific problem are they trying to solve? Which outcomes are expected from their works? Having clear goals will help them deliver the right engineering solutions.
2. Understand the process
Design consultants will have processes they use to deliver great results, but it’s important that they also understand yours. It’s critical that they adapt their approach to fit how your company works, not vice versa. You may also want to consider working with building services consultants who have experience in Agile development, which would allow you to better integrate your work with theirs.
3. Get recommendations from colleagues or industry contacts
One of the best ways to find a good building services consultancy is by getting recommendations from industry contacts or colleagues that have worked with consultants previously. Word-of-mouth is often the most reliable way to find a good engineering consultant because you hear about first-hand experiences with them. If you can’t get recommendations from anyone, check out online reviews from searching “engineering companies near me” on yelp or google plus or do some research on LinkedIn and see what people are saying about the person or company you are planning to hire as your design consultants.
4. Make sure they have the right expertise
The first thing you need to establish is whether the design consultants have expertise in your industry. This doesn’t mean that they need to have worked on a similar project before, but they should have an understanding of your business and the challenges it faces. This can come from working with competitors or partners in the sector or just from being particularly knowledgeable about your market. You also want to assess their skills and experience in areas related to what you need them for – this may be research, planning, strategy, creative concept development or technical execution of design projects. Don’t forget that any design and construction engineer worth their salt will bring their own ideas, so don’t be afraid to make use of that as well as asking them to carry out specific tasks for you.
5. Assess their communication skills and attention to details.
Can this person explain engineering solutions and defend recommendations? A good design consultant should be able to hold his or her own in front of a group of professional engineers, articulate choices to lay audiences and communicate effectively one-on-one. Is this person paying attention to the small but important things? A good design consultant has a well-honed sense for what might go wrong, and can help ensure success on all fronts, not just whatever is most visible.
6. Evaluate their portfolio
Just as you would do when hiring building engineers, take time to evaluate design consultants based on their past performance and customer satisfaction ratings. Ask for samples of previous work and speak with references before beginning a new project together — this is especially important if it involves out of ordinary design works.
7. Don’t look at Design Consultants as an outsourced creative department
Design consultants are not there to make decisions for you. In fact, they can only give advice based on their experience. It's ultimately up to you to decide what is right for your organization and what isn't. This is a key thing to remember when engaging building services consultants to guide them in the right direction and have clear expectations from the start.
8. Consultants are not there forever
A design consultant will be around for a specific period of time as specified in the contract between both parties, which means that once the contract ends, so does the relationship with that design consultant on that specific project. The deliverables agreed upon in the contract should be delivered upon by the end date of said contract, which means that it's important that your organization makes good use of that time.
9. Trust the experts
The biggest mistake construction companies make is that they engage a building services consultant for a project and then don't listen to them. They think, “We have a problem, let's get someone to solve it for us.” But you have to be open to their ideas because the solution may be different from what you expected. If you guide the consultant towards the main objective of the project, based on their expertise they should be able to provide you with multiple design options that can be chosen.
10. Ask for references
If possible, ask for some contact information from engineering companies that have hired this building services design consultant in the past. Don't just ask for their number; call them up and ask them about their experience with the design consultant you're considering. Was everything delivered on time and within budget? Did they get along personally? Were they easy to work with or was communication difficult? You don't need to pick up on every detail of your potential consultant's personality right away, but asking these questions will give you some.
Hiring a good commercial building designer is, at it's core, about trust. You have to trust that they are going to do a good job despite some communication challenges. You have to trust their ability to turn around the design you are looking for, and use their expertise to make things happen for your business. You can’t just write up a requirements document and expect to find the perfect match for yourself – that’s not how it works. Hiring a building services consultant is an opportunity for them to show you what they can do with limited background information from you, so be open and communicate well from the start. A good engineering consultant knows what they want, but they also know how to get things done while building rapport along the way.
When you are looking for a design team to work with, there is a lot to consider. What KPIs do you want them to hit? What budget do you have in mind? What tools and frameworks will they use? How will they work with your team?
Let me know in the comments below in case you have more items to consider while hiring a consultant from your experience.
If you would like to find out about our expertise and to see whether we are a good match for you as building services consultant, please feel free to get in touch via our contact us link or call us on 1300 883 685.