Most business owners are Type A personalities, and some within that group often have trouble asking for help. It's unfortunate, as bringing in a fresh set of eyes and experiences (in the form of a consultant) can be a very smart move --both financially and spiritually. Finding and hiring the right help can be a journey, and like any other journey there are some steps to take before it begins.
Before you start there are some things to do first, which will help you get the right consultant or company. At the top of the list is having a clear and detailed picture of what you expect and need.
When we and other consultant folks are asked to help, we rely on this clear picture of what is expected and needed. The initial conversation is a lot like a first date--as the parties are trying to get to know each other. We'll ask and receive questions from each other, looking for honest answers... or at least as honest as we can be at this stage. Sometimes (actually, most times) we get guarded or even misleading information. It's fairly common, and it may be because the employer is trying --perhaps on an unconscious level--to relinquish him- or herself of the real problems and responsibilities at the core of the issue.
As a wise leader you have considered hiring a consultant, so let's get underway by asking some questions. These are not as tough as they may sound, and they'll help get to the heart of matters much faster. It will also assist in deciding what kind of consultant you actually need.
Try and define what the problem is, as best you see it, in just a few sentences. You need to strike a balance between "we're awful at (whatever)" and "a long, long, time ago in a business far, far away." Start with areas that aren't overly specific, but you recognize are in need of improvement. Examples include: We can't get a handle on why sales are down; product flow is poor as we seem to have not enough or way too much; the guest (customer) count has been decreasing and they constantly complain about X, etc.
Is it something new, or has it been a problem for a while? Think this question out, and answer it honestly. Sometimes there has been a clearly identified moment when things started in the "dark zone." It could have been a new hire, or departure of a trusted team member. The timeline here is important, not...