I serve as a consultant for many families around the country, and whether it’s about myself or about others, the question is, “Well what does a consultant cost?” Well I’m going to avoid all the snide, silly or humorous responses to that and try to be really practical about it. I’ll use myself as the example. Not because I’m the ONLY example, but it’s the one I know the best obviously. And what I’ll say is this: generally speaking, when I’m hired, I am hired to help achieve a result, whatever that result is. That’s the first question is what is the result because we may start off thinking we’re doing one thing and ultimately the client may decide we’re doing something else. But in the end, we should be achieving something, right?! Something that probably does require documentation or it does require some results that we can see in the form of a will or a trust or contract or an agreement or whatever it is. And what happens is the opposing choice to hiring me as a consultant, is you go straight to the attorneys or the accountants and you get it done that way and that’s fine. You’re ultimately going to need them anyhow, because I, as a consultant, don’t replace anybody. I don’t replace your existing attorney or accountant or the attorney or accountant you may need for this particular task. But I still serve in a role. And what role I serve in is to figure out:
a. what are the questions?
b. what are your informed decisions about “what do I do?”
c. how are we going to get that done?
What happens is that those a’s, b’s and c’s, when you put them all together, they add up to a piece of the puzzle, a task that has to be done. And if you go straight to the attorney, there is a very good chance that he will do great at letter c, which is the how do we get it done part. But maybe he skips right into it from where you tell him you want to go, and you may end up spending a lot of time going directions that aren’t helpful, or you may achieve a result, which actually isn’t what you intended.
In the end, with almost no exceptions, hiring me as a consultant winds up costing you the same or less as a total fee, when you combine my fees with your attorney that does the work as to not hire me, and instead work directly with the attorney or the accountant, and maybe have some inefficiencies. I believe that’s probably true with MOST consultants. It’s not that the consultant necessarily….if you knew the answer already, then you didn’t need the consultant and you’d just get it done. But if you’re not certain, if your life is complicated and there’s questions about “is this the right answer or not?” or “what answers do I have as choices that I can choose amongst?” or “how do I get this done once I know I want to do it?” THEN, that’s when you hire the consultant, and they, or I, or we, however you want to think of it, help to get you to that point of implementation, where then, your local, trusted resources, that you’re always gonna work with anyhow, can get it done very efficiently. And that’s why consultants, as a rule, SHOULD be revenue neutral, relative to just doing it without them. Now they become revenue positive, as in they make you money, in the a part of this a, b and c, where they help you to make the RIGHT decision on what you really want to do and why. Maybe they take you directions that you might have missed altogether. It isn’t just the cost of the legal or accounting fees, it’s the cost of lost time and business and going a wrong direction.
Unfortunately, life is indeed short and a year or two, following a path that you hadn’t quite thought through, because you didn’t have the support of outside resources, like a good consultant on a given topic, may be the difference between making it or not, or being able to cover it in time. So, that’s what a consultant costs, in my opinion.