At some point, most companies need to bring in outside help to implement new plans, processes, or systems. You may be looking to add new automation, develop new software, or evaluate new pricing models. Outside experts can be instrumental in helping your company improve its competitive advantages. Following a few basic principles can mean the difference between a good or bad outcome.

You’ve recognized that there is a problem to be solved or an opportunity to improve your business. There are many reasons to enlist the help of external resources. One is that you don’t have the internal bandwidth to tackle a problem. Another is that you don’t have technical expertise in-house. Regardless, a successful outcome relies upon an open dialogue between all parties and full agreement on the rules of engagement, expectations, timing, and process. The steps below can help make the experience a smooth one.

· Have a strategic plan – Successful firms play the long game. It’s not surprising that companies with 10-year plans are typically still around in 10 years. Find an effective way to communicate that strategic plan and goals while considering outside help. They need to know what you’re trying to accomplish in the long term.

· Make sure your team is on the same page – All of your employees that you expect to interface with the expert need to be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish, what’s the process, and what they are expected to do.

· Be the expert on what you know – You know your business better than any outside party. Don’t be shy about letting your outside advisor know about areas of your operation that are causing you the most angst. And especially speak up if they make assumptions during their analysis that you know are not correct.

· Data, data, data – Every project requires analyzing some level of data such as SKU velocity, prior pricing negotiations, etc. To be productive, frank discussions need to be held between the company and the consultant about what information is desired and what can be reasonably provided.

· Embrace the expert’s advice on what you don’t know – Just as you need to be the expert on your operation, you need to trust that the expert you’ve chosen is adept in their field. They will be current on the latest trends, best practices, next generation automation, etc. and can help guide you through options to meet your needs.

Jim McLafferty is the Director of Post & Parcel Sales at DMW&H. With over 25 years of experience in the material handling industry, Jim is a thought leader in postal deliveries and parcel shipments, and the equipment and systems needed within a warehouse or distribution center to facilitate package deliveries. He can be reached at or 201-635-3439.