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Thread: Hiring a consultant during lean economic times

  1. #1
    Cyburbian rosierivets's avatar
    Nov 2006

    Hiring a consultant during lean economic times

    Is it entirely idiotic to think that a municipality may get a better return on their investment, more for their money from a comp planning consultant right now? We are planning an RFP process and thought that the competitive market may put us at an advantage.

    Consultants.... how are times for you? Would this be the case? We aren't looking to marginalize anyone, but we are broke, too.
    How about you take a gander at making an executive decision for once, huh?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
    Aug 2002
    It depends on your particular market, but I've seen a tremendous amount of competition for projects in the last several months. I know of one small town that received 25 proposals, many from consultants with decades of experience, to prepare an economic development plan.

    You're not going to get something for nothing - I'm sure quality is just as important as price - but if the project is worth pursuing, you may have more choices than usual.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Feb 2007
    Playing at a movie theater near you
    Hungry times for us consultants. You will get many, many, many bites. From large firms to small firms. Now is as good of a time as any to hire a consultant, but beware, some firms will be enticing with a lower contract number, but will nickel and dime you with addendums and other "add ons". Make sure your RFP is well written, concise, and also try to "cost estimate" tasks to the best of your abilities. Quality over Quantity.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
    Aug 2001
    South Milwaukee
    As somewon that has been on both sides of the RFP process, I recommend that you REQUIRE each submittal to include a break down of cost by task, and further broken down by # hours for each employee assigned to task and their compensation rate.

    I agree you'll probably get alot of bites. You'll probably see a wide swing in cost proposals, and the above information will give you an opportunity to compare widely divergent project approaches.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
    Oct 2003
    A Dog in a Hat
    Random responses:

    I agree you'll get a lot of bites, and a lot of them will be from unqualified firms, so do your homework.

    Do yourself a favor and put a page limit on the RFP response so when you DO get 25 responses it doesn't take 2 months to review them all.

    As for break down of cost by task....if its a lump sum project, those numbers are practically irrellevent, in my experience because we all show our upper level people being very involved in the project but in reality, for the project to come anywhere close to being on-budget, those people only show up at council meetings and its grunts like me that do all the work.

    At our firm, we're taking projects for less fee...but we're also cutting scope, so be aware of that.

    As for your initial question...we have a lot of clients/potential clients that think they can get a "Cadilac for a Buick price." It doesn't really work that way. Even though we all need work, it makes more financial sense for management to lay off people rather than give away work like that.

    Finally, a consultant shouldn't nickle and dime you, but be aware that when we don't have billable hours we get laid-off.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    I am definitely seeing a downward trend in pricing, as well as significantly increased competition. FueledbyRamen makes a good point about unqualified firms. There are many non-planners (architects, landscape architects, engineers) who are bidding on projects that should be managed by planners. But the flipside of that is my pet peeve. Many consulting firms are cutting costs by adopting a "search and replace" approach to planning. There are a couple firms in particular that I often encounter. One does economic studies. Of the approximately 50 pages in its standard document, about 35 are identical in at least seven reports of theirs that I have found. The other firm I continually encounter uses the same drawings, design guidelines, and other material in countless plans. The point is that a well-established company with a well-known name is not necessarily going to be any better than someone else. Search out their past work and skim through it. Make sure before you hire them, and as you go through the process, that you are getting their original work.

    As a side note, there are several consultants represented here on Cyburbia. Please go ahead and post your RFP in the announcements forum.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  7. #7

    Agree with absolutely everything here

    Times are good and bad. On one side everyone is doing comprehensive ED strategic plans to get fed USA funding. And, everyone is looking for someone who says they have the way out of their mess.
    On the other everybody is pitching for everything because one is never sure.
    We tend to not pitch those that a) have a budget that cannot support the work b) aren't juicy - if it's too simple then they likely don't need a consultant except to tell them what they already know and c) aren't our thing.
    Up here in Cda Ec Dev people are getting into consulting - one project a year for a few months pays a years salary.

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