After years of waiting, months of looking, and weeks of researching, you found the “One.” But how do you know it is the right one? Choosing the best management consulting firm for you may be a difficult decision. You want one that can fit to your team, your needs, and your budget. Here is a guide to assess if your partner is right for you from the experience of some 9Gauge clients.

1. Quick to Learn

An effective strategic partner must possess the ability to understand your business and start adding value immediately. Experienced consultants can assess the current situation – manual processes, lacking visibility, absent financial tools, etc. – and develop a plan to prioritize necessary activities moving forward. For Julie Fergerson, SVP of Ethoca, “9Gauge came in, watched me in action – took notes like crazy and built [an automated solution] to evaluate the use of our product and calculate their ROI. We have gone from doing 2-4 a month of these to several a day.” Any outsourced firm can identify small, urgent fires and put them out. It takes the right one to find the source, extinguish it, and install a repeatable process to prevent it from ever happening again. In other words, long-term success stems from laying a framework upfront and building up. By understanding and resolving all your problems early, you can feel empowered when focusing on growth and development.

2. Effective in Delivery

Great partnerships occur when both sides are able to deliver what they promised. The ideal partner should stand out clearly because they deliver above and beyond what is promised. For Taylor Fyfe, CFO of Advanced Pain Care, he recalls that “within a couple short months we…numerous beautifully architected dashboards to analyze, the built-in ability to drill down and see more granulated meaningful trends. Without their help, I don’t believe we would [be in] a position to actually steer our big ship instead of it steering us.” Along with being fast learners, the client service team should be fast to bring you the solutions you need to run your organization. Their primary purpose is to help drive the collaborative knowledge into action that leads you towards your goals.

3. Frequent Communication

Consulting firms are deep wells of experience, with decades of combined team experience in various industries and fields. However, that does not mean that you share the same understanding as them. You, as your own business leader, excels in either your own product or service, but not necessarily financial analysis, operational process improvements, and systems implementations. Helpful consultants should keep you in the loop such that you are informed of their contribution to the company. Regular interactions will explain valuable insights from their work and key results of their projects. David Dolmanet, Managing Director of the 9Gauge Financial Advisory Services (FAS) practice recounts in his work with Super Cheap Signs that “We worked regularly with the CEO to reduce the time spent on building production reports from a full week to under 1 minute a week! [We] automated future templates to accommodate the next 10 years and recovered an entire week of time for his team to focus on other needs.”

4. Transparent in Everything

There is no secret that you chose this partner to better your situation long-term. Therefore, you have a right to feel that they should be upfront with you about everything. Take for example a recently built Board of Investors reporting package, including a forecast model that projects revenue over the next five years – accounting for expenses, headcount, depreciation of inventory, etc. Do not fret over the complexities of the calculations; instead, feel free to sit down with an executive on your consulting team for a deep dive into the numbers. Bring him or her to your board meeting. The right person is always there for you. By deep diving into all their work, you will better understand your business.

5. Values Your Long-Term Relationship

Consulting firms aim to serve you for the long-term, but not everything lasts forever. Just because you chose that firm does not mean they should take your engagement for granted. Even in the case where you only needed consultants for a short-term project, that window is their moment to shine. As in the case of PTV Healthcare Capital, Lauren Chauret, Director of Operations notes that with 9Gauge, “Not only are we wrapping up on time (with a few days to spare!) but also on budget and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome overall.” A positive experience with the right firm goes a long way. When the next crisis or obstacle comes up, you can definitely find them there for you.