The concept of ‘independent’ consulting needs some clear explanation. Before we get into that, let’s briefly outline the process of consultancy itself.
- Assessment of acoustical issues at site using measurements
- Designing technical solution, simulating solution, preparing technical specs
- Matching products that match the specs, or suggesting vendors, if client so desires.
- Preparing Bill of Quantities for treatment areas.
- Making promised number of site visits to inspect implementation
- Providing design solutions to address issues thrown up by site constraints.
- Measuring effectiveness of solution through mockups before mass implementation.
I work as an independent consultant, which means I do not lean towards a particular line of acoustical products for any reason other than technical. I only provide technical specifications of the solution required, and the choice of vendors is always left to the client. For this reason, I only charge for the time I spend on a project – my charges cannot be related to a percentage of the overall cost of the project.
The important thing is to note that in no case, is the acoustical consultant gaining any profit out of sale or recommendation of acoustical products.
- If the Acoustical Consultant working for the customer directly, or if he/she has been brought in by a builder or architect, he/she may provide 2-3 vendors/products/contractors as options to the customer/builder/architect.
- If the Acoustical Consultant has been brought in by the contractor/vendor/AV person, and has not been directly hired by the end customer, then he/she provides a solution using the line products sold by the contractor/vendor/AV person, in which case the consultant needs to be careful not to sign on directly with the end client.
Such an acoustical consultant, at all times, must only charge for their time. This distinction is a choice that Acoustical Consultants have to make on a daily basis.
It seems pretty much the done thing for a product vendor to pass on a ‘cut’ or a percentage to the acoustical consultant for having recommended that product and given good business to the vendor. Just that a consultant who ‘prefers’ a line of products for reasons other than technical, cannot be calling themselves an ‘independent’ acoustical consultant.
This tag of being an independent consultant is almost always at the cost of financial gains that may be made by recommending a specific line of products. This is a daily choice to make. Don’t get me wrong here – it is perfectly fine for acoustical product companies to want to further their cause and enterprise, and bid for projects where they try to provide the complete solution using their line of products.While it is perfectly ethical for independEnt consultants to render their technical analysis services to vendor companies, it is vital to make it clear in the contract that the acoustical consultant is working for the vendor/contractor, and NOT the end customer.