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Why, When, and How to Hire a Lab Consultant

Exploring what lab consultants can offer and red flags to look for

Olena Shynkaruk, PhD

Olena Shynkaruk, PhD, is a freelance science writer and editor with a love for languages. She is a Ukrainian Canadian who has studied, worked, and presented internationally. Her experience as...

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When a lab manager first tries to hire a lab consultant, they might feel overwhelmed. The services seem endless. Indeed, lab consulting exists to meet a wide range of needs in the lab ecosystem—from the design of lab spaces to workforce management and performance improvement. 

This article intends to help lab managers hire a lab consultant by providing an overview of the lab consulting field from lab consultants. The experts in lab performance, management, and staffing answer questions including, “Why do I need a lab consultant?”, “What services do lab consultants offer?” and “What are the red flags when looking for a lab consultant?”

Why engage a lab consultant?

To answer this question, first, we need to look at the business, management, and staffing landscape facing lab managers in 2023. Sam Waltz, managing director of, discusses the landscape: “From a business and management point of view, lab managers in 2023 and beyond will be asked ‘to do more with less,’ and at the same time will be held accountable to increasing expectations and standards of productivity and quality.” From a staffing perspective, Waltz says urgent needs and lean in-house resources will require engaging outside subject matter experts more often. In fact, Waltz’s team found that lab managers need to buy up to 50 hours of help “by the hour” in 2023, seeking almost overnight turnaround and delivery. So, the need for lab consultants is clear—but what projects can they help with?

From a business and management point of view, lab managers in 2023 and beyond will be asked 'to do more with less.

What projects can a lab consultant help with?

Tywauna Wilson, president of Trendy Elite Coaching and Consulting, sums up lab consultants’ scope of work in two categories: fill in expertise gaps when talent is unavailable in-house and fast-track success in implementing projects and achieving goals. 

1. Fill in the expertise gaps when the talent is unavailable in-house.

In some cases, there can be a project with a short turnaround (90 days or less) when you don’t have time to hire and train new staff to execute it. An example of this, Wilson says, may be a situation in which regulatory toxicology requirements need to be met quickly, and due to a short turnaround, a lab manager hires a toxicology consultant. In other cases, consultants may be needed in a more involved project like the design of a sustainable lab. Such a scenario is when a consultant like Kevin Shea, science and technology sector lead at Introba, enters the picture. Introba is a global engineering and consulting firm helping design and build sustainable research labs. “In this field,” says Shea, “the value consultants bring is assisting the client in receiving incentivized funding for the project, supporting the client in achieving their goals, and providing them with evidence-based tools (like energy modeling) to make informed decisions about the design of sustainable research spaces.” For example, using energy modeling, one research lab was able to reduce its carbon footprint by 70 percent.

2. Fast-track success in implementing projects and achieving goals

In this vast category, we selected two common projects that lab managers face: succession planning and improving financial performance.

Wilson provides the first example: helping the organization to develop and implement a succession plan. This project included creating and implementing a strategy, which helped define five-year goals and guide organizational structure change. This change allowed the hiring of a senior lab director five years before the major retirement, aiding with knowledge transfer and ensuring the viability and stability of the lab.

Fred Kloren, head of the consulting department at LTS Health, provides the second example: improving the lab’s financial performance. Lab’s financial performance is a common grey area as its fundamental indicators, like cost and profitability per test, are challenging to quantify because they require seamless integration between lab operations (people) and lab finance (data) departments. Activity-based costing can close the integration gap; however, it can be complicated due to many interconnected elements such as demand, testing volume, process mapping, and workforce modeling and scheduling. Making the activity-based costing process simple and interactive to calculate cost and profitability per test is the value delivered by consultants like LTS—they empower lab valuation from operational and financial perspectives.

In fact, Waltz's team found that lab managers need to buy up to 50 hours of help 'by the hour' in 2023, seeking almost overnight turnaround and delivery.

After exploring the why and when of lab consulting, the following four questions will look at the how of the hiring process.

What does a lab manager need to know before hiring a lab consultant?

Wilson explains, “First, the lab manager needs to identify the goal of the engagement. Is it to fast-track success or fill in the expertise gap? Second, the lab manager needs to understand the alignment between the scope of the engagement and the consultant’s expertise. Sometimes the project scope might require numerous consultants.”

Where does one find a lab consultant?

LinkedIn, Chemical Consultants Network,, and Conflab by LabVine are just a few resources that Shea, Waltz, Wilson, and Kloren recommend.

What are the red flags when selecting a lab consultant?

 Wilson mentions that a credible consultant usually has referrals, provides references, and creates a detailed work proposal. Shea adds that the consultant must understand the client's vocabulary and situation. For example, in the lab design industry, the equipment changes every six months, and the client usually wants to buy the equipment at the end of construction. The consultant needs to understand and speak to those possibilities using their knowledge of science facilities to make sure the designed lab is relevant in five years.

What are the typical fee structures?

Fees depend on the project's scope, but the rule of thumb is an hourly rate for coaching and training and a lump sum for other projects.

To navigate the current landscape of "doing less with more" while meeting high standards and improving profits, a lab manager might need to hire a lab consultant. To do this, the lab manager defines the project's needs and selects a consultant with relevant expertise to understand and meet them. It is important to remember that one might need different experts for different portions of the project and follow a rule of thumb offered by Shea: "If the client is teaching the consultant a lot of things, that might not be the right consultant."