Even mature firms may turn to outside consultants for special projects or to add capacity for high priority models. The market place is flooded with firms eager to engage, some experienced, some not. Get the firms to give you a mock business presentation with model results that they have actually delivered. See if their presentation rings true and answers all the questions. Make sure that they tried to ‘break’ their model; in other words, that they tested the sample dataset for bias sampling.
If a firm asks to get your data you must come to terms on the intellectual property. If they are learning from your data because they have not done the work before, you should own all of the resulting work. If they ask for data on a specified basis, it is a sign that they have worked on this kind of problem statement before and bring some of their own IP to the table. The deal you work out with them should recognize that because chances are better that they will deliver a better model in less time.
Bottom line: don’t let consulting firms learn from your data and then sell you back the learning, unless you will own all of that intellectual property. That means, the model algorithm, the input dataset and the data transformations.