Business Advice

When to hire a business consultant?

Cameron Fleming | 13 July 2021 | 3 years ago

When to hire a Consultant?

Consultants have had a bad rap for many years but considering that most small businesses don’t make it past year 3, perhaps more business owners should be open to external input. At the very least, an objective opinion from a professional third party should help you see the wood from the trees.

Business consultants are hired to manage employee benefits, hire other employees to review and implement training programs or management strategies to improve employee productivity.  They are also hired to manage finances, employee safety, advertising and promotions.

Many entrepreneurs know their business well, but they fail at selling the vision to their employees or, unwittingly, fail at being leaders.

What is a business consultant?

Business consultants are 3rd party service providers who have professional experience and or qualifications that permit them to advise on your business. They can be expected to contribute knowledge, skills and experience and can be expected to not ingratiate themselves to you, so be open to constructive criticism.

Some may only need a few hours of contribution whilst others may continue assisting business for many years.

There are five main types of consultants: strategy and management consultants, operations consultants, IT Consultants, human resources consultants and sales & marketing consultants.

Do I need a consultant?

It would be safe to say that no one is perfect, and therefore as a business owner, you should expect that there are areas in the business that need assistance or a major overhaul. A consultant will bring you:

Expertise 

You might have a short term need for a specific project as you do not have the internal skillset. Using a consultant will get things done correctly, with a fast-track start and deliver results quickly.

Change agent

Change management raises many hackles. Using a change management consultant makes sure the best possible approach is taken, breaks up roadblocks and the knock-on effect of reduced headcount, as an example, is kept to the minimum.

Process improvement

A consultant that is a leading expert in their field will save you months, if not years, of battling with process improvement analysis, review, design and implementation. A consultant who has implemented process improvements multiple times will be a huge benefit and might be able to also do change management at the same time.

Idea generator

As a hardworking, potentially stressed, business owner it can be difficult to produce delightfully creative ideas on the hop. The fresh eyes and detached position of a consultant can bring new ideas and inspire more from you. They might see a clearer bigger picture of the market and your position therein.

Trainer

Consultants are a good choice to do business training courses as well as design customised courses. They also do one-on-one or team coaching.

Consultants are good for your business if you ensure the results are actionable, observable outcomes. Avoid consultants who do not offer side-by-side implementation of their strategy and blueprint. It would also be penny-wise-pound-foolish for you to remove implementation from the consultants’ scope of work in order to save money. Implementation is the toughest part of the project.

What is the purpose of a consultant?

In short, a consultant brings impactful change to your business through resources you do not have. To help you measure the benefits of hiring a business consultant, you can establish your relationship with them based on these criteria:

  • Set measurable goals with tight parameters at the outset of your relationship
  • Agree on ways that would be a fair measure of the intangible benefits of their work. Be mindful that measuring intangibles is an oxymoron.
  • Measure against the scope of work.
To help measure intangible benefits, observe improvements in your team’s confidence before and after your consultation project, run an internal survey, and look at your bottom line.

If you are having doubts about your marketing strategy or have one that is more a bunch of ideas than a strategy, you will benefit significantly from a consultant.

Part of that marketing strategy would be knowing who your ideal client is. Do you have a clear answer to that question? Do you know why they buy from you, or are you assuming? What do the clients think separates you from the competition? A thoroughly researched marketing strategy provides a solid base, an accurate benchmark, appropriate goals and the map to get to there.

Once you have created that powerful strategy, the business marketing consultant will then implement the tactics to execute that strategy.

What if I don’t have time for a business marketing consultant?

If you don’t have time to create a strong marketing document, then you will be working harder and harder for smaller and smaller results. Sustainable growth is not achievable without marketing.

You are not the first business person to be strapped for time. That was part of the birth of the consulting industry. Hiring a marketing consultant can take the marketing heavy lifting off of you and allow you to leverage your time.

Most small businesses have resource gaps, and small business owners are poor delegators. This eventually leads to balls being dropped and backlogs being created. Help from a marketing consultant will amplify what already works, identify more opportunities, fill the gaps and bring in fresh ideas.

The benefit of a marketing consultant is that they have worked with numerous companies, so they have probably seen your challenges before and solved them. They will also have up-to-date knowledge of the latest marketing tools, which will be a long-term, time-saving option.

When you hire a small business marketing consultant, you get a subject matter expert who can help guide your business in the right direction.

Mistakes to avoid when hiring a small business consultant

Consultants are not wizards of the business world. They are not going to wipe away all the problems without you noticing their presence in your business. They also can’t make a silver purse from a sow’s ear. Do not have unrealistic expectations.

They are subject matter experts on traffic to websites, operations efficiencies, or finance strategy, but they can’t catapult a business to the top instantly.

They do not take shortcuts even if you are chomping at the bit for early gratification. Shortcuts always come back to bite and disappoint.

Don’t expect the implementation of tactics within weeks. Research takes time, and then applying an intelligent thought process to the collated data takes time.

Have a budget prepared and allocated for the business consultant to avoid straining other aspects of your business. If you intend to pay them by winging it from month to month, you will hit a speed bump in the tough months.

Conclusion

You might actually have a stable, happy business that is ticking along. The need that you have is taking it to the next level. This is not for the faint-hearted nor for the unprepared. This would be an ideal time to bring in a consultant to ensure you don’t over-expand or get the expansion steps incorrect.

A business consultant will help you realise the dreams that you have always had for your company as well as the new dreams. They are the objective voice of reason rooted in deep knowledge and lots of experience with success. What’s not to love?

Is it the right time to get outside help? When you are ready to release some control over your business, you will be putting the business’s best interests first. The future should look brighter, filled with the growth of your company.

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