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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.