Do You Need A Business Consultant

All too often, business owners, managers, or supervisors find themselves in a position where growth has slowed, stopped, or reversed. Though these are pressing reasons to consider finding the outside help of a business consultant, they aren’t the only reasons. This article will cover reasons you may need a business consultant, the affordability of a consultant, and what to look for in a consultant and their firm. Companies sometimes look for help when they are having trouble but the best practice is to reach out to a business consultant when your company is stable or in a position of growth.

It is much easier to grow your business if you acquire assistance while your company is stable or growing because you are not trying to recover lost revenue from earlier forecasts. A business consultant is a great resource to improve your company’s sales and growth. They are also an excellent resource when sales have dropped, slowed, or are stagnant. Though business consultants can help in winning or losing situations; the most value or R.O.I. is achieved when a business consultant is hired to move your company to the next stage of business, or improve upon your current sales, marketing, management, web development, and security processes. A good consultant will be able to provide you with a strategic plan for long-term growth while also being able to identify areas that can promote immediate growth. New businesses benefit by having a business plan developed while finding assistance to build a foundation. Loan package preparation is also a benefit of hiring a business consultant, but the most pressing reason to hire a consultant is to plan for long-term success. The aforementioned services will prove to be a great value to the companies with the vision to obtain them. The gain typically overshadows the cost of a business consultant.

Many business owners wonder, ‘Can I afford a business consultant?’ The question that should be asked is ‘Can you not afford to hire a business consultant?’ Business people know that increased marketing efforts, enhanced web development, a good strategic plan, and many other activities will increase their current and long-term revenue. Even knowing that, many of these activities are not aggressively pursued. An additional 20-40 hours a month in focused marketing efforts can bring a company a substantially enhanced amount of revenue dollars. Since the efforts are not made in many cases, the money is essentially lost to the company. Some sound advice to follow is; do not let the initial cost of a business consultant cloud the potential for future gain. The value a business consultant provides long survives the initial payment and contract.

Choosing a good firm to contract with can also be a challenge. The process can be made fairly simple by following the advice below. First, you must speak with the consultant that you are considering conducting business with. A good consultant should be able to understand your needs as you explain them. When dealing with more complex areas of business, a good consultant should be able to explain methods and processes in terms that you are able to understand. The ability to simplify complex processes usually indicates a strong understanding of what they entail. A consulting firm should also have a diverse team of individuals specializing in various segments of business development. Just as many businesses are not able to thrive with one employee, a consulting firm also needs a strong team to provide the best results. The ideal team will at least consist of a business growth expert, a web/graphic designer, a marketing expert, and a financial analyst or expert with good reputations in their industries. Finally, you should always maintain the feel that the consulting firm you decide to contract has your best interest in mind. Following these steps when locating a consultant or consulting firm will increase your chances of receiving a service that continues to benefit your growth for years to come.

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How to Make Small Business Consulting

For a beginning, let’s ask ourselves the question: Is small business consulting profitable? The answer would be a resounding “Yes,” from all corners of the world. So, why are you unable to make it work, and in the process help small consulting with your unique experience and approaches?

You are a business consultant, not the direct worker

The most common mix-up faced by small consultants is that rather than remaining as business advisors, they end up as direct service providers. They end up handling the major workload of the business process where they were expected only to provide advice, and the client ends up with a steep bill. In place of mutual satisfaction, you now have mutual dissatisfaction. The results are unwelcome on both sides – but they happen all too often, where in small business consulting, the consultant fails to maintain the position of a consultant.

There are three possible outcomes in such situations – the client pays up and remains upset with you, the client doesn’t pay your bills and you are upset with the client, or both parties reach an unhappy compromise.

After a few such mix-ups, you become convinced that there is no profitability in consulting. But you know, that’s not true. The reality is your approach needs to be transparent and needs to change case by case.

In certain cases, time-schedule, lack of resources on part of the client, or other exigencies may call for you to provide most of the work as a direct service provider. But in such cases, the client needs to understand from the very beginning that the instant situation needs a service provider with your experience, more than it needs power of consulting. The client needs to have a clear idea of the bills that may be chalked up if you were providing direct service, or the client is free to hire another direct service provider, to save the day. Even providing that little advice is sufficient for you to bill as a consultant, because the client was unable to recognize the situation. What you are doing is business consulting, and not creating a fallible situation.

Why small business consulting mix-ups happen with such regularity

The oldest and most traditional businesses in providing consulting have traditionally modeled themselves as consultant-cum-service providers, take for example, law firms, or Accountant firms. Each of these sectors are used to clients coming to them at the last moment or when the situation is precarious for them, and according to the laws of maximizing business opportunities, they have set up systems to provide service alternatives ready at hand. In fact, in many such traditional firms, service delivery starts first, and then it turns to consulting.

However, in the era of information technology, the number of alternatives available even to small one are hundred times more than the time when CPAs or law firms began establishing their business models. Consequently, with the availability of greater choice of service providers, and ability to compare between alternatives, the chances of client dissatisfaction multiply. This is why, in today’s consulting, it is sufficient to point out the necessity of direct service delivery to a client, without embroiling yourself, or pushing your own agenda of direct service.

In a globalized service providing market, you can never outbid the “I’m cheaper than you can ever be” brigade, and don’t even think of that. To make small business consulting profitable, stick to your guns and be a consultant primarily, and act as direct service provider only when the client asks you, and only when you can afford to do so at the client’s rates.

Advantages of Business Consulting

Business Consultation Services are generally promoted, but not often well understood. Many see these services as a big picture conceptual exercise with no connection to the real world issues facing their business. Often Fortune 500 business consultation services come across as too ivory tower, and overly focused on highlighting issues without implementing solutions. There is a new breed of consultants that speak your language and understand the front line issues that you face as a business owner on a daily basis.

With the help of the internet, quality consulting service providers are much easier to find throughout the world. The internet proves enormously useful as a connection platform to find these smaller, specialized consulting firms. Whatever your need, be it financial reporting, sales assistance, IT, capital raising, human resources, there is a wide assortment of consulting service providers to select from. There are numerous advantages of business consultation expert services.

Quality consultants add a new dimension to a company, allowing it to think in new ways. Most quality business consultation service providers have strong backgrounds in a concentrated area, giving them subject matter mastery combined with real world experience. Adding them to your team gives your business the ability to think and execute at a higher level. Many rookie mistakes can be avoided by having a smart, experience-based business consulting service provider on your team.

As an outsider to your organization, a new business consulting service provider can bring a refreshing third party perspective. Often, companies or senior managers have a hard time clearly seeing their internal weaknesses. This is particularly relevant with smaller companies where a small group of employees comprises the entire C-Level management team. In addition, quality business consulting service providers know what standard practices are in your industry. They are well versed in best practices for their field and can easily tell you the best CRM system, or the best SEO approach or the best way to finance an acquisition.

Their expertise is their currency and their expertise has been acquired through involvement in a multitude of projects in the same field. Their concentrated experience can be a valuable addition to your knowledge base as you take your company in a new direction. One big advantage of business consultation services is the ability to save time and plan properly. Business is a learning curve and most successful companies rarely go in straight line in an upward direction. The key to navigating successful new growth steps is in proper planning and assigning realistic risk-based probabilities to each outcome.

A seasoned business consultation service provider is a great sounding board for all of this. They will be able to help you develop realistic timing assumptions and realistic cost factors. Most consultants are independent contractors and stay with your business for only a limited time. They are a flexible resource and are expendable once the project is complete. The value they bring during their engagement is considerable. Through aligning with a quality business consulting provider, your business can become quite sophisticated and seriously confront any challenges or opportunities that lay ahead.

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Things to Consider While Choosing Right Business Consulting

There are many factors to consider while choosing the right business consulting experts. Variables such as reputation, price and background come to mind. Often, non-obvious factors can enlighten your understanding and help in your business consulting search process. Business consulting experts are part knowledge providers and part sales people. At times, it is difficult to separate the sales from the expertise.

The first thing to consider while choosing a business consulting expert is their client outcomes. They should have very measurable client outcomes such as increased profit, increased revenue growth, upgraded financial reporting etc. that should be top of mind discussion points for them. These outcomes should be easily available to the business consulting expert and he should be able to share them with you. Second, a business consulting expert should have a unique background in a variety of different corporate environments.

The best consultants have been involved at big corporations, small entrepreneurial companies and everything in between. They have seen the same issues such as information weaknesses, management team weaknesses and lack of clarity on planning, played out in a number of different settings. This gives them an intuitive ability to see your shortcomings as an organization. Thirdly, often the best consulting experts have a vision for where your business should be going, due to their understanding of best practices and business trends. Often, businesses over time become inwardly focused and disengage from the outside world.

This lack of connection can result in a business not keeping up with the latest management approach, technology trend or marketing strategy. They lose their ability to change and to try new things. A quality business consulting expert will have his finger on the pulse of where your company is in its growth lifecycle and where it should be heading. They will lay out a vision of business development or management organization that may challenge your current thinking. It may sound outrageous or completely unattainable, yet true business consulting experts will challenge your preconceived notions about the status quo. They have exposure to those companies on the cutting edge and can help you understand what your business needs to do to get there. Fourth, quality business consulting experts will have pragmatic ideas for implementation. Lasting change is dependent on implementing a permanent long term solution.

Mere theoretical talking points do little in the way of providing a permanent solution. A quality consultant will be able to get the ball rolling and help you properly resource the change plan. Fifth, the person must have a 360° understanding of your business and your long term plan. They must spend the time to understand your business and have a holistic appreciation for it. You have to be able to trust this person and ensure that there is alignment of values. Is the consultant coming up with fresh observations that show that he is really taking the time to deconstruct your business model? With the right consulting expert involved in your business, the sky is indeed the limit. It can lead to a virtuous cycle of strategic improvement.

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Business Consultants Compared

When inviting a business consulting firm to get to know your business and its weaknesses, it is a delicate dance to find the best corporate qualifications, experience, and ability to navigate the inevitable invisible issues that will come up. It is also important to make sure your own corporate culture and on-going business do not get lost in the process.

In the marketplace of Business Management Consulting or Management Consulting, competitors generally fall into just a few categories:

-Sole proprietor consultants, who are generally niched and geographically based

-Larger consulting firms, who have multi-niched teams and the ability to reach out to other cities or regions

-Small consulting firms, regionally based and team oriented

Sole Proprietors: Personal Touch

Smaller and sole proprietor consultant competitors, like Jannelle Buzzell, Jim Grew, Will Moore, Mannus O’Donnell and others, get to know the client and their needs very personally. They start from exceptional business acumen, and make sure to create buy-in within the company. The client company is trusted to know their core business and its people very, very well. There is often not a pre-conceived corporate formula other than profitability, efficiency, and better managerial controls through feedback. To these folks, it is common to receive a fearful call where a business owner shares that they ‘aren’t even sure what the problem is or where it started’.

Large Consulting Firms: depth and breadth

Larger competitors, like Boly Welch Consulting, CBS Consulting, Georgia S. May, Point B and PeopleFirm, all offer fresh eyes, strong business acumen, and an understanding that all business evolution comes from the people within the firm. To make any consulting project stick, it has to come from within, which starts from leadership. Once leadership has aligned the goals and strategies, the consulting firm assists in rolling out change. This change management happens from setting measurable goals, checking in with ROI, and staying in regular touch with the feedback loop.

Small Consulting Firms: Personal touch and depth

What makes the smaller consultancy different is the unique blend of these styles. With a small firm, you are likely to meet the owner, but not work with them regularly. You will have a small, personal team, but enough distance to call their supervisor if necessary. A small firm has 8-30 employees, and is generally based in a single city office. Conversely, the consulting firm is big enough to have scheduling and launching flexibility more like a larger consultancy. Small consulting firms cannot do everything involved for a larger project, so they are forced to rely on (and train) the employee team. This strategy keeps the consulting team in alignment with owners, in order to organize which work is done by which team. Smaller consulting teams do not take over a floor of your building and set up shop. It is necessary to work along side the employee team constantly in order to on board change at a pace owners and employees can handle.

How Much Do They Cost?

When we compare business to business consulting, price is an unavoidable topic. If you don’t care how much the consulting firm costs, you are not in the market. Clients care, even if they aren’t sure they can afford it (or have plenty of money to afford it). Small firm prices lie in the middle, just as you might expect. Many sole proprietors charge a lower rate, especially if they aren’t busy. However, if they are busy, they simply cannot take the work, or quickly bump up to the rates of larger firms. Larger firms have additional overhead for travel, benched employees and significant benefit packages at all levels. These higher prices are significant and consistent. With a smaller firm, you are unlikely to receive enormous perks as a part of your purchase. They focus on the work done, and building the relationship on the job.

In general terms, a client can expect:

Team Size Typical Hourly Rate

Sole Proprietor 1 $40-$150

Small Firm 2-30 $75-300

Large Firm 30+ $200-750+

These rates are a generalized survey in Portland, OR, based on surveys of a small handful of varying small and medium businesses.

Conclusion

When you are considering outside consulting for your operations, spend some time considering the depth and breadth of the project, the budget you expect, and then consider requesting proposals or conversations from varying firms. Some projects are clearly one size or another, but medium scale projects that can take some time to evolve are a likely fit for a blended small consulting firm. If you go that route, you will save significant money and train your staff along the way.