A business consultant is an expert who advises a firm’s decision makers. Their duty is to analyze a business, identify ways it can improve and offer those suggestions to a board or business owner.
Such consultants are not generally brought on board as employees of a business. They are industry experts working with a private organisation. Their expertise and industry knowledge is what distinguish them from core staff of a company which translate to giving unbiased and objective overall view of the company.
Bringing in a consultant – a specialist in your industry sector – may deliver substantial benefits, new perspectives, and solutions to challenges facing your business. However, there’s also a chance that hiring a consultant may be a waste of money, and with all growing businesses, every dollar matters. A consultant can simply be a drain on limited business resources.
Consultants are hired for a defined period of time to help streamline systems, increase operational revenues, identify problems and opportunities you may have missed.
Getting a new business off the ground is no small feat nor scaling up that business and taking it to the next level. These are the main challenges facing entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Too often, decision makers in small businesses attempt to carry the whole burden, they want to be in control of their firm and feel responsible for its development and growth. They think it’s their sole duty to achieve the desired growth. That’s entirely understandable, but it’s rarely practicable and not the right way to go.
Seeking advice and guidance is key. Hence, choosing the right consultant is essential for the realization of corporate objectives and the return of investment on consulting. The best owners and managers recognize this fact and seek help and assistance from experts referred to as consultants.
Furthermore, it’s necessary to know the consulting market and its suppliers: Who does what kind of work? How well known is the firm? How good is their reputation?
What steps should you consider to determine who to bring onboard for advice and counsel to help improve your company’s performance and growth?
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- Determine if you actually need a consultant. Consider your staff assets – the skill sets that grow your company daily. Go through your staff’s résumés, including not only their current positions, but also the knowledge and work experience they brought to the company from previous jobs. You want good information and good advice, and you may not have to look outside the company to find it.
- Develop a statement of work before starting your search. If you decide you need the help of an outsider, a statement of work (SOW) tells you exactly what you want the consultant to do. It also lists work milestones and details what success will look like.
- Know what to expect from a consultant. Any consultant you hire should provide accurate and precise information. A good consultant provides new perspectives to help you improve your decision-making activities, but he or she is not a substitute for you. Your consultant is expected to perform certain tasks within a given timeframe, but you’ll be there long after the consultant has left the building.
- Look for a consultant who works within your industry. If you hire a generalist, chances are you’ll get general answers. Hire a consultant who understands your business, your target market, the drives and needs of your demographic – someone who doesn’t have to learn the challenges you face. The right consultant already knows the challenges you face in your market sector.
- Ask for and expect to receive references. Professional consultants with a great deal of experience will be happy to provide references from previous clients. Talk to these previous clients to make sure the prospect under consideration is a good fit for your business.
- Ask to see samples of the consultant’s reports and analysis. Are the results verified? Is the advice industry-specific? Does the consultant perform a deep analysis, or a once-over-lightly review? Looking at the results of past engagements may provide the insight you need to make the best choice.
- Make sure the consultant is unbiased. You don’t want to work with a consultant who is not objective and also leaking confidential information discovered in the course of his engagement to your competitors.
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