Being a small business owner comes with a lot of challenges. Without the vast resources that large corporations have, small businesses struggle every single day to generate profit.
It seems like some challenges are harder to overcome. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail by the end of their first year. By the end of their fifth year, 50% go under; and by the tenth year, that number rises to 80%.
Small business owners need all the assistance they can get which is why enlisting the help of a consultant will be extremely beneficial.
What Does A Business Consultant Do?
There are a lot of things that an entrepreneur has to juggle in order to be able to run a successful business, especially at its early stages. Marketing, sales, operations, finance are just some aspects of business that needs constant attention and improvement. Most get used to multi-tasking and even become great at it at some point.
However, too much multitasking can lead to a lot of tasks being neglected and eventually forgotten. This is where business consultants come in. They help entrepreneurs run their business efficiently.
Hiring a business consultant have a lot of benefits. These are just some of their roles:
Check the overall health of the business
First off, they run a diagnosis across all levels of the business to get a general idea on what changes should be made. It is important for your business to be analyzed well to identify its strengths and weaknesses.
This way, the consultant can formulate your business strategy properly.
Even if you would prefer to deal with business matters personally, having a third-party perspective on things can help assure that minimal mistakes are made. A consultant is like having an extra pair of eyes to ensure that every bases are covered.
Additionally, they most likely know what other competing businesses are doing and so their advice will help you beat your competitors easily.
The growth of your business will entail a lot of changes and sometimes, these shifts can create internal disagreements. Bringing in a consultant can help solve these situations. Consultants can make the uncomfortable decisions for you and can take the heat that comes with unpopular changes.
Teach best practices
Consultants are often the leading experts in the fields they work
- They have experience and have past projects that may mirror yours. If there is someone who can teach you and your staff the best practices of the industry, it’s them.
Help grow the business
Ultimately, through their recommendations, they will help your business succeed and thrive for the long term.
Brad Farris of EnMast says, “A consultant can be your cheerleader, your taskmaster, your sounding board and your advisor. In short, your consultant is there for you — to support and push you to achieve more.”
Consultants will obviously cost you money. But if you look at the benefits of hiring one for your small business, it will be all worth it in the end.
Finding the Perfect Small Business Consultant
Acquiring the services of a small business consultant can make or break your business. The right one will propel your company to new heights and the wrong one will bring it down to ruins. So, finding the perfect one is critical. “Perfect” might seem like a strong word but anyone who gives you less than 100% won’t be worth your time.
What should you look for? How do you know if one consultant is your perfect match? We have put together a checklist on how to find the perfect small business consultant.
Obviously, studying the resume of the consultant will be the first thing you should do. This will give you an idea of the experiences and accomplishments that are under the consultant’s belt. Take a look at their educational background, if they have ongoing certifications and if they have relevant experience in your industry.
Choose someone who has experience both as a consultant and a small business owner. That way, you know that he or she has a wide breadth of experience and is capable of handling any situation. Would you trust someone who claims to have years of experience helping small business owners but have never been in their shoes in the first place?
Look for testimonials from former clients to see if he or she was able to provide high-quality service. Beware of unsigned testimonials though. Make sure that it has the name of the client and the client’s company name to ensure that the review isn’t fake. Would you hire someone who has no track record of success? Didn’t think so.
The ideal consultant should have the required skills needed to execute the job properly. Communication skills is a must both orally and in writing. A good consultant should be articulate and also willing to listen to you as well as to other members of your team.
Having said that, the consultant should have good interpersonal skills. He or she should get along well with everyone in your business no matter what position they hold.
And lastly, he or she should have great problem-solving skills. Marvin Bower, the patriarch of McKinsey & Company, defined his criteria for an outstanding consultant. “Mental equipment — the successful consultant has outstanding analytical skill and the ability to synthesize his thoughts readily in reaching conclusions,” Bower wrote. “He is a quick and effective learner — imaginative and creative.”
A consultant can have the best resume in the world and have many relevant experiences both in the field and in practice, but if you think that they are someone that you wouldn’t get along with then it’s better to keep on looking. After your initial meeting, you should feel like it’s a good fit. Do you feel like you two have rapport? Do you enjoy his or her company? Does it seem like your personalities match? This might sound like you are looking for a date but these are questions you should ask yourself when you are about to hire someone who you are going to spend a lot of time with.
The perfect consultant should be dependable, self-motivated and most importantly, positive. He or she should be able to acknowledge mistakes and still move forward positively. Positivity leads to productivity and creates a better environment for fellow employees.
Most consultants specialize in a certain field. If your business has something to do with IT then it is best if you find a consultant who specializes in that niche. If you are in retail, a consultant that has experience in the retail industry is who you need. Make sure you find a consultant that aligns with your business so you are on the same page.
Most consultants only work part-time and take multiple clients at a time. Some only have daytime hours, while others only work on evenings and weekends. Is he or she available whenever you want and as often as you want? Find out what hours they are readily available to work with you.
As mentioned before, a good consultant doesn’t come for cheap. Consulting fees can be hourly, project-based or retainer. Before hiring one make sure you know how you will be charged for the service they offer. It is also useful to check those costs against what other consultants are charging for similar work to see if it’s a fair price.
Lastly, the consultant must be willing to sign a contract that clarifies goals, time frame, and expectations. Everything needs to be in writing so both parties have a common ground on where the job begins and ends. Plus, there’s something shady about a consultant who is wary of signing a contract.
Choosing the perfect small business consultant requires an intelligent and organized approach. This might seem like additional responsibility on your shoulder but once you find your perfect match, it will be rewarding in the long-run.
In the end, it all boils down to what kind of consultant you are looking for. The more specifically you can identify the needs of your business, the more likely you are to find someone qualified to guide you in a positive direction.