September 24, 2014
Small business owners have enough to do just operating their businesses – sales, marketing, production, financing, planning, human resources, etc. – and normally don’t have the time to micro manage every aspect of their business from open until close. Obviously, a growing and prosperous business depends on key personnel who can run various aspects of a business, thus, freeing the owner from detailed oversight.
A Missing Link
How many times, however, do you walk into a restaurant, a retail store, a service establishment, or a supply warehouse and ask yourself, “Who’s in charge here?” or a better question might be, “Is there anyone in charge here?” This is a scenario that is played over and over in many small businesses.
Owners cannot be expected to be at their businesses during every open hour. They must, however, ensure that their businesses are being properly run during their absence.
My teachers in the sixties had awesome multimedia devices that I would consider to be the best marketing tools of the times. The Viewlex Filmstrip/Slide Projector was definitely the most brilliant way to catch a child’s attention. It could show quick movies and slides of pictures that were provided with every lecture. I remember the first time I saw a slide picture of a cell in biology, man how do they get that camera connected to the microscope.
I have a very hard time remembering the earliest years of my schooling as a child as become older. During my time in school, a teacher had more respect than most parents. If we wanted to do something after school as a group of kids, we would always remind each other not to mention it to your teacher. My parents loved it when we would be out of the house and not in their hair. In fact, it was better to be home just in time to eat, take a bath, and go to bed.
However, for some reason, if the teacher found out we planned to do something that maybe dangerous or stupid, they would always scold us. My teachers were like drill sergeants. Anytime you were not paying attention or acting up, they would scream at you and announce it to the whole class. So we had a kids agreement to treat every after school adventure like a CIA operation, never tell the enemy your plans.
If the idea of hiring a consultant makes you quiver with anxiety, you’re not alone. Hiring a consultant is a leap of faith in that you have to trust a person who is, as yet, unproven to you. The last thing you can afford to do is pay a hefty sum to a consultant who promises you the moon and delivers a nightlight. Be clear in your own mind about what you want to accomplish, and be sure to go through a careful screening and vetting of potential consultants in order to get the results that you want.
What is a consultant?
The basic definition of a consultant is “a person who provides expert advice professionally.” A consultant has knowledge and expertise in a particular industry or subject matter that you can access, for a price, to answer a specific question or solve a particular problem.
Why hire a consultant?
Expertise. Business owners have a multitude of motives for hiring a consultant, but one of the prevalent reasons is to gain access to expertise that the company doesn’t possess in-house.
Time. Even if in-house talent has the expertise, the company may lack the necessary staff time to devote to the project and still allow employees maintain their day-to-day responsibilities.
There are times when your company can benefit from a third-party, unbiased opinion. That might be because you’re acquiring another business, looking to train your staff, or are having some internal issues you can’t work out on your own.
Business consultants have seen similar situations, and bring a wealth of experience to the table. Working with a consultant, you’ll get the benefit of his knowledge that has been used at other successful companies in your industry. You’ll also get an honest opinion about what you’re doing at your company — just be sure you’re ready for the truth!
Here are some of the reasons you might consider bringing in an outside business consultant.
1. You Need Specialized Knowledge
If you wanted to, for example, use Agile Project Management in your company, you might not have anyone certified in Agile on your team. This is a good example of when an outside consultant can provide value for your company.
Consultants have specialties, and they apply them at a variety of different companies. You benefit from that because a consultant can tell you how others are doing what you’re looking to do.
If you’re looking for specialized knowledge, it may be a temporary need. The consultant can advise you on how to proceed, or train your staff so that they ramp up quickly on the information they need to operate more efficiently. (more…)
Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of some of the most highly regarded business thinkers of our time. I read what they say – carefully, and with an open mind – and I think, What? That is simply not my experience. I can’t imagine that’s the best way to think/act/respond.
I have an especially hard time with folks who propose complex systems of approaching business based on what I perceive to be faulty assumptions about the nature of human beings. In my early years as a consultant and business coach, I would often sit in rooms where a highly paid guru from Bain or McKinsey or Accenture would pontificate to a group of execs about their business and how they should run it. And even though some of the managers were clearly skeptical (and would voice their skepticism afterwards in private), they would follow the consultants’ advice…too often to their detriment. Because the guy (pretty much always a guy) was highly paid, had multiple degrees, sounded smart, implied (or stated outright) that he knew more than they did. It always reminded me of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes: nobody wanted to say anything about the Emperor’s nakedness, because everyone else was talking about how wonderful the clothes were…
How do you know if a prospective consulting client is ready to buy?
Andrew Sobel, in his book Power Questions, outlines four conditions that must be met in order for someone to be ready to buy your services.
The four conditions are:
1. Is there a problem or opportunity? These are the only two things that matter. Without a clear problem in mind or an opportunity to achieve a great result, a prospect will never buy. You must ask the right questions to determine if a problem or opportunity exists.
The consulting business comes down to relationships. A buyer won’t engage you because of your website or if you have a cool company name.