When and Why to Hire a Business Consultant
As a business owner, have you ever hired a consultant or consulting firm? Have you thought about it? Do you think that your firm is too small to hire a consultant or that they will be too expensive?
These are all valid questions and exactly what you should be asking yourself before hiring a consultant to help your business. The great news is that you can, and in many cases, should consider bringing in a consultant. It can be affordable and the results you can achieve can be invaluable to your firm.
Core Competencies and Maximizing Revenues
Core competencies are your strengths in business. Every business owner/company has strengths, i.e. services and/or products that you know intimately and are really good at delivering to your customers. However, you likely do not have expertise in all the areas of business that, as a business owner, you need to manage. You need to engage yourself in efforts to market, network, sell your services or products to customers, and create revenues for your business. At the same time, you have the added responsibility to run your business properly and effectively.
You may believe that you cannot afford to hire full-time senior functional managers for your business. However, you need help to make sure your business is running properly and efficiently. This is where consulting can be the answer. Consultants can charge by the hour or by contract for a specified scope of work or period of time. This means you are in control of the expenses and you do not have to commit to a permanent, full-time and expensive senior-level manager who you are responsible for, including not only their salary, but also benefits, bonuses, related expenses, payroll and all the long-term employment and labour regulations and responsibilities. Further, consultants have experience and education at a senior level who can teach and support your more junior/less expensive permanent employees. Consultants are often multi-functional, experienced and trained in multiple areas of business. Therefore, you can hire one consultant who may be able to help you with a wider range of functions and answer your questions better than several less-experienced permanent employees.
In order to maximize your revenues, develop your business and find new customers, you need the time to concentrate on your own core competencies. For other areas of your business, in which you may have little or no experience, don’t spin your wheels trying to figure everything out on your own. You can hire an expert to advise you and set you up properly, saving your own time for what you are best at.
Strategic Competitive Advantages
Your business has services, products and/or expertise that is hopefully better or different than your competitor’s and you need to stay up to date and ahead of the curve to remain competitive. If you can also manage your business effectively to achieve a better bottom line than your competitors, you can reinvest in the business and continue to grow and succeed. This is an extra strategic competitive advantage over your competition.
If you are great at what you do but you don’t know what you need to run, improve or grow your business, a consultant may be your best and most cost-effective option.
Hiring a Consultant/Consulting Firm
You can find consultants in almost any and every area of business expertise. Some offer very specialized consulting services. Others can be more generalized. Most are open to travel and electronic communication. Many consultants will work with you to find the right price point and are flexible in methods of billing and payment.
Once you have made the decision to hire a consultant, where do you look? You can ask colleagues, friends and other business owners who they would recommend. As well, you can find consultants and consulting businesses on the Internet. Simply searching for a consultant with area of expertise and location can return results of the appropriate consultants in your area.
When you speak with a consultant, explain specifically what you think you need help with. Ask lots of questions and listen to the responses carefully to ensure they have the appropriate expertise and that you can communicate with them effectively.
Consultants should be happy to discuss costs with you. You do not want an open-ended situation where you may receive unexpected invoices. You may have a project that can be billed hourly. Many consultants provide contract quotations for defined projects. In this case, they will work with you on creating a clear scope of work. Additional requests, on top of the contract, can be added into a revised contract or can be billed separately. You need a consultant who is clear with you about what you want done and how much it will cost.
It is important that your consultant be legitimate and insured. Ask them if they have a business license, are registered with the government authorities and have appropriate professional and general liability insurance. This protects both you and your consultant.
Finally, in choosing a consultant, make sure that you like the person/people and think you can get along well with them. This will ease the process for you and your employees. You don’t want a consultant coming in and unexpectedly upending your firm or who doesn’t get along with your people. You want someone who you can work with and who you believe is dedicated to the success of your business, as you are.