There comes a point in every business when the owner realizes they need advice and wonders, “Should I hire a consultant?”
Whether you’re starting a new company or growing an existing business, hiring the right consultant can be a cost-effective way for your small business to leverage specialized knowledge. Conversely, hiring the wrong consultant can cost you more than money—it can cost you a lot of wasted time and energy.
So, the challenge for a small business owner is to understand the role of a consultant in their business, and to learn how and when it is cost-effective to hire one.
What does a small business consultant do?
A business consultant is simply an outside expert you hire to solve an internal business problem. A good consultant is a great source of specialized knowledge. A great consultant brings knowledge, skills, experience, and process to improve the client’s condition.
Unlike in-house employees, consultants have independent schedules, may have multiple clients, and are hired on a contract/project basis. Depending on the consulting firm, consultants may work alone or may bring their own team, which typically includes one project manager and two analysts.
A consultant can help with marketing and sales development, business expansion and improvements, and even execution of their ideas and recommendations.
The following is a quick snapshot of the consulting process:
- Pre-consulting: Prior to beginning work, you and your expert set out the terms, parameters, and agree on the “consulting agreement”.
- Consulting period: The consulting period typically includes a discover, research, and final presentation of recommendations that completes the project.
- Post-consulting: You and the consultant may choose to extend your agreement or move towards implementation on your own.
Why do people hire small business consultants?
Small business owners hire consultants as a cost-effective way to bridge a gap in knowledge and skills within their company, or a as a way to bring a fresh, objective, and professional perspective to the company.
Here are the three most common reasons why our clients turn to consultants for help:
- To find the problem(s): In many cases, a business may be exhibiting problematic “symptoms”, such as a decrease in sales, or cash-flow issues, and internal management in unable to pinpoint the source of the problem. In this case, a consultant can come in observe the symptoms within your operations, conduct some tests and research, and determine the root of the problem.
- To create the solution(s): In some cases, you may have a goal that you can’t achieve internally either because there is a skills gap or because it is simply not within your company’s core competency. Hiring a good consultant can save time and money, and ultimately achieve a better result.
- Optimization: In some cases, your company may have grown very quickly and know there are lots of things you could be doing better, but you don’t even know where to start. A consultant can come in and bring in some fresh perspective, evaluate any or all areas of your business, and determine the processes and procedures to increase productivity levels.
A small business consultant can help you run your business, by planning your business strategy and in some cases even executing it.
But not all consultants are created equal, and not all businesses or business projects are created equal, either. You’ll need to consider why you’re thinking about hiring a consultant, and how long you’re willing to wait before you see results, and how much you can realistically afford to pay for their counsel. Then, you need to find a consultant that you really click with. When all of that comes together, you’ve positioned yourself for success.