Some business people think that consultants are for the “big boys.” That is, companies as large as a Fortune 500 company need outside consulting, but small businesses either don’t need all that knowledge or can’t afford to get it.
This isn’t the case. Today, numerous small business owners in an array of industries are hiring outside expertise to help solve everyday operation issues -bookkeeping, marketing, inventory management, and best practices for hiring staff, just to name a few. So, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, if you were to seek out a consultant to help you grow the business, just what could you expect to gain from their help? Just what would you be paying for?
There is at least a half-dozen “utilities” a professional, knowledgeable consultant can offer you as a small business owner:
- Another set of “eyes” to grant you another competent perspective. Chances are, the coach or consultant you are looking to hire has seen situations similar to yours come and go. He or she operates in a specific genre of business because he is an expert. In fact, it’s not hard to find an ex-manager, for example, who had to make even tougher decisions than the ones you are facing. If so, this person can help guide you through operational decisions that might make you uneasy if you had to face them alone.
- An expert offers you a set of ears to bounce your plans off of. Running an idea by a friend or someone at the barstool next to you might carry some virtue, and you might feel some relief unloading a little of your anxiety on another human being, but it won’t beat having an experienced professional next to you. Sometimes the listening person can help you “reframe” your initial notion or concept. Once you run it past your coach, you both might arrive at a realization that the idea can be tweaked a little, and thus improved.
- Consultants can assess weaknesses and recommend solutions. This gets more to the core of what consultants are known for. Most entrepreneurs want to know where risks and weaknesses lie within their organization. Once those are exposed, how can measures be taken to turn weaknesses into strengths. Or, how can a greater revenue stream be achieved and maintained? Again, consultants are generally hired for their ability to see situations as they exist. When problems are evident, and properly identified, these coaches can prove to be invaluable in helping you turn the situation around.
- They can turn problems into opportunities. Often, the mentality of a business entrepreneur is to merely survive a tough situation that may exist. For example, let’s say a manufacturer of a new product hates the fact that his bottles need labels which state what the main ingredients are out of fear that the competition could replicate his product. But if a consultant with marketing savvy comes along, he might see the listing of certain key traits as an opportunity. He then might look for a way to educate consumers concerning the qualities that product has to offer. Through using ad copy and graphics the consultant can propose a better way to turn all those labels into promotional assets.
- Consultants often turn out to be knowledgeable in several other, helpful areas. Most advisors are not one-trick ponies. If they know something about marketing basics, they also might have great suggestions for your human resources strategy. It is generally a good idea to look at the prospective consultant’s resume in considerable detail. You might be able to add real value to the relationship, and glean a wealth of other information to help you solve a greater number of issues.