When you or your team lack the experience or the time to tackle a business challenge or launch an initiative, it could make sense to hire an external business consultant or management consultant on a temporary basis.
They can be the additional experienced resource you need to validate decisions, solve issues, enhance your productivity or help you plan for growth.
It may go against your instinct to look for outside help, especially if you are used to working long hours and multitasking to cope with your many responsibilities. But increasing your workload this way can jeopardise your well-being and your business success, or it can lead you into making knee-jerk decisions that are not properly thought through.
If your business is established, you may have more resources to call on, but there are usually plenty of day-to-day operational issues and problems that already keep your team busy.
With all this in mind then, can you afford the risk of taking time away from these daily commitments to tackle a demanding new business challenge? Can you delegate it instead to someone in your organisation who has the capability and capacity to take on a significant new responsibility?
If the answer to either is no, then it is a sensible decision to seek help.
Will A Consultant Be Worth It?
A consultant can be an important ally to help you analyse your business objectively and provide you with new perspectives. They can be the catalyst to enhance your performance by developing new initiatives, driving organisational change or simply relieving some of your resource constraints.
Using a good business consultant is an investment in your business, it should not be a cost burden. If you can work together effectively then you will enjoy the benefits of improved profitability, increased revenues or a performance upgrade.
So before you jump into any quick decisions, take time to plan and prepare so that you get full value from your consultant whether you are looking for a short-term or long-term relationship.
Business Consultant, Management Consultant, Coach?
The consultancy industry is very diversified and there are many types of consultants, coaches, and advisers available which can confuse your selection process. If your needs are specialised, such as specific financial advice or help with an IT implementation project for example, then your choice should be made easier.
Business management consultants can operate in a wide variety of areas and selecting the skill-set most appropriate for your needs is important. Research carefully and don’t take it for granted that a self-titled ‘experienced coach’ or ‘experienced consultant’ will be the right fit for you or your business.
In my experience, customers prefer me to work as a hybrid between coach and consultant, i.e. focused on resolving business challenges but also helping with continuous improvement and building competencies.
Are Your Objectives Clear?
Before reaching out for outside help, make sure you are clear on the results you expect to achieve. Decide what a successful outcome would look like and what the positive impact on your organisation would be.
Have some idea about the timeline you expect for the project duration but don’t let that potentially limit the scope. You may be only looking for help with a single initiative or a remedy to a current business headache, but a good management consultant with a fresh perspective could offer ideas that bring further value in optimising your business for the long-term.
If you are looking at a large scope you may want to select and prioritise certain elements. A consultant will usually be happy to launch into a big project, but you know better how your business operates and you want to minimise any unnecessary disruption to your organisation. Decide on the interfaces and identify personnel who will take responsibility for the project.
What Skills And Experience Do You Need To Hire?
As with any other contractor, your decision to hire a business consultant is based on the fact that you don’t have the skills or the time to do the work in-house. You are tapping into their expertise without having to employ them, but you need to make sure they can fulfil your objectives while adding value with their competence and capabilities.
Industry knowledge may be important in your sector, but equally you don’t want to pay a consultant to tell what you already know. You probably already understand your business better than most, so it may be valuable to work with someone with a new perspective and who can benchmark your performance against other sectors.
In terms of bringing new best working practices to your organisation, you may also find it valuable to use a consultant who has experience in a variety of work environments and international cultures.
Do You Need To Like The Consultant?
It goes without saying that it has to be easy to work with the business consultant from the outset, they should be open and honest as your working relationship will be vital for the success and value of the project.
You will need to trust and be comfortable with your consultant so that it is not difficult for either of you to take a contrary or challenging position when necessary. It is also important to work with a person who is genuinely interested in your business and gets it.
A business consultant is a change agent, seeking to drive improvements in your company or organisation. It is human nature to resist change, so the consultant needs to have emotional intelligence and strong communication skills to be at their most effective with your team.
It is crucial that the consultant is a good listener and empathetic so they can understand situations from the viewpoint of your team members. By reassuring your personnel and building their confidence they will help the speed of change and ensure successful outcomes.
In conclusion, as with any important initiative, planning and preparation is important before engaging a business consultant. Getting the right fit for your needs will ensure the consultant is not a cost burden, but is delivering measurable value in performance improvement for your business or your organisation.
I’m a Business Consultant with over 30 years of international experience in start-ups and senior leadership positions in multinationals and Fortune 500 companies. I provide expertise to develop value-driven solutions in Business Growth, Marketing, International Sales, Strategic Planning and Business Transformation.