Hiring an outside consultant can cost a lot, but when looking for good advice, it’s never about the capital outlay. It is about finding the right consultants to juice your business’ performance.
So, here’s what you need to know to derive more benefits, enhance operations, and develop a growth strategy that actually delivers measureable, quantifiable results.
- Start your query within your business network. Other business owners – vendors, sub-contractors, outsources, clients – in a short time a small business owner can develop a healthy contacts file.
To find a consultant to best suit your needs, look for referrals from trusted sources – the business owners who provide materials, services, and outlets – to recommend a consultant who’s delivered a clear, quantifiable return on investment.
If your raw materials vendor recommends a business consultant, you know that name should be on your short list. So…
- Develop a short list. That’s right, start developing a list of consultants based on referrals and your online research.
- Develop a detailed statement of work. A statement of work (SOW) gets you and your consultant on the same page quickly. Here’s what we do, here’s our short- and long-term growth strategies, here’s the challenge, here are our expected outcomes.
A prospective consultant is likely to have questions about your SOW. Listen carefully to those questions to better determine just how clear your company objectives are.
I need to know where you want to take your business before I can lay out a strategy to get you there, and that’s true of any consultant. Consultants need to know where you are now, where you want to be, and in what time frame. Fill these blanks in detail so your consultant gets traction on Day 1.
- Look for industry-specific certifications, licenses, or other credentials that define a reputable and engaged business consultancy. Often, a certification is earned through additional education and training. It also indicates a professional consultant who understands your industry and the challenges your company faces daily.
- Ask about relevant experience within your business sphere. If marketing is the concern, look for a consultant with solid marketing and promotional credits – activities that you can see and study.
For example, if you’re looking for a commercial web designer, don’t call a security consultant. Call a company that builds websites, or improves the performance of websites.
- Therefore, consider hiring more than one consultant. Even if the bank is tapped out, bring in professionals who’ve worked in a broad range of market environments, addressed a roster of business challenges, and know your niche.
If your objective is to improve corporate security, bring in a security consultant to design and implement improved security procedures. If the objective is to grow the customer base, bring in a promotional specialist.
Look for experts who work in your company’s business arena. They deliver more for less, and they don’t have to go through an extensive learning curve. They’ve done “it” successfully before.
- Ask for references. A good consultant collects good references, but remember, NO consultant will use an unhappy past client as a reference. Client testimonials and references are hand picked by the consultant or consulting firm, so, of course, the references are all accolades.
- That’s why you conduct Internet research. A consulting firm has an expansive, mature website that’s helpful, engaging, and provides information on services, past clients, informative blog posts, and other background on the individual or company.
Be sure to check out the consultant’s LinkedIn profile, as well. A detailed profile, with numerous references at least indicates that company or individual is well networked.
- Hire a consultant who maintains a broad network of business resources. This is a time-saver. If you need to bring in another specialist, and you trust your consultant, that’s a good reference.
- Finally, provide any consultant you hire with relevant operational details. It can be a flow chart, a 100-page business plan, a PowerPoint deck, marketing metrics, or a week of job shadowing to gather the details of how business is currently conducted throughout the sales arc.
I’m always glad to meet an SBO who knows how to find the right consultant. It greatly enhances the likelihood of desired outcomes at the lowest cost across the board.
Give your consultants what they need to meet your objectives. Then, let them get to work.