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BUSINESS CONSULTING – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
BUSINESS CONSULTING – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR HIRING A BUSINESS CONSULTANT
Business consulting is on the rise, and there is an increasing demand for business consultants in this era. Many businesses are at a stage in growth that needs a business consultant’s intervention but may not realize it. In this article, we will be exploring the field of business consulting – what it is, its benefits, and some reasons you may need the services of a business consultant for your business.
So, let’s get started!
Who’s a business consultant anyway?
It’s a no-brainer, really! As the term may imply, a business consultant is one who “consults” with businesses to provide tactical support, advice, and strategy to help elevate the business to a greater dimension. Business consulting provides advice and an outsider perspective, essential for a thriving business.
What does a business consultant do?
A business consultant works with business owners to develop business plans, identify marketing needs, develop marketing strategies, and impart skills to business owners for better management and efficiency in maximizing profits for the business. They are, thus, critical players in the growth of businesses.
To be more specific, business consultants are often associated with the following responsibilities:
– They are keen to draw attention to current marketing needs associated with the business they are consulting with.
– They develop strategies to increase publicity and awareness of the goods and services offered by the business they are consulting with and consequently increase the customer base. They devise ways to spread the word on the existence of the brand.
– They draw attention to new funding schemes and suitable loan options to finance the business.
– They may draw up tactical/strategic business plans to foster growth with clearly stipulated long-term and short-term goals and schemes to measure the realization of set goals.
– They explore and educate on technological outlets and resources and existing business regulations, and exploitable opportunities.
– They can explore possible hiring options for qualified personnel.
– They may identify training opportunities and provide programs for existing staff.
– They may review the budgeting and accounting schemes of the business and present suitable recommendations for improvements.
Now, let us discuss, in detail, some of the roles played by business consultants and how useful they can be to your business.
1. Providing Information
This usually accounts for the most common reason for seeking out business consultants – the need to acquire information. Necessary Information may be acquired using tools like surveys, cost and feasibility studies, market surveys, etc. The business consultant brings unique expertise to the table and more current (up-to-date) Information that can help the business. Business consultants may also be hired if the company is unable to allocate some of its resources to amass data internally. In an ever-expanding technological era, data is everything, and business consultants can acquire it to grow the business.
2. Problem Solving
Business consultants often can tackle complex problems, and business owners and company managers throw difficult problems at business consultants for a solution. This could include questions about purchasing a component for the business, acquiring a business line, strategies for restructuring the company’s organizational setup, deciding suitable financial policies to adopt, establishing the most suitable approach in handling issues of compensation, and morale, management succession, efficiency, etc.
Attempting to birth solutions to these sorts of problems is, no doubt, a legitimate function and deserving of a wage. But then the business consultant has to find solutions to such complex problems. He/she must determine if the problem posed needs solving, to begin with. The business consulting may have to help define the actual issue, rather than merely acting upon synthesized problem statements. To explore the context of the problem, the business consultant may pose the following questions:
- What specific solutions have been attempted in the past to address the problem? What results were obtained from the applied solutions?
- What solutions does the client have in mind about the problem that hasn’t been attempted yet?
- What aspects of the business in question aren’t going well?
- If a solution is developed for the problem, how will it be applied to the business?
- What measures will be put in place to ensure the developed solution gains acceptance?
A good business consultant will neither accept nor reject the business owner’s description of the problem readily. They will systematically assess the problem and conclude whether or not the business owner’s original assessment is indeed accurate.
3. Effective Diagnosis
A great deal of the business consultant’s value lies in the ability to diagnose effectively. Sometimes, the diagnosis process may put the management-consultant and the client in an uncomfortable position, as the business consultant may uncover lapses in the business’s management, in which accountability may ensue.
Accurate diagnosis isn’t limited to the external environment of the business, technology, economics, or staff behavior in the company. The business consultant’s diagnosis may also probe into the motives for certain choices made and decisions taken that appear as mistakes. Such probes may also consider actions that were deemed unimportant and, thus, failed to be taken.
4. Action Recommendation
Sometimes, at the end of a business consulting contract, there is a written report or oral presentation detailing the business consultant’s lessons and some recommendations to the business. It is super important that reports and data be appropriately presented for easy understanding and use. The said recommendations are based on the diagnosis of the business consultant. In most cases, the business consultant’s job is only complete when a consistent, logical plan of action detailing steps towards addressing diagnosed problems is presented. It is the business consultant’s job to recommend solutions, while the business owner has a duty to implement them if he/she so chooses.
5. Implementing Changes
The business consultant brings an outside perspective to the business and may be instrumental in implementing change in the business. Now, the degree of flexibility for the execution of this function may vary, as some businesses may altogether restrict this function of the business consultant simply because it may be viewed as carpet-crossing on the duties of management. However, being a proponent of recommendations for the business’s growth, the business consultant is in an ideal position to serve in the function of one who implements, rather than just one who recommends.
6. Building Consensus & Commitment
The degree of effectiveness of proposed recommendations and diagnoses depends on team members’ readiness to concur with the nature of problems/opportunities. Then they must deploy the appropriate corrective actions, lest the diagnosis be rejected and recommendations go without implementation.
A business consultant plays an essential role in inspiring commitment and consensus to diagnosed problems and proposed ways forward. Thus, the business consultant is persuasive with fine-tuned analytic skills. This is needed for inspiring agreement about necessary steps to be taken and establishing the momentum (zeal) to see these agreed-upon steps implemented to completion.
7. Enhance Management Knowledge
Business consultants bring to the table the ability to enhance business owner’s capability to handle immediate issues and help them learn strategies and methods needed to cope with future challenges. This doesn’t mean they become redundant when business owners acquire such skills. Instead, satisfied business owners will always refer and recommend such business consulting to others, thus increasing the business consultant’s sphere of influence.
8. Achieving Organizational Effectiveness
Implementation of new ideas and initiatives requires new management techniques and a whole new perspective into the mix, and business consultants bring in that new perspective. Business consultants help achieve organizational effectiveness. They bring to bear the ability to adapt future strategy and behavior to environmental change, optimizing available human resources. This keeps the business relevant in a changing world.
What does it take to become a business consultant?
· Education/Certification vs Experience
Unlike other more formal administrative roles in business, education or certification may not always indicate the effectiveness of a business consultant. That said, it is worthy of note that certification can help separate the average from the great business consultants out there, as it speaks volumes to those in need of business consulting services.
However, even without education/certification to back the vocation, a business consultant must possess a significant degree of understanding of concepts pertaining to the field like defining businesses, growing and expanding businesses, problem identification and solving, increasing customer base, marketing strategies. Direct business ownership or management experience is key to being successful as a business consultant. Also, having working experience in successfully consulting businesses will prove helpful in this consultancy niche.
By virtue of the role played by business consultants, it follows that specific skills are primordial for successful consultancy:
– Leadership: The duties and responsibilities of the business consultant demand good leadership skills from the consultant. He/she stands to lead the business in the path of progress and must earn other team members’ loyalty to achieve this. The business consultant also stands as a visionary, providing direction for the organization to achieve its set goals.
– Teamwork: Together with leadership skills, the consultant must be able to “play well” with others, as the role of consultancy exposes the consultant to work with teams, large or small. This may include working with the business owner(s), the executive administrative team, departmental managers, or even staff. Good teamwork skills will enhance the chances of success by a significant proportion.
– Communication: Being a consultant means stepping up to offer advice, initiative, and recommendations towards business growth, and communication skills are crucial to achieving this. The business consultant must have strong verbal and nonverbal communication abilities, being able to pass down ideas to the best possible understanding of the concerned.
– Problem-solving: Business consultants serve essentially to bail business owners out of challenges with new strategies and innovations. As such, consultants must possess strong problem-solving skills, being apt to identify sources of the problem and deduce unique and feasible solutions to such problems.
– Creativity and innovation: The business consultant’s role is to offer a neutral perspective to the existing business structure and plan. Being creative and original with ideas will heighten client satisfaction in the consultant’s ability to offer a fresh perspective and ideas to augment existing structures and overcome business challenges.
– Analytical Assessment: being involved with all aspects of the business, business consultants should be able to critically analyze the business sectors, like budgeting, and draw conclusions for further innovation. Strong analytical skills will prove indispensable in the career path of a business consultant.
To be an expert in any field usually requires a significantly extended amount of time invested in training and practicing the said skill. Likewise, to become a business consultant often requires a significant length of time invested in field training. This includes being in the form of functioning in another close domain like a business analyst position or another type of business professional. Or by learning from other coaches in the same field, the latter being less time consuming and significantly enriching.
Are you interested in hiring a business consultant to help with your business? Then contact us here for a great business consulting experience.
Types of Business Consultants
Generally, there are five types of business consultants, categorized concerning your business domain they can add value. They are:
1. Management and Strategy Consultants
These are business consultants who have an intimate understanding of your particular market and can devise efficient strategies to advance your business. In all things ranging from geographically expanding markets, extending product portfolio, buying out the smaller competition to enhancing overall business capabilities, a well-experienced management/strategy consultant will deliver as expected.
2. Operations Consultants
Business operations consultants specialize in creating and implementing strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of the production process. Some operations consultants may further specialize in business process re-engineering – the art of probing and mapping out existing processes, analyzing these processes for opportunities to reduce the number of steps involved in the process while maintaining quality for greater efficiency in the production process. The business process re-engineer helps reduce costs like time, resources, etc. while keeping other factors like output quality constant.
3. IT Consultants
With the rapid emergence of technology, IT consulting is on the rise. IT consultants will aid in diverse areas of your business that interface technology, ranging from developing new systems, integrating old systems, and enhancing current IT capabilities, etc. The IT consultant will help make your IT more flexible and in touch with the current technological advancements to meet customers’ dynamic needs.
4. HR Consultants
HR consultants pay attention to the overall satisfaction of employees and ensure competent team members are recruited. They help in recruiting top talent and retain top performers in the business. They specialize in devising compensation strategies for employees, identify training and development opportunities, especially in sensitive areas such as business communication and leadership. Their attention to team members can help enhance team members’ performance and keep them motivated through tasks.
5. Marketing Consultants
Ranging from a new logo to a new market position for your brand, an effective social media strategy for engaging customers, and increasing clientele, marketing consultants are instrumental. Their outside perspective brings new light and energy and a fresh spark of ideas to attract more customers.
Do I Really Need a Business Consultant?
Almost all types of businesses can benefit from working with a business consultant. Business consultants can fit into various molds, including setting up accounting, developing business processes, and hiring staff, and these benefits don’t apply to just small businesses. Even larger businesses can benefit from hiring a business consultant, especially when they seek to expand the business’s reach or incorporate other industries. And even when financial problems arise about the company, a business consultant can help find a solution before it escalates out of hand.
So, you may ask, why do I need to hire a business consultant? Well, here are nine benefits to working with a business consultant.
1. Gain an Outside Perspective
There are times in the growth of a business where a new set of eyes is necessary to see and think outside the box. Sometimes, there are problems that even management can’t quite see. It is especially possible when they have been working under the same conditions for a length of time and have become accustomed to a pattern of thinking. An outside perspective becomes imperative, and that’s where a business consultant comes in.
A business consultant comes into play as a neutral party, viewing things differently from existing management with a fresh pair of eyes. They can easily spot challenges, problems, and hindrances to the business, leading to greater efficiency and productivity.
2. Get an extra brain
Perhaps you may be a little shorthanded when it comes to personnel, given that someone on your team quits or is unavailable. Hiring a business consultant can fill that gap until such a time when a full-time internal person is found or restored. Hiring a business consultant doesn’t have to be on full-time terms.
3. Manage change and pass the heat
Business consultants are agents of change in business. They bring with them a fresh perspective of the business and can catalyze positive change for your business. They can even shoulder the blame for some corporate decisions. That way as a business owner you can be the nice guy/gal!
4. Teach and implement best practices
Business consultants are often leading experts in their designated fields, and having such onboard your business will mean having not only theoretical but working experience on your team. It also saves the cost of trying to invent a new practice when a business consultant has already implemented and sieved out the tried-and-true strategies for your business.
5. Infuse creativity
Business consultants have a fresh perspective on your business and thus inspire creativity in a redundant and monotonous system of operation. Sometimes, in-house ideas may not cut it, and you’d need that external view of things to map out a way forward, and business consultants are just the solution.
6. Pass on training
Business consultants are like a knowledge base, and you could hire them to pass on knowledge on just about anything in the business. Consultants are trainers and can most certainly take on a training course at almost a moment’s notice.
7. Take Advantage of Valuable Resources
Regular upper management of a business is usually a hectic position with very little time to pay attention to change and growth aspects. A business consultant helps bear some of such burden, as they bring many resources to the table. The business consultant has as main objective to see to the efficient running of your business. To achieve this objective, they implement systems, tools, and processes that can be used to evaluate business progress and growth. This makes it unnecessary having to hire extra employees to carry on such tasks.
8. Bring in New Business Skills
Indeed, one person can’t have all-around skills for every aspect of the business. A business consultant specializes in business strategies, methodologies, and trends, allowing the business owner/ management to focus on their work while doing what they do best. They bring new skills and initiative into the business, beneficial in both the short and long run.
9. Save Money and Stress
Multitasking can prove to be stressful for anyone. However, when you decide to hire more persons to take on the numerous tasks that weigh on you, it can also prove costly. Hiring a business consultant may seem a temporal way out while preparing to hire more permanent employees. Business consultants aren’t primarily full-time employees, so you could save money in the long run by choosing to work with a business consultant as you buy time to get a more permanent employee.
Are you interested in hiring the services of a business consultant? Do you desire your business attain a height of progress and success like never before? Hire a business consultant today. Find out more here.