If you have an established small business, there comes a time when you sit back and think, “Could I be doing some things better?” If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to look at bringing a small business consultant into the picture.
The trouble is…where do you start? What are the sort of things do you need to look out for when choosing a small business consultant? How do you know if they’re going to be right for your business?
Firstly, it might pay to take a step back and define your objectives. Determine the reasons you need a small business consultant and how you think they might be able to help.
Do you need help in generating or converting leads? Marketing advice? Strategic development? Maybe it’s a combination of some or all? Once you’ve got a small business consultant on board, though, you can work through the issues affecting your business.
In the meantime, here are nine clever tips to help in choosing a small business consultant.
The obvious place to start and to get an overall picture. Look at their education background, employment history, industry experience, certifications, and if they are undertaking any ongoing or further training to enhance their skill level.
If they have a website, the best place to seek out this info is to look at their ‘About Us’ page. Some consultants will also supply a credentials document upon request.
When choosing a small business consultant, you want probably want someone who has had or currently owns a successful small business. Chances are they have already experienced what you might be going through and can offer a solution. If they haven’t run a small business before or been involved in running a small business, this could be a red flag…a question that definitely needs to be asked.
If they have successfully worked with clients previously, it’s sure bet they will want you to know about it. So don’t be afraid to request testimonials. Don’t be complacent, though. Look at their previous (or ongoing) client’s websites and even contact them to determine if the consultant is the real deal. Talk to them about their experience working with the consultant.
This is really important. Your consultant might be ticking all the boxes, but if only you can determine if there’s a connection. Do they ‘get it’? Are they asking the right questions? Make sure you’re comfortable working with someone who is largely making recommendations on the future of your business? If there’s a personality clash, it could prove to be disastrous further down the track.
Did you have to wait a few weeks before you could schedule an appointment to see a small business consultant? That’s a sure indication that their workloads are heavy and that they may be spreading themselves too thin. Be sure of their time commitment to you on a weekly/monthly basis.
This is essentially your consultant’s basket of goodies. What do they offer that other consultants don’t? If they tout themselves as experts, what are they offering that confirms their expert status?
If they’re financially based, can they offer accountancy, bookkeeping, tax advice, and investment analysis? How about complementary services like asset finance, commercial insurance, and risk insurance?
If they’re involved in helping to market your business, can they offer things like:
- Books and eBooks
- Media source for ‘expert’ opinions
- Blog posts and articles
- Online content
- Workshops to staff
- Video conferencing
- Public speaking
Larger consulting firms might offer some or all of the above. You might not need much, so choose a consultant that has expertise in the areas you need.
How do they work? Is it based on individual case assessment? Or are they part of a franchise arrangement where their systems are formulaic regardless of the type of small business? Choose an approach that best suits your business.
Obviously a major consideration. Consultants can charge by the hour, as project-based, or as a retainer. Be sure you understand exactly how you’ll be charged and what you’re getting for the price. Ask other business owners who use a small business consultant what their costs are for comparison.
Get it all in writing and get it signed. If you’ve discussed goals, expectations, deliverables and time frames, be sure your consultant is on the same page and is willing to make the same commitment as you. If they won’t sign, it could be a major red flag.
Is that all?
Choosing a small business consultant ideal for your needs can be quite a daunting task. Chances are you won’t find that ticks all the boxes but will probably go close. The important thing to remember is that if you own a small business, an experienced small business consultant can help it to grow…it’s as simple as that.
Whatever stage your business is at right now, hiring a small business consultant makes sense. Having another set of eyes to provide extra support and perspective when your business is facing growth challenges can be a godsend.
The professional team at C3MG are experts in small business consulting. If you want to take your business to the next level, contact C3MG Consulting today.