A significant issue with many SME’s is that they personally lack the internal resources to optimise performance. This could be due to time constraints or a lack of skills or experience in specific areas.
In these instances a professional business consultant can add significant value in many ways, providing that key criteria are met.
The role of consultants is advisory. Consultants should have the capacity to identify and address business challenges in an optimal manner as well as recommending and implementing exemplary strategies and tactics. Ultimately, though, the decision to undertake any of the recommendations is at the discretion of the business owner.
Business consultants should have appropriate skills and experience precisely suited to the areas for which they are hired. Their recommendations should be insightful, objective and fresh and they should be able to provide supporting rationale for recommended courses of action.
Business consultants should view situations holistically, be proactive and be prepared to acquire an in-depth knowledge of all essential areas pertaining to the challenges concerned before commencing projects. This involves researching the situation as best possible.
Furthermore they should always be prepared to go the extra mile. Consultants should respect the experience and input of key management and staff, be prepared to listen, and make provision to meet with them as necessary throughout the duration of the project.
Consultants should be able to think both in and out of the square as well as possess the capacity to mentor. In addition, they should have excellent communication skills and the ability to simplify even the most complex of issues, such that they are easily understood.
It is important for business consultants to be results orientated and to recommend relevant KPI’s in order to assess outcomes.
Those who possess these qualities often retain clients for extended periods of time. From my personal experience this can be for periods of ten to fifteen years or longer.
Fees, expenses, the basis of charging, and the terms of payment should be mutually agreed in advance.
A highly skilled business consultant can be utilised most effectively by organisations of all sizes, within affordable means.
The process of selecting a business consultant comprises 3 main stages:
• Project definition such that all parties understand the objectives and outcomes required. For example, if subcontracting is required who will be responsible for the management and what protocol will be followed? If this is within the jurisdiction of the consultant does he/she have the capacity, experience, and skills to undertake all aspects?
• Selecting the consultant or consulting group against specific criteria. Large consulting groups are often more expensive and rely on packaged consulting approaches, whereas smaller consulting companies are often more flexible. Many large consulting groups focus on larger corporations with substantial budgets and are therefore not feasible for smaller companies.
• Formulating a mutually agreed written agreement setting out project scope, timelines and expected outcomes as well as supporting arguments.
There is little doubt that business consultants with the right skills and qualities can add considerable value from many perspectives.
About the writer
Alan Kaplan PhD has international experience spanning more than twenty five years across academic, media, agency, client and consulting areas. Alan’s profile can be viewed on LinkedIn and he can be contacted on 041875855.
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Alan Kaplan © 2012
This article is for general information and the reader should seek specific expert advice before taking any action.