We find ourselves living in interesting economic times.
Oil and commodity prices are falling through the floor. Politicians are unable to sell a balanced budget. There is unprecedented turmoil in the Middle East and in Europe the Greek crisis is unfolding daily.
In the past you have probably you’ve weathered storms using your experience, judgment and instincts. But now what?
You’re facing an economy that’s stalled, credit that’s too easy and customers seeking ways to cut back. Perhaps it’s time to bring in some outside help. Perhaps you need an impartial view. Perhaps you’re simply too close to the problem.
A good business consultant takes a fresh look at procedures and policies to inject new life into entrenched business practices. What worked 12 months ago is already out of date. Times have changed, and quickly.
Small business owners may be reluctant to incur the expense of an outside advisor. Qualified mentors are, indeed, expensive – and for good reason. They deliver solutions and benefits that far outweigh the capital outlay for services rendered. The key is to find the right consultant among the flim-flam artists and snake oil salespeople that populate the consulting industry landscape.
So, what should you look for when you’re looking for innovation and a quantifiable ROI?
Here’s an insider’s perspective on what you need in a business consultant.
This one is a no-brainer.
There are a lot of people who call themselves business consultants, success coaches, life coaches, and on and on, so if you pick a name out of the telephone book you may end up with a practitioner of voodoo who recommends sacrificing a chicken to improve sales.
There’s nothing more secure than a referral from a respected colleague or associate. It might take a little time to find the right name and number but it’s time well spent when you consider that poor chicken.
Ask for references
A good business consultant will have a list of clients happy to recommend his or her services. Follow up with telephone calls. Most references will be happy to discuss the problems their companies faced and how the consultant delivered value and solid, actionable advice.
A consultant who can NOT produce a list of satisfied clients due to NDAs or some other ruse is a consultant who may not have the experience you need to solve your problems. Be careful.
Is the mentor trained? Certified? Licensed? Credentialed? Insurance? And most importantly, have they ever run a successful business?
Once again, ask for the consultants credentials – education, memberships in professional groups, licenses and other indicators of a studied professional who not only knows business but also knows consulting and the role of the consultant as adjunct to corporate management.
What are your objectives?
This is one question a consultant can’t answer and probably the first question the consultant will ask. So having a well-considered answer is going to make your relationship with a business consultant more valuable. The less the consultant has to guess, the more help s/he can be to you and your business.
Put together a list of business priorities based on where you want the company to be in 12 months, 24 months and 36 months. Don’t broad stroke this part of the exercise. Be precise. Create the projections. Fill in as many blanks as you can. This is the road map to your long-term business success. It’s also the road map to a successful collaboration with your consultant.
Know where you’re going. The consultant helps you get there.
Be completely open and honest.
Straight talk is a time saver and it insures results. A company owner who only tells half the story is limiting the services and quality of advice a consultant can provide. So, trust in the integrity of your consultant and give the complete picture – the good, the bad and the ugly.