Advisors, coaches, and consultants delivering value
Need Business Advice? How to Get Real Value from Your Business Consultant
If you are a small or medium sized business you may have had times when you needed to make decisions that you really were not qualified to make. Perhaps you need to make a financial decision, or to resolve a set of employee problems. You are probably an expert in your business product or service, but you may not be an expert in everything else.
As you sustain or grow your business you may need advice upon occasion. We all need advice on something every once in awhile, whether it be a personal or family matter. Just like when you go to your doctor for advice on a medical question or problem, business owners also may need a business consultant. So don’t be stubborn until it is too late; be smart and show a little humility every so often!
Sometime a business consultant is called a coach. Small business coaching is another way to say that you could use some input. That input could be information such as financial rules in for certain tax situations, or it could be tips on making a better tasting soufflé. There are hundreds of possible areas in which you may need to consider hiring a coach, or to get some small business training.
Here is a short list of coaching and training areas for a small business that you may want to consider in order to better run your business:
- General Business Consultant or Advisor
Perhaps you don’t have a specific area of your business that is struggling, or overall you know you can do better. Bringing in someone with a fresh view of your business can be just the type of coach you need. A business consultant can often look at your entire business, including financials, people, processors, products, and services to identify areas where you could improve. They also can offer advice or steps for improvement, and give you goals to meet so that you know what success looks like.
- People Coaching
What business doesn’t have issues with people at some point? We’re all humans and sometimes we just don’t always get along. Additionally, if you manage a group of people perhaps you yourself could use some coaching to be a better manager. There are some excellent people coaches available that can help you learn more about your employees and staff, as well as how you appear to them. They usually meet with you for one or more sessions, and they also can speak with your team to put together a picture of the relational dynamics that are going on in your business. From this input, you can work with your people coach to make changes; either in terms of processes, benefits, and structure, but also with how and what you communicate to your staff. It has been said many times; what makes or breaks a company are its people, so you too can improve value for your people with a little help.
- Management Business Consulting
Many large companies often hire an expensive management business consulting firm, but you may also hire a similar consultant too even though you may be a small or medium sized business. Though you may have few “wheels” spinning to manage, there are usually areas in your business that could use some restructuring to be more efficient, productive or employee friendly. A management business consultant will look over your organizational structure and processes, to ensure that you are addressing your market within expectations, and they can provide suggestions and recommendations for change. They also can help oversee changes to ensure that the transition goes smoothly.
- Strategy and Marketing
Getting your product or services into the market is not always as easy as just setting up a storefront. Yes, location and the attractiveness of your shop will drive some business for you, but there are also many other ways to increase foot traffic into your store. If you are not a marketing expert, then perhaps you need to consider getting a strategy and marketing coach. They can help you better understand your customers, and to set goals. With these goals in mind, they can recommend an outbound and/or inbound marketing strategy that includes a list of deliverable activities to increase awareness and consideration information on your business in front of more prospective customers.
- Technology Advice
If you are a new business, or a business where you know that you need to upgrade some of your technology systems, such as a Point-of-Sales system upgrade, then you may be a candidate to hire a technology advice consultant. Technology is improving all the time. With new cloud-based solutions, or outsource system data centers, there are so many new ways to improve system functionality, usability, and reliability. A technology advisor can review your needs and processes, to ensure that you get the right system in place for your type of business. There are hundreds of technology applications today designed for small and medium businesses, but choosing the right ones for your business is generally beyond the average business owner; so get a technology advisor!
- IT Consultant
Every business has computer systems to help run your business. Perhaps you have a Point-of-Sales system with multiple terminals, and perhaps even multiple store locations. You also have an accounting system, a website, and other equipment such as PCs, laptops, and tablets. So how is everything going to keep running smoothly? If you are having trouble overseeing all your systems, finding that you are spending too much time getting them fixed and backed up, then perhaps you need an IT consultant. They can review all your systems to identify what needs to be fixed or even upgraded. They also can put in place some processes to help ensure that the systems will run more smoothly. Technology can be very specialized these days that an IT consultant may be the best way to go to help grow your business technically.
There are times when your workload is too high with the staff you currently have, or you need temporary help to get a one-off job done. In these types of situations it is time to get to get some temporary help. A specialist can help fill a gap in a temporary work environment. They are generally contracted either directly with an individual or through an agency, depending on the type of help you need.
- Small Business Training
Have you ever considered to get some training? Though training may not make you an expert it can set you on a path to make better decisions as you become more knowledgeable. Consider learning more about technology, such as how to administrate your Point-of-Sales system. Or perhaps you can get some training in marketing or sales to become a better marketer or salesperson. There are many organizations and/or individuals who are experts in these areas, and they can train you. The more you know the better business decisions you will make.
- General Business Consultant or Advisor
So how do you choose the right advisor, coach, or expert?
Use these steps to select the right person for you:
- Decide what type of coach, advisor, or consultant that you need. Use the categories listed above as a list to consider.
- The best choice will be a reference from someone or a company that your trust. If you know and trust the reference, go to Step 4. Bearing this, search for a list of options and ask 3 or 4 of them for their references.
- Call their references for feedback on the consultant or advisors.
- Once you are satisfied that you have the right choice selected, ask for a written proposal. A good consultant or coach will give you a thorough proposal that includes at least the following: Cover letter, Objectives, Project Plan, Project Deliverables, Contact methods, Timeline for Execution, Who is Responsible for What, Pricing, and a Payment Schedule.
- For large agreements it is always good to have an attorney review the proposal. You also should have an Independent Contractors Agreement outlining procedures and terms in the event an anomaly occurs. (Samples available on the Internet.) Ask the consultant or coach also for a completed W-4 so that you can report contracted income to the IRS.