While small businesses have to be ever vigilant in how they spend their money, a consultant can be an effective resource for pushing the business into the next stage of growth. A consultant can also offer a valuable outside perspective for businesses that are struggling.
Think of it this way—often a financial advisor or consultant plays the role of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Many small businesses can’t afford a full-time position dedicated to assessing the financial impact of important business decisions. Outsourcing this task to a respected, qualified and known consultant can give you valuable insight into critical financial and business decisions—everything from how buying a large piece of equipment will affect the business financially to how effective specific growth strategies may be for your business.
Be very careful not to be swept away by fast-pitching business consultants who use high-pressure tactics. If someone comes on super strong and makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to your instincts. Remember this is someone you will need to trust and work with closely. After all, you’re entrusting them with your business and your livelihood.
You need to feel confident with the advice and suggestions this person offers. And you need to trust they have your best interests in mind, not just their own bottom line.
Business consultants offer all kinds of services, so be sure to investigate.
Be clear about what you’re looking for (i.e. professional development training for you or your team, financial advice, organisational development, business development or marketing skills) and enquire about the person’s experience. Ask for references. Don’t just rely on their marketing materials.
Ask a prospective consultant for a list of referrals. Talk to their current clients to get a sense of how they work.
Remember too, to enquire about ongoing support. In most cases, it’s not enough just to have a plan-you’ll also want to make sure there’ll be support or help available if you run into trouble during implementation. Negotiate fees for this support before signing a contract. Clearly outline in the contract what kind of support you’ll be getting (phone, face-to-face, repeat training etc.) and the associated charges.