Types of business consultants and signs you need one

08 May 2019 Consultancy.uk

Is a business consultant a waste of money? Well, that probably depends on the credentials of your consultant. Interestingly, cost is probably the number one reason the small business may rule out hiring one.

But, how then do you propose to turn your small business into a bigger success? Scaling a business is fraught with stumbling blocks and you’ve likely heard the frequently quoted failure rate for small businesses – 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% fail in their second and 50% fail after five years.

These are worrying stats for anyone about to embark on a business venture. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you getting a business off the ground is the easy part. Running a successful small business and growing it beyond its second year, on the other hand, is no easy feat. Speaking to The Telegraph, Amelia Harvey, co-founder of yogurt brand The Collective UK, says that most companies face problems roughly two years in – when products or services have taken off, but more staff and money are required to lift growth. 

At this point, finding a way to prevent slowdown, raise funds, overcome skill shortages and move forward is difficult even for the most business-minded. Getting a second impartial opinion to keep your business on the right track is definitely something worth thinking about. Some well-timed wisdom and business advice could be the game changer a business needs to realise growth plans and not become another failure statistic.

Types of business consultants and signs you need one

Let’s take a look at what a business consultant does and some of the signs your business might need one.

What is a business consultant?

A business consultant is a bit like a personal trainer, except one who understands the anatomy and physiology of business. Business consultants help to create a shift in view that can facilitate business growth. There are many different types of business consultant, and many compelling reasons for hiring one. Understanding what your business needs before you appoint any kind of business consultant, however, is essential.

Consultants often specialise, so choosing one to match your business needs is vitally important if you want to maximise value. Business consultant specialties include:

  • Management and strategy
  • Finance and accounting
  • Marketing
  • Human Resources
  • Operations
  • Information Technology

Scale-up expert Dominic Monkhouse says the biggest mistake small businesses make when trying to scale is to take the ‘it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach and continue to tackle new challenges in the same old way. The important thing about scaling a business, Monkhouse says, is to recognise that transitioning through growth requires a fundamental rethink of how things should be done.

Critically, Dominic argues scaling involves unlocking the discretionary effort of employees, and this alone can lead to increased productivity, improved engagement, better products and services and reduced business risk.

Signs you need a business consultant

However great you think you are at running your business, you will have your blind spots and there will definitely be potential for improvement you won’t spot. Whether your business is struggling or simply not scaling as quickly as you would like, a fresh perspective could be just what you need to get your company on the right track.

There are, however, some telling signs your business is heading for a disaster. While it may seem counter-intuitive to spend money at a time when your business is struggling, a business consultant could help to guide your business back on the road to success. If your business is experiencing problems, the right business consultant could be the answer. Here are some of the signs a consultant could be a good idea.

  • Slowed growth
  • Rapid growth
  • High staff turnover
  • Inefficiencies
  • Demotivated staff
  • Unfinished projects

How do you choose the right business consultant?

There are a lot of business consultants, so choosing the right one to work with requires some research. Try to choose a consultant who is familiar with your sector and the size of your business. Try to speak with a previous client (any worthwhile consultant won’t mind) and check out as many testimonials as you can to get a feel for how the consultant likes to work.

The most important factor is to choose a consultant you have a rapport with. Most business consultants offer free introductory sessions, so line a few up to see who you connect with most. It is vitally important you feel positive about the person you are going to work with. Remember: they will be giving you some constructive and critical feedback, so you need to be able to take that on the chin.

Here are just a few of the things to look for in a great business consultant:

  • Relevant training and knowledge
  • A positive track record in your business sector
  • Experience
  • A growth mindset
  • Insightful questioning and comments
  • Challenging

Ultimately, you don’t need a consultant to suck up to you and tell you how great your business is. While rapport is important, you also need someone who will challenge you, ask you lots of questions, hold you accountable and get you thinking outside of the box. With an outside perspective, you can take your business forward with renewed confidence.

About the author: Portsmouth-based Annie Button English is a Literature graduate and writes for various online publications, specialising in business and career development.

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