Selection of a Suitable Business Consultant for the Success of your Small Business
Small organizations usually possess distinct advantages when compared to their bigger counterparts such as simpler organization structures, hands on involvement of the business owner, faster decision making, flexibility to adapt to changes very quickly, ability to fulfil the demands of niche markets and highly motivated employees trying to satisfy customers' needs.
However, tight cash flows leaves less money for investments, low economies of scale, lack of scope for training and development of staff for enhancing skills of workforce, and lack of knowledge and expertise in business management practices pose a big question mark to small entrepreneurs/ businesses. This inspires entrepreneurs to seek the guidance of a professional business consultant, with expertise across diverse industries and fields, for business growth. It is therefore imperative to select the right business consultant for the success of a small business.
While selecting a business consultant, business owners need to ensure the following merits in the consultant/ consulting company under consideration for hiring:
- Functional knowledge and competency
The consultant should not only be a master in his business fundamentals but also should possess complete knowledge and vast understanding about the industry in which the client operates. Likewise, he/ she should also have a thorough grasp on related or at least similar industries that are comparable to that of the client's. A consultant with these skill sets could provide practical, feasible, low cost and easy to implement solutions to his/ her clients.
- Integrated approach and ability to see longer term
The success of a business consultant typically lies in his ability to sum up his experience, business knowledge, industry trends and foresight and link them to see the holistic picture. The consultant should also be able to assess the impact of a decision on each department and likely repercussions on the overall business of the client. This will help in arriving at integrated solutions that will be beneficial over the long term too.
- Strong business, professional and work ethics
Importance of integrity and honesty of a business consultant sometimes far exceeds a consultant's functional knowledge and also in some cases, cover any lack of prior industry exposure. Confidentiality of sensitive data obtained from clients, usage of real-time information for the personal benefit of the consultant be it for self-promotion or marketing purposes should be verified by the client before hiring.
This can be identified by asking questions around previous case studies successfully handled by the consultant and thereby verifying the amount (whether too much or limited), type (whether sensitive or public) and criticality (whether company specific financials or generic industry related) of information provided by him/ her.
- Strong team to provide the required functional support in other areas
In cases where a consultant is being hired for specialist areas, it is imperative that the team providing support in other related management disciplines is sound. For example, if you are hiring a consultant for Business Strategy, always ensure that your staff in Marketing, Operations, Finance and HR are competent enough to implement the suggestions of the strategy consultant and concur to the solutions provided by the consultant.
- Persistence and perseverance to ensure smooth implementation of systems
Lack of implementation of recommendations of consultants is the chief reason for the perceived failure of consultants in delivering the desired results. This is due to resistance to change by the client and his team, strong inclination towards implementing a particular ideology, self confidence in technological know-how, sense of inability to lead the company to success etc.
A good business consultant should be result focused, diplomatic, judicious, possess clear communication and strong people skills. In addition, he/ she should also be persistent and be patient with intense ability to carefully handle a critical situation or a tough employee.
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