By Amy Collett
Even the most organized businesses can benefit from an outside perspective on occasion. Consultants in specialized areas can help your business operate more efficiently, better manage time and money, and even improve things like customer service and employee retention.
What kind of consultant do you need?
Some businesses only hire a consultant when something has gone awry or there’s a situation to fix. Savvy business owners recognize how consultants can serve in a proactive capacity, identifying potential areas for improvement before a problem arises. You may opt to retain someone who is an expert in your industry or who has specialized skills in an area where you’re lacking in-house talent.
Alternatively, you might zero in on things like financial management, operational functions, or communications. There are a variety of ways in which consultants can be useful, and an internal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses can help you identify key areas that could benefit from an expert evaluation.
What will a consultant do?
Consultants aren’t magic — they are simply individuals who are well trained in identifying problem areas and offering insights and potential solutions or approaches. As such, they likely utilize tools such as surveys, observation, or statistical analysis of key performance metrics. They may also interview employees, review your books, evaluate customer feedback, or, according to Think Expand, Ltd., review your strategy or marketing plan.
Some consultants can help you create training programs for new hires or client services reps; others can overhaul your social media presence or revamp your accounting practices. In short, consultants are there to offer advice and suggest methods for improvement.
What can you do yourself?
Many consultants will provide direction on steps you can take to improve the areas of focus you’ve hired them to evaluate. This might mean new internal protocols or processes, or they may recommend a new software program that can help you streamline operations. For example, if effective time management is an area of concern, a consultant might observe how your team spends their time and suggest a platform to help you monitor and track work hours. This could provide a way to improve productivity and simultaneously manage your team and your timesheets effectively.
What if I disagree with my consultant?
Consultants are just that — professionals giving you their expert opinion and, ideally, explaining the rationale behind their recommendations. You can and should question their advice, ask for clarification, and explain your point of view about conflicting points. For best results, you’ll want to be very deliberate in interviewing and retaining a qualified consultant to ensure you’re getting someone you feel comfortable with.
Keep in mind, employees can get nervous about a consultant coming in to “change things up.” According to Insights for Professionals, reassure staffers that your objective is to create an exceptional workplace where everyone’s contributions are valued.
How can I find a consultant?
You may be able to find a consultant through an agency, word-of-mouth, or through industry organizations. According to Zenbusiness, chambers of commerce and economic development organizations are also good networking resources, as are online job boards, where you can read reviews.
Professional networking sites can also be a place to look for experts. Before you hire anyone, ask about their processes, the time investment necessary, and the costs. You’ll also want to find someone who is interested in helping you develop unique solutions for your specific business rather than utilizing a one-size-fits-all approach.
Consultants are usually well worth their fees, particularly when their efforts can help you streamline operations, improve productivity and save money, provide higher degrees of service to customers, and keep your employees happy.
Connect with Angie Hanily for strategic consulting that boosts your business’s long-term results.