Your growth has slowed, your staff retention rate is getting worse and you have a long list of unfinished projects. Employee morale is on the floor and you are losing sight of your organisation’s objectives. Every day feels like an uphill struggle fixing (or trying to fix) problems.
This is common ground for SMEs, especially during periods of either unexpected growth or downturn. It’s a time when business leaders need to hold their nerve, invest in company culture and perhaps consider seeking outside help.
Consulting with a third party for a fresh perspective could be just what your business needs to sort out its problems.
Signs you need a business consultant
It may seem counter-intuitive to spend money in order to save money, but if your business has wandered onto a rogue path, you may need a fresh pair of eyes to show you how to guide your company back onto the right track.
There are lots of tell-tale signs your business could do with a fresh perspective. Here are some of them:
- Slowed growth
- Rapid growth
- Demotivated employees and high staff churn
- Inefficient processes
- Growing list of unfinished projects
However good you think you are at running your business, in nearly all cases, there is considerable room for improvement. Running a business is a complex job and the likelihood is that there will be areas you lack expertise. A skilled consultant can help to identify those areas and help you to get the right people in place to take your business to the next level.
The big question SME leaders need to constantly ask themselves is, if the business were to move into a period of rapid growth, could it deliver?
There are lots of signs your business could do with a helping hand. Employing more staff isn’t necessarily the answer. A business consultant (sometimes called a business coach) can evaluate your business strategy and give you real objectivity.
Let’s take a look at what a business consultant actually does and how you choose the right one for you and your business.
What does a business consultant do?
There are many compelling reasons your business may benefit from hiring a consultant, but what does a business consultant actually do?
There are many different types of business consultant. The main areas consultants specialise in are:
- Management and strategy
- Information Technology
- Human Resources
- Finance and accounting
Some consultants, particularly the big ones like Deloitte and KPMG, will cover all areas of the business, as well as offer specialist advice. Business consultants generally have expertise in specific markets.
Your chosen consultant will be able to identify the problems and pinch-points in your business and get the ball rolling on change – often a difficult thing for SMEs to manage. See some tips for managing organisational change here.
Importantly a business coach or consultant will provide objectivity. They can offer advice on teaching and training your employees, and help you to make difficult decisions, like letting some staff go.
The whole purpose of a business consultant is to make your business leaner, more efficient and effective in what it does, including identifying your company’s strengths and weaknesses and providing insight into foreseeable problems. This will include looking at your business culture and seeking ways to improve it.
How do you choose a business consultant?
Choosing a consultant who is familiar with your business sector is usually a good idea. Most consultants offer a free introductory session. It’s a good idea to meet with a few consultants to see who you have a rapport with. You want to feel positive about the person you are going to work with and trust them. It is likely they will make suggestions and give constructive criticisms you may find it difficult to hear. You have after all put your heart and soul into your enterprise.
Here’s a tick list of things to look for in a good business coach:
- Skills and knowledge – does your business consultant have relevant training?
- Experience – has your coach been a small business owner and how has he/she helped other businesses?
- Continuous development – does your coach strive to stay ahead of the game with continuous learning?
- Rapport – do you feel you are a good fit personality wise?
- Insights – does your consultant or coach ask a lot of questions that make you think outside of the box? You need someone who will help you to understand your blind spots.
- Challenging – working with a business coach shouldn’t be a walk in the park – you’ll have to be accountable for change and getting things done.