Is small business consulting beneficial or BS? Catchy title (I hope), but a valid question we get asked a lot and one that many small business owners ask themselves once they hit the turbulent waters of needing to turn a profit in their new start up.
Small buisnesses are typically started with two thought processes in mind from the owner:
"I can do it better than my current employer."
"I can turn my hobby or passion into a profitable business"
Take any business as an example. We will use a mechanic that has 10 years experience and decided to open his own Repair Shop. Mr. Mechanic is ASE Certified, and is the best mechanic in his town or city, but he doesn't have any experience running a business. Where does Mr. Mechanic turn to get advice on labor laws, payroll, marketing, writing a business plan, taxes, cash flow management, human resources, etc.
The question here is - Does Mr. Mechanic need a small business consultant or should he seek advice from from individuals in each field?
The answer is Mr. Mechanic needs to use a small business consultant because he doesn't have experience in running a business, but there is a caveat. The caveat is how you select the right small business consultant that fits your business model, goals, and your industry.
Just like hiring employees you must vet a small business consultant. Start with their website and see if they have any testimonials. If they do contact the testimonials or ask the consultant for their contact information so you can obtain a real testimonial.
Has the consultant worked with anyone in your industry? If not, they may not be the right fit for you unless your are looking for general business principles to be implemented that may not be applicable to your model or goals.
When you talk to the consultant over the phone for the first time, how do they listen? In my humble opinion this is the easiest and most effective way to vet your potential consultant. If they listen, take notes (you will know), and provide some solutions to the questions you have asked them, then this may be your guy to do more due diligence on. If they start the conversation with their thoughts and implementation plans for your business and don't truly listen then it is most likely not your guy.
The key to a successful relationship with a small business consultant is finding someone that has experience in small business, has a proven track record (ask to see case studies), will provide a plan that can be customized to your business model, and will genuinely listen to your story. The latter is really the most important. This is your business and they must have your best interest at heart.
Takeaway: Small business consultants can me a tremendous benefit to your new company if you find the right fit. A great example is Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion. Marcus founded River Pools and Spas in 2001, then started educating his competition on how to grow their pool businesses through inbound marketing. That's right! He gave away 80%-90% of his secrets to his competition and they became successful because of it. This is the type of Small Business Consultant you are looking for.
Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.com/renjith krishnan