Guest Post: Chicago Businesses on the Value of Consultants
Inbound Marketing Agents has acted as a marketing consultant for various industries, and we strive to share our knowledge and resources through this blog. To help business owners better understand the value of all types of consulting services, however, we asked Chicago-based businessman Brad Farris to interview various companies on how consultants have helped grow their companies. As you’ll see, it’s crucial to have a fresh pair of eyes review your business and spot any missing pieces—regardless of whether you’re seeking input from marketing consultants, sales consultants, or just a consumer who has a different perspective. Check out Farris’ words below.
Guest Post by Brad Farris
Most business owners start off their business by doing everything. They are the sales team, the accountant, the service provider, and the receptionist. But once the business grows we learn to outsource some of the functions that we aren’t as good at — and in the process we find folks who make our business better.
Here are the consultants that these business owners can’t live without.
“Our accountant, our web design team and varied advisors. Our accountant's proactive advice has saved us a good chunk of expenses. We've been fortunate to work with someone who acts as an advisor. A user-friendly website is a must these days. We take no shortcuts there. Our third website in three years is about to be launched because we see more and more lead generation potential there. And last but not least, people with strong advice and opinions who have stopped us from standing in the way of our own progress. We'll always need these people around.”
- Mana Ionescu, Lightspan Digital
2.) Experts (and Customers, too)
“Cloverleaf is an innovation firm and in addition to our core team of trans-disciplinarian experts, we always bring three to four different outside experts or consultants into every new project to contribute an outside point-of-view. Whether it's a specialist with a specific expertise in a channel of distribution, someone who has knowledge on a new technology or perhaps it's a creative consumer who uses our client's product, bringing in an outside perspective always stimulates new thinking and creates unique input points that our clients cannot get anywhere else.”
- John Edelmann, Cloverleaf Innovation
“The consultants we can't live without are the ones we don't even think of as consultants, or as being separate for the company. To look at it another way, the contract relationships requiring endless supervision and follow-up and relationship management are vendors, not partners. Our indispensable partners are seamlessly a part of our business. Who are they for us? Our accountant of the past 20 years, who helped me dig the company out of the economic hole of 2001 that nearly took us out of the business, helped me buy my home and make college savings choices for my kids. Our phone system provider, who helped us move into our third office space in 1996. Our technology partners help us meet a range of needs, from open source website development to backend data integration projects. And then there are the countless creative account contractors, freelancers and interns who have worked with us shoulder-to -shoulder in our space. It's our firm belief that for every full-time staff, we have two others working on contract. We provide workspaces, invite them into our social celebrations and shenanigans, and otherwise include them heartily as part of our family. In the end, our business is far too collaborative to draw a hard line or think in fixed ways about consultants versus full-time contributors. In that sense, we are a business without borders.
- Kevin Masi, Torque
4.) Sales People and Marketers
“I have used consultants in the past for sales and marketing which was helpful, and currently have hired a management company called Optimism Hospitality Management to handle operational oversight for the Thunderbird Suites Hotel in Scottsdale. I believe this will add considerable value to the operational efficiency of the property long-term.”
- Robert Adler, Thunderbird Suites
As the people quoted above show, consultants don’t even have to be the so-called experts of a certain industry. They can be a customer, an intern, or an employee. Look for the right expertise to grow your company, but also don’t forget to keep your ears open to the company’s internal network. Your next best idea could just be a conversation away.
What types of consultants can you not live without? How have they made a difference in your business?
Brad is the founder of EnMast, a community of business owners committed to being better leaders and growing better businesses. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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