By Erin Hoffman
This article was originally published on Forbes.
During my tenure as a management consultant, I’ve helped hundreds of companies determine their areas of improvement and develop success plans. Management consultants can have many different specialties, from sales, executive coaching, finance, and communications to team-building. But some business owners have misconceptions about what a business consultant does. Following are five of the most common. It’s important to find out the truth about what a business consultant does before determining if your business needs one.
1. “Your business has to be in trouble.”
Failing businesses can certainly benefit from an outside business consultant to get back on track. However, successful businesses can also benefit. Start by examining what differences you want to see in your business. Then think about what’s preventing you from achieving it. I’ve worked with businesses that were doing well, but the owner was just at a point where they were doing too much. In that case, investing in a new hire did the trick.
2. “Your business must be large or established.”
When a business is in its early stages, it has a great opportunity to create a strong foundation from the start. This is actually a great advantage a small business has over a large one, as it learns sustainability.
If your business is small or less established, don’t fear that a consultant won’t take you on. Small businesses are ideal clients because they are seeking intelligent ways to create a business formula that lasts. It gives the consultants the opportunity to learn from the small business as well. Make the most of your budget and experience with a business consultant by taking their expert feedback and weaving it into what you know about your business.
3. “Consultants are expensive.”
Management consulting comes in many shapes and sizes, from big-ticket engagements to one-off projects. Rather than letting financial fears deter you from reaching out, sit down with your team to determine the risks associated with not reaching out.
For example, you probably have an idea of where you want your business to be in five years, but do you know the exact steps to take to get there? Also, consider what will happen if you don’t fix any weaknesses right now. Will you go out of business or remain stagnant?
Once you find the answers to these questions, use them as you interview consultants to see where their experience aligns with your goals and five-year plan.
4. “Consultants will give advice and then leave.”
Businesses that reach out to consultants want to make sure they’re getting what they need to thrive. Many fear that a consultant will come in and give cookie-cutter advice that simply doesn’t fit in with their situation.
A good consultant will not only point businesses to solutions and best practices but will also help them implement and embed them. Consultants want to see your business succeed, and they will not leave you to do it on your own. Keep the relationship going by keeping a consultant on retainer so you can go back to ask quick questions or clarify the plan to ensure you stay on track.
5. “Consultants don’t have experience in my industry.”
Business owners are the experts within their own industries. Management consultants, however, are experts in management. While I don’t know how to install a solar panel or how to write code, I do know how to structure an effective management team.
Instead of focusing on your industry, focus on the problem you are trying to solve. If the problem is specific to your industry, then find a business consultant who is an expert in your industry. You may find that a consultant with experiences in industries outside of your own can prove to be an advantage, as these consultants can give you a new perspective on your challenges.
It’s not easy for owners who are used to doing it all to ask for outside help. Business owners are successful because they have the best ideas and are willing to look for ways to improve themselves. By understanding the myths surrounding the consulting industry, you can make an educated decision on whether or not a business consultant is what your business needs. A consultant is driven by their need to help others succeed, which is not unlike the mission statement of many businesses!