It can be difficult to look at your business objectively when it’s been going for ten years or more.
Here’s A real-life scenario:
A couple of months ago, we met a man in his fifties, at an SME networking club. He’d taken over an industrial cleaning company some 13 years previously. Since then, he‘d moved into more lucrative markets, diversified his activities and purchased two small competitors. I congratulated him on his successful journey. His response was:
You know, all I did was apply the ideas I had when I first bought the business. But it’s getting tougher now: the competition is pushing hard, and I haven’t a clue about the digital side of things. I still have ideas about the future… maybe I’ll sell.
Of course, we told him that it’s not surprising that he felt he’d had enough after 13 years! We suggested that a fresh perspective could help him make the right decisions: a (good) consultant, for example. He replied:
A consultant ? To do what ? They’re expensive and they sell hot air! And why should I pay someone to teach me my business?! Surely you’re joking. My model is fine: I’ll sell and be done with it.
At that point, the Club President called him over and we didn’t see him again. But I’ll tell you now what I didn’t have time to tell him then.
This Owner will lose a lot of money! He may well succeed in selling his company, but probably for a much lower price than it’s worth. Through lack of motivatrion, energy and/or foresight, he’ll fail to showcase the potential of his business. Buyers will pick up on the fact that he’s ‘running out of ideas.’ They aren’t interested in the history but in the future potential of the company. What a waste! And all because of some preconceived notion about ‘consultants’.
Such notions are prevalent – you may even share them – but they’re ill-conceived! After all, you engage an accountant to do your books and you consult a lawyer about legal matters. You pay for these services and their intangible benefits because you want security and peace of mind.
So why not hire a consultant to do what is essential for your business: to bring expertise and to answer fundamental questions about what to do next? Which strategy to follow? How to adapt? What your competitors do better? What your objectives should be?
Besides, a significant number of companies fail during their growth path. They fail to anticipate their working capital requirement – resulting in panic negotiations with banks – or the needs of the organisation in terms of people and process, leading to a loss of quality in their products and services.
By devising an OPERATIONAL STRATEGY, A CONSULTANT BRINGS THREE unique SERVICES TO THE COMPANY:
A fresh, rejuvenating but sympathetic perspective
Does this strike you as ‘trite’? But who else could do this for you? Friends? They’re very useful, but rarely neutral or independent. They may not want to displease you, or, conversely, may bombard you with everything they would have done differently. Perhaps the accountant? Some are very skilled, but as a profession they look backwards through the rear-view mirror rather than forwards through the windscreen. A business coach? Maybe. But they won’t be sitting ‘alongside you’: they’re opposite you, keeping their distance. Your Board of Directors? Not a good idea: read this article to the end …
Help, support and answers to your problems
The consultant helps to formulate new objectives and produce a clear plan for achieving them. They use their management experience to offer you practices or methods that have worked for them in other contexts. They are in contact with many companies and can cross-pollinate ideas from one to another. They are constantly on the lookout for new ways of doing things.
Time saving (and time is…)
By listening and sharing their experience, a consultant will save you valuable time:
- They observe and listen, enabling you to formulate your development objectives and the means to achieve them, thus motivating your employees quickly and easily;
- Their experience helps you steer clear of many stumbling blocks and hazards. They’ve ‘been there, done that’ and know how to minimise the risks. A consultant will help you avoid the potential pitfalls when you are recruiting, motivating a sales force, deciding to sell abroad or renegotiating with the banker, for example.
Medium-sized companies and large groups have all their skills in-house, yet they use consultants for fresh perspectives and experience gained elsewhere. An SME Owner does not have the resources to appoint a Director of development, strategy, or marketing.
The SME Owner is often alone in their business thinking and the choices they make – having little time to go to networking clubs to glean ideas and share experiences. Once their company reaches a sufficient size to have a bigger Board of Directors, the Owner/Manager may no longer get independent insight. The Directors may feel subordinate and either through fear or respect, might not say what they really think.
Contrary to popular belief, it is small businesses which have the greatest need for external support. A consultant will listen to you, bring in fresh ideas and rejuvenate you. In addition, if they are good, they will suggest better pathways and will be by your side to follow them, in a time-frame that suits you. As a result, you will be able to relax!
That is what we could have said to the man who spoke to us all too briefly!