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What’s In It For Me When Hiring A Business Consultant?

Each day in the controlled chaos which is a small business, owners rely on what they know in making decisions that change their future, for better or worse. They are unaware of potential problems or issues that arise from these decisions until results start to appear. This is The Consulting Advantagea crisis that many business managers choose to ignore and avoid thinking about by staying busy – to be busy. I always ask myself, why? Is it because staying in the comfort zone is easier than pushing for more information or perhaps it comes down to fear of the unknown. Regardless, business decisions made with partial information create solutions that cost time, energy, and money and don’t produce RESULTS!

Now that the problem is identified what are the options for an open-minded, entrepreneurial business owner to address the constant state of change which is today’s small business environment? Prior to discussing the options let’s talk about the market forces that affect small business and how they create the tipping points which lead to forced change. They include change in technology, infrastructure optimization, human capital issues, and costs related to production, business development, marketing and sales.

Change In Technology

Small businesses are just now benefiting from sweeping change in availability of affordable software platforms and applications designed to put them on a level playing field with larger competitors. Sales enablement tools, project management software, mobile applications, and online subscription marketing platforms are examples of technology that can support steady growth and  business optimization without bankrupting a struggling company. Issues arise in selection, implementation, and management of these tools which opens the door for third party support or yours truly- a business consultant.  Consultants assist in making the right decisions based on their immediate knowledge and experience leading to faster conversion to profit and lower risk exposure.


Even now, in many small businesses. “what worked for dad works for me” is still a common thread. This trend leads to conducting daily activity in the same way as before, ignoring change in the marketplace. So what happens? The business falters, fails, is sold, or is forced to adapt rapidly leading to negative shifts in personnel, culture, and operations. Changing orientation of the business model to focus on a proactive approach to the market compels a company to find better ways to compete or optimize by doing more with less. A great example of this is the financial flexibility provided by online financial services companies like Kabbage, that offer a dynamic approach to funding everyday expenses and business emergencies through a working capital loan. Customers can obtain and manage business loans to address the constant change represented in their target market. Managing this type of change requires more knowledge than many business owners possess or have access to. Once again, a consultant can be the first step to finding a solution.

Human Capital

There is an art to managing people and most of us don’t understand the necessary components to successfully build and manage an empowered, entrepreneurial  work force. Owners lean on friends, relatives, and gut instinct rather than studying how to make human capitalization work for their business. Human capital is the total value brought to a business by the combined education, experience, and knowledge of various employees, supervisors, managers, and executives. Growing it will lead to happier employees, better products, greater revenues, and a strong bottom line. Ignoring it will cause a slow spiral to lost market share, weakened product mix, and an unproductive business culture. Examples of success are Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, and Microsoft who sponsor employee-led innovation and growth to make daily activities more profitable and efficient.

Change In Cost Structure

Businesses have always struggled with supply and demand particularly small businesses who don’t possess the asset pool sometimes necessary to support large complex deals or market initiatives. A simple shift in raw material costs can effectively eliminate a business from offering a competitive product or service.  Higher production and distribution costs simply price the product out of the market. The answer lies in constant awareness of change in production costs, effective relationships with vendors, and application of industry best practices to daily operations. Managing costs can lead to a more profitable relationship with marketing and sales as well as the final buyer and revenue growth based on value not discounting or sales.

Sales And Marketing As Part Of Business Development

Although business development is considered part of the marketing camp, we can lump it together with sales and marketing for the purpose of discussing how all three are affected by decision-making in daily operations. In many businesses short-term focus is always on revenue production stemming from financial pressures rather than linked to long-term strategy and initiatives. The adage cash flow is king creates an artificial reality that sucks you in and won’t allow open-minded behavior. Knee jerk reaction rather than careful planning become the strategy each day.  This mindset can lead to higher expenses, bad deals, and lower profits not to mention inability to leverage assets, partnerships, or liabilities. By bringing in a consultant to evaluate the situation, create an action plan, and execute, a company will become more efficient and achieve higher margins. Sales training, marketing support, and sales enablement should be the norm not the exception.

Back To The Options

Now that we have discussed some of the forces that may influence daily decisions, how  can a business manager become more knowledgeable and effective? Doing nothing and staying with the norm leads to paralysis and slow or no growth. Adding to the workforce might be an option if the accompanied costs are justified in comparison to output. In my opinion, the best option is to hire a consultant who can facilitate change, provide immediate knowledge, assist in avoiding expensive mistakes, and provide a sounding board prior to making decisions leading to sweeping change. I suspect in your business, it’s your call… Just be sure to make the right one.

Defining Quality in Your Business

How do you define quality in your business? Is it through measured revenues, customer feedback, market share, or process controls? All of these indicators can provide Quality in Businessinsight into business quality but none of them address it holistically. As children we are taught results represent quality not  process. For instance, a clean bedroom is indicative of hard work, organization, and perseverance but doesn’t touch on emotional or psychological value. The concept of quality is intrinsic but hard to place value on.

Types of Quality in Business

There are three primary areas of quality: personnel, product, and service. Each one can be addressed individually but must report back to the whole. Quality in the work force develops from human resource practices, company goals and culture, and individual expectations. Product quality is derived from a rigorous testing program within all aspects of the business. Service quality is demonstrated by customer feedback, loyalty, and referral. In each case quality links business practices to results.

Human Capital

Human capital is employee valuation by the company encompassing the combined knowledge, skill sets, and experience of its workforce. Employees can make or break a company and require management and oversight. Quality develops from a platform built on training, evaluation, feedback, empowerment, recognition, and reward. By nature, most employees want to exceed at their position but need direction, knowledge, and stability. Even in a sole proprietorship with one “employee” this platform can be developed with outside vendors, business networking, and alliances. No company should ignore the pursuit of quality in its work force.

Product Management

Many small businesses are built on introduction of a particular devised product or product mix to a target market. Initial growth is focused on market acceptance and market share rather than developing controls and optimization. Quality is usually measured after competition is identified as a threat and adjusted pricing, manufacturing, or marketing efforts can’t address the problem. Small businesses may fail or have to restructure at this point. Creating proper quality controls out of the gate can mitigate the negative results of introducing reflective change later in the product management process. Small businesses in particular have to link business strategy to quality.

Service, Service, Service

Customer service is an overused term in business designed to be a catchall phrase when dealing with various sales, marketing, and operational processes. Businesses need to pay attention to internal customers as well as external. In small business, communication, processes, and knowledge transfer are ways to demonstrate quality but must be measured and changed proactively. Quality of service results in easier processes, faster adaptation to market conditions, and lower infrastructure costs.

Executing Quality

Now that you have some focus areas to improve, what next? Use my Seven Step Method as a guide and follow these simply steps. Step 1, identify quality in each area of your business. Then, set up a measurement system. List potential changes and vet them against a group of advisers, core  customers, and employees to make sure they will add value. Finally, execute one small change and follow it through the process. Once the kinks are worked out, go for the gold!

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