Entrepreneurs face three stages during the life of their business in which hiring a Business Consultant changes from being an option, to becoming a necessity.
Stage 1: Business Planning. Many times entrepreneurs do not realize the importance of the business planning stage. It is during this time that the entrepreneur articulates a vision, establishes a mission statement and specific goals, constructs a business model, plans their product and service offerings, writes a business plan, evaluates strategic capabilities and partnerships and secures funding.
Stage 2: Stagnant Growth. At this stage, the entrepreneur begins questioning their business planning. Stagnant Growth is a dangerous stage and often consumes the life of the business. Entrepreneurs must enter into this stage with effective management skills. A new business plan is almost entirely necessary. Training and delegation also become more
important during this stage.
Stage 3: Crisis Stage. This is when the entrepreneur begins to realize they no longer have control of the business venture. The business plan and perhaps the revised business plan have failed. The entrepreneur begins to look for an exit. Exit strategies include the sale of the business or the closing of the business. Either strategy requires dealing with the
psychological aspects of a business loss.
So how can hiring a Business Consultant help you during these stages?
We have already established that starting and running a business is a rollercoaster of emotions. Hiring a Business Consultant during these stages is like having somebody along for the ride who already knows the dips and curves. Business Consultants provide the specialized skills, the new ideas and third party objectivity needed to get your business off the ground.
We have developed a ten-step process to recognize the need to hire a Consultant and how to choose the right Consultant for the job.
Step 1: Take a step back from your own business's day-to-day operations and look at it as a whole. Fresh looks can often times eliminate the need for a Business Consultant, or more importantly, it can exemplify the need for a Business Consultant.
Step 2: Review the business planning stage. Take a look at your specific goals and your mission statement. See if you have achieved what you planned. Counsel any professionals who have been a part of your business's development. Have them review the same.
Step 3: Evaluate the needs of your business. If you have successfully completed the first two steps, then you now know what your business needs are. Prepare a proposal of these needs and implement a plan of attack.
Step 4: Consider seeking the counsel, support and ideas of the business's staff. Often times great ideas and plans are overlooked, especially when they are under our noses. Plan a meeting to speak to your staff about the identified needs and see what ideas are spurred from this discussion.
Step 5: Research local consulting professionals. The best method of researching local consulting professionals is by asking for a few references. Look for references such as legal counselors, public accountants, doctors, or other professional affiliations. Speak to these references directly and feel free to ask them how the consultants were able to help them.
Step 6: Take 2-3 consulting firms who's references have checked out and develop a project timeframe. This is very important as your business depends on the prompt completion of this project. Set checkpoints for the project. Checkpoints can be used to keep track on the progress of the consulting firm on your project.
Step 7: Develop an overall scope of the project. This is important to confirm that the consulting professionals understand the project they are being hired to complete.
Step 8: Compare prices proposed by the consulting professionals. Keep in mind, many consultants charge initial consultation fees. Have them give you a proposal of the overall costs associated with your project.
Step 9: When you have chosen the business consultants to go with, have them draw up a contract. The contract should include the total cost of the project, and the acceptable payment schedule for this cost. It should also include the timeframe of the project that was agreed upon. As a suggestion, I recommend that you also include in your contracts confidentiality and non-compete clauses to protect both companies from future harm.
Step 10: Commit to the project! This step is often the most overlooked when hiring a consulting professional. If you do not provide the consultants with the tools necessary to complete the project, you are in fact hindering your business. You already have the understanding that this project is necessary to help your business venture succeed, committing to it is half the battle.
Best of luck on your business venture.