The right consultant for the right business is key to a company’s success
Starting a business is a daunting endeavor. Even if we know the nature of our business, running a business is a different matter. Even if you are the best at what you do, and you produce the best widget, it does not mean you’ll be the best at selling widgets.
Even in the entertainment industry, where I made a career for a time in my life, I was constantly reminded, even the most talented of visionaries don’t make it if they don’t master the business of entertainment. If we want to attempt to make a livelihood out of doing what we love, we need to know the rules of business, and that’s where often a consultant comes in. then of course, if you have proven your prowess in your business and can share want to impart mindshare to others so they can follow your successful model, then there is another matter of how to start a consulting business.
For those who are pursing the former and nto the latter of these two business goals, remember; while you have been busy refining your craft, business consultants have been studying up on how to make a business successful. Consultants come in all varieties, from those who apply their knowledge generally, to those who specialize in a niche area of business.
For instance, I once worked for a public relations firm that dealt specifically with home furnishings companies that dealt directly in specialty bedding, i.e., memory foam mattresses. Who would’ve thought that there was such a narrow-focused set of consultants in this small category of home furnishings?
First, there is the question of how you go about finding the right consultant for your business. This can be accomplished a myriad of ways. A great way to start is by looking at companies in your space that are successful at what they do. Then, either reach out to them directly — which can be awkward if you are a competitor — though in some businesses this could be a great networking exercise.
Ask the owner of the business whom they relied upon to give them sound advice when they started the business. If you are hesitant to ask for help in this way, you may be able to research the company in other ways, such as by looking on their website to see if they have a press area, where often the press contacts listed on these press releases may be helpful.
Often public relations firms work with venture capital firms and other investment partners to help businesses achieve their business goals. Therefore, PR firms often will have leads to consultants in your area of commerce.
Another way to find a consultant is to attend industry networking events and conferences. Though we all love to hate business conferences, still they remain a great source for connections on many levels. You may find somebody in the exhibit hall who is just waiting to give you advice, or run into someone at a sponsored breakfast, lunch or reception. There’s always opportunities to meet and greet other people in your industry.
The advantage of some of these conferences is that many of the attendees are from other markets, so they will not feel you are a competitor, and they may be more willing to share their knowledge.
A consultant can do many things for a business. Of course, one obvious benefit is that a consultant relieves you of the task of having to learn another profession, such as marketing, PR and management, so that you can focus on your actual product or service. This will buy you not only time but peace of mind.
It is a known fact that people are more productive when they can focus on one thing, and if you are scattered and attempting to multitask, particularly on matters outside of your core area of business, it will prove to be a distraction that slows you down.
A business consultant does not have to be a life commitment, though you may choose it to be. Some business consultants will guide a company through its startup phase, and then they are available on her hourly or project basis, as needed. Others are like a business partner. You can retain them through a contract for a certain number of months or years, which gives both parties a sense of investment in the success of the business.
Once you have found a consultant who is a good fit, make sure to utilize that resource. Often entrepreneurs have a tendency to try to do it all themselves. Remember that you hired this person for their expertise, and don’t hesitate to use him or her for it. Even what may seem to be petty matters in the operation of your company may have a solution that you don’t have the experience to know, but your consultant does.
The ideal relationship is one where you trust your consultant and are not afraid to share your concerns. Think of them like a therapist, but instead of your psyche, they are treating your business. They need to know everything about your business. Withholding information only puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to getting appropriate advice.
The beauty of using an experienced consultant, is that they have seen it all before. The hope is that they have also solved it all before. If you have done your due diligence and spoken to references, who speak highly of your consultant, then you can feel confident in their advice.
One thing to avoid is making your consultant simply your sounding board, when you’ve already made a decision. If you are not prepared to hear something different or a new approach for doing something, then you are wasting your time and money with a consultant.
This is not to say that you should blindly do everything your consultant says. You and you alone will always be the most intimate with the vision of your business; so if your gut is directing you one way, and your consultant another, weigh all the information as objectively as possible, then take off your hat as the creator and look at the issue as a business person.
While sometimes making the best business decision may seem to restrain you creatively, always remember what I was taught in Hollywood, it is not show art, it’s show business.