As the owner of a business, you know your operation better than anybody. You’re aware of the problems that exist within your organization. But you’re so busy managing the chaos these problems create that you haven’t been able to remove yourself to analyze them objectively.
Sometimes to fix these issues you’ll need to bring in an outside perspective -- someone who can study your business processes without being sucked into the mayhem and tunnel vision that accompanies hands-on management. I’m talking about business consultants.
Consultants are great. Some people have a lot of success with them. But entrusting a stranger with the management of your business can be risky -- even dangerous.
Here are five things you must consider when choosing a consultant who can actually solve your business problems.
1. They’re not only there to motivate you.
Nothing inspires action more than a motivating pep talk. Consultants can enthuse you with the energy needed to tackle even the most daunting obstacles. But motivation is deceptive.
Once the massive surge of endorphins wears off, you'll realize, despite your inflated sense of confidence,, that you’re no better equipped to resolve an issue than you were before your pep talk. Consultants aren’t there to motivate you, at least not exclusively. They’re there to help change the way you think about the problems in your business -- and how you can go about solving them.
It’s easy to motivate someone. It’s far harder initiating a mental shift that helps a person overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.
2. They understand what makes your business different.
Just because somebody understands business doesn’t mean that they understand your business. Yes, there are solid business principles that everybody can benefit from, but generic advice will only get you so far.
Your business is unique, and before an outsider can help make it more successful, they need to understand what makes it different. That means consultants should immerse themselves in your organization. They need to understand:
- The dynamics that exist between the people who work within your organization
- Where business processes start and end
- What experiences your customers encounter
- How everything works together in the greater scheme of things
It’s through immersion that consultants uncover insights relevant to your specific problems rather than general suggestions that could relate to any business situation.
3. They focus on implementation.
It's easier to tell someone to do something than it is to make them do it. Making suggestions isn't the same as implementing change. For example, when you’re on a mission to lose weight, you don’t pay a personal trainer to tell you to workout. You give them money to plan your exercise regime, walk you through the movements and kick your butt in the gym.
The same holds true for growing your business. You aren’t paying a consultant to tell you what you already know -- that your business has problems and you should do x, y and z to solve them. You’re relying on them to guide you through the phases that these solutions entail. Or at the very least, you expect them to educate you to the point where you’re able to work through these phases yourself.
Consultants aren’t just there to devise solutions. They’re there to help you implement them and to ensure that these solutions actually work.
4. They’re realistic about timelines.
Problems result from the culmination of months, if not years, of mismanagement. Even a small problem neglected for long enough can have ramifications felt throughout your entire organization. While it’s tempting to believe that an expert will fix these problems overnight, that’s not going to happen. And anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t just being unrealistic, they’re being irresponsible.
Consultants aren’t there to offer quick fixes. When you implement a solution without completely understanding a problem, the problem will resurface. Instead, consultants are there to have a lasting impact on the way you manage new and existing business processes. It takes time fixing business processes and longer still to break the bad habits that caused them to be mismanaged in the first place.
5. They’re comfortable making unpopular decisions.
Sometimes it's the people in your business who are the problem. Some people underperform, others neglect their responsibilities when your back is turned, and some are a permanent drain on your energy.
The challenge is that these are people you’ve worked with for years. You may be an entrepreneur, but you’re still a human being. And as a human being, you’re prone to ignoring uncomfortable truths about your business. You turn a blind eye to mismanagement because you’ve known your floor manager since college. You forgive incompetence because your secretary used to be a family friend. And you're in denial about the fact that some team members have been stealing from you for months. All uncomfortable facts to grasp, but realities that exist. And until you address them, they’re going to continue to drag your business down.
As outsiders, consultants are able to view even the most emotionally fraught situations objectively. They’re unaffected by sentimentality, history or personal obligation. As such, they’re able to speak plainly about problems that you might have ignored for years.
Everybody needs a helping hand at some point -- even if that means bringing on a total stranger. Yes, it’s stressful entrusting your business to an outsider, because things can go disastrously if you choose the wrong people. But if consultants immerse themselves in your organization, set realistic timelines, engage with emotionally challenging scenarios, and guide you through the process of change, you’ll walk away with a business that is stronger and better managed than it was before.