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2 Free Resources That Will Help You Avoid Paying Consultants

Where does a business owner go to find relevant analysis?

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The pandemic might have permanently changed the way we do business. There is no shortage of self-appointed experts that will offer to tell you how — for a fee. The problem is that the body of experts — and expertise — is fledgling at best. After all, the experts failed to predict the prolonged disruptions to the supply chain disruption. The experts failed to predict the just as persistent great exodus of workers. Few of the experts, if any, predicted a tectonic shift in how we do business.

Perhaps they are not to blame. The fact is that the pandemic constructed a new economic landscape in a very short time. The modern economy has never had to absorb the myriad crises wrought by the pandemic. We are still sifting through the Covid rubble. We know that we got struck by some kind of disaster, but we are still unsure of its implications. It's like we emerged from a tornado shelter with a blindfold. Any honest expert will tell you that, at best, their prognostications about the future are guesstimates. They are grasping in the dark to make sense of it all.

Should change be incremental or revolutionary? Is the best advice about how to change your business not to change at all? That's infeasible for those who are facing immediate, existential threats. Adapt or die. The question is: where does a business owner go to find relevant analysis? Here are two of the best, free sources for business owners willing to take the self-help route. Their experts might be speculating to some degree, but they also have a wealth of information that provides breadth, updates and practical applications.

Related: How to Use the Right Data to Make Effective Business Decisions

McKinsey & Company

Approaching nearly 100 years as America's oldest consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company offers a wealth of reports and articles from the micro- to the macroeconomic level of analysis. Founder James O. McKinsey is considered the founder of management consulting. McKinsey's work includes consulting to governments with billions in sovereign wealth funds, helping corporations devise finance strategies and generating content for small-businesses and retail investors. Much of this content is available for free with only an email subscription of periodic newsletters required for access.

Yes, McKinsey is not without its critics. The firm has provided some notoriously bad advice to some of its clients and industries. McKinsey is relatively transparent about these failures, noting the confounding variables that create unanticipated risks and opportunities. McKinsey's work for various rogue states and notorious industry players also raises serious questions about organizational and industry ethics.

These issues are limited to McKinsey's specific consultancy on behalf of major clients. If you are reading this article, you are probably not one of them. Meanwhile, McKinsey's hundreds of writers, researchers and editors operate more like a journalism outfit than a consultancy firm. They generate an enormous amount of content at many levels of analysis. All of which can be quite useful for business owners and investors trying to make sense of our heady times. McKinsey has devoted much of its focus toward the changes wrought by the pandemic on myriad topics. Most likely, there is a report or article that relates to your challenges.

Related: Good Decision Making Requires Good Data

U.S. Small Business Administration

Say what you want about the bloated federal bureaucracy. But, the U.S. Small Business Administration has been providing free, quality analysis for small businesses since the Eisenhower administration. Policymakers properly understood the role of evidence-based research to guide America's economic development in the postwar boom years. The SBA was founded primarily to provide loans to small businesses, but its mission also includes giving advice away — no interest! The SBA might be the only federal agency whose mission is to provide small businesses with the consulting tools and expertise normally reserved for high subscriber fees or consultancy contracts.

The SBA's Market Research and Competitive Analysis resources include articles, reports and analytical tools for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs whose assets amount to no more than a good idea. You can use the SBA's resources to guide decisions about hiring, strategy, acquisitions, market research, management, financing and business startup, among numerous other issues. If you are a taxpayer, congratulations as you already paid for these! Of course, the SBA also provides all of the information for small business owners looking for loans and government contracts.

Combined, McKinsey and the SBA provide a wealth of information for the business owner on a self-guided, perilous journey into the post-pandemic landscape. Some of these resources and tools deliver a level of analysis that would normally command quite high rates from a vendor. Given these uncertain times, it might make more sense to conduct one's own analysis to determine how to adapt than to pay a self-declared expert for their guesstimates. As you emerge cautiously from your own disaster shelter, these two sources might provide just a little glimpse of what the pandemic has wrought for your business.

Related: Best Ways to Use Data in Making Decisions

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