Tired of Doing the Same Boring Thing, Become a Business Consultant

Every day, small businesses and companies grapple with all sorts of problems. Business owners and executives sometimes have no clue as to how to handle these challenges which make their jobs more difficult, or cost the businesses to lose money.

These people need help.

And if you’re the type of person who can help these companies come up with solutions to their problems, you can have a successful career as a business consultant.

I’ve enjoyed the life of a business consultant for the last 8 years, and I can tell you that businesses of all sizes, and in all industries respect business consultants, and rely on them a great deal to help their businesses succeed.

What exact types of problems do business consultants help clients solve?

Any type of business problem:

  • Reputation Management
  • Increasing sales
  • Improving productivity and performance
  • Improving communication
  • Team building
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Financial Audits
  • Risk Assessment
  • Insurance
  • And the list goes on and on

I know consultants who specialize in working with businesses in particular industries like manufacturing, health care, or waste management. There are other consultants who work with clients in a variety of industries, but concentrate on specific business functions, such as marketing, human resources, or information technology. and then there are those who specialize in certain industries and functions.

In my own case, I currently work as a high performance coach and marketing consultant focusing on Africa. With many western companies expanding to Africa, I get to help them reduce turnover and maximize performance through the implementation of high performance leadership and marketing principles.

There are many consultants who go on to work for large consulting firms; but there is huge opportunity for those who want to have their own business or work as freelance consultants.

If you have a decent amount of knowledge in your area of expertise, you can become a consultant helping businesses solve their problems, and earning a decent living for yourself.

And you can do all of this without any large start-up costs. In fact, you probably already have all that you need – a computer and phone – and much of your business is likely to come through low-cost marketing such as networking. This is what I do.

You can also start on a part-time basis, while keeping your current job as your primary source of income. Then as the demand for your services grows, you can commit to consulting fulltime if you so desire.

While many consultants do have Master’s degree, it is not a prerequisite. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need a degree to become a consultant. There are many independent consultants who don’t have degrees.

But they have education. And there’s a difference.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 28% of consultants do not have a degree of any kind. When I first started consulting, I did not even have a bachelor’s degree.

Those who succeed in this field of independent consulting are the ones who are constantly learning and improving themselves so they are able to serve their clients better.

The bottom line here is, if you have the ability to solve a business problem, and are confident enough to sell your services to senior management, you will get projects.

If you want to know if consulting is the career for you, here are some questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • Do people frequently ask for your advice?
  • Do you enjoy finding solutions to problems?
  • Are you a critical thinker?
  • Do you know a variety of problem-solving techniques?
  • Do you enjoy doing research?
  • Do you have a good vocabulary?
  • Do you avoid using jargon or technical terms that others may not understand?
  • Do people consider you to be a good listener?
  • Do you understand non-verbal communication such as body language?
  • Do you have excellent written communication skills?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of a group?
  • Do you have project management experience?
  • Can you see the big picture and break it down into manageable components?
  • Are you well-organized?
  • Do you meet deadlines?
  • Do you have experience leading teams?
  • Are you ethical in all your business practices?

The need for business consultants continues to grow especially as economies become though globally. There’s no better time to position yourself as an expert consultant in your field.

What Can You Expect From the Business Consulting Process?

Consulting firms are getting popular now. Top dollars are being paid to these firms to come up with business recommendations and suggestions to prop up and improve the business management styles and decision-making processes. The role of the business consulting firm varies depending on the real needs and requirements of the company. But there’s one link that connects all these services and this link is common to all providers of these services- all these providers will get to know and understand the business.

Though there’s market for this kind of business and a number of businesses that tap the services of the professionals, still there are some people and businesses that don’t get the process and principle behind business consulting for best business practices. Getting confused with the services of a consulting firm is understandable but if you are in the business sector whether as a business owner or as a manager, it’s best to be aware of what business consulting is and the typical process that gets into the picture. The common understanding is that a consulting firm will take a look at the business and from there recommendations are forwarded. Though this is true, still it should be kept in mind that there are four more major steps that come in between these two. Here’s one look at consulting using a six-step process.

Step one is learning about the business. This is a given and a must for consulting. The consultant should have a good understanding of the business, from its operations to needs before recommendations can be drafted. Different consulting firms will have different approaches in doing this step. One approach is to take survey the business and interview key people in the organization. A survey will involve a tour of the office or plant to learn about the business. Interviews will be given as well to understand the products or services and to learn about management styles and the decision-making process.

Step two is to find the problems of the business. The problems that will be listed are not just the ones that are seen and observed by the business owners or employees rather the consultant will also find these problems from the consultant’s perspective.

Step three is the identification of opportunities. The principle behind consulting is that for every identified problem, there’s an opportunity waiting to be tapped. These opportunities should be discovered not just by the consultant but by the business owner as well.

Step four in business consulting is analysis. This step calls for the consulting company to analyze and study. This is the part where the problems and opportunities will be reviewed, and a listing will be made stating the problems and opportunities that will be prioritized. Future problems will be identified a well by the consultant. The analysis that can be provided by the consultant will also result to delivery of conclusions and these are all based on verifiable facts and figures.

Step five is the provision of solutions based on the problems and the facts provided. A good business consultant should offer a game plan to the business owner or managers that they can follow. The recommendations that can be made by the consultant will definitely help the company change the business management direction or improve on it.

Step six is the receipt of the feedback and adjusting the plan or strategies if necessary. Right after the submission of recommendations and conclusions to the business, the next step considered by many consultants is to let the business grow and see from a distance while the company makes use of the designed plan. By observation, the consultant should note some changes or issues that may have crop up along the way. This is also the time when the business owner or manager will also offer some feed back about the plan. Based on the feedback provided, the business consultant can do the necessary adjustment to improve or change the game plan.

Different consulting firms will have their own ways of undertaking the consulting business, but you can be sure that some of these steps will be reflected in their own approaches as well. At the end of the day, business consulting is about knowing the business and recommending solutions.

Dany Cooper

How to Make Small Business Consulting Profitable

For a beginning, let’s ask ourselves the question: Is small business consulting profitable? The answer would be a resounding “Yes,” from all corners of the world. So, why are you unable to make it work, and in the process help small consulting with your unique experience and approaches?

You are a business consultant, not the direct worker

The most common mix-up faced by small consultants is that rather than remaining as business advisors, they end up as direct service providers. They end up handling the major workload of the business process where they were expected only to provide advice, and the client ends up with a steep bill. In place of mutual satisfaction, you now have mutual dissatisfaction. The results are unwelcome on both sides – but they happen all too often, where in small business consulting, the consultant fails to maintain the position of a consultant.

There are three possible outcomes in such situations – the client pays up and remains upset with you, the client doesn’t pay your bills and you are upset with the client, or both parties reach an unhappy compromise.

After a few such mix-ups, you become convinced that there is no profitability in consulting. But you know, that’s not true. The reality is your approach needs to be transparent and needs to change case by case.

In certain cases, time-schedule, lack of resources on part of the client, or other exigencies may call for you to provide most of the work as a direct service provider. But in such cases, the client needs to understand from the very beginning that the instant situation needs a service provider with your experience, more than it needs power of consulting. The client needs to have a clear idea of the bills that may be chalked up if you were providing direct service, or the client is free to hire another direct service provider, to save the day. Even providing that little advice is sufficient for you to bill as a consultant, because the client was unable to recognize the situation. What you are doing is business consulting, and not creating a fallible situation.

Why small business consulting mix-ups happen with such regularity

The oldest and most traditional businesses in providing consulting have traditionally modeled themselves as consultant-cum-service providers, take for example, law firms, or Accountant firms. Each of these sectors are used to clients coming to them at the last moment or when the situation is precarious for them, and according to the laws of maximizing business opportunities, they have set up systems to provide service alternatives ready at hand. In fact, in many such traditional firms, service delivery starts first, and then it turns to consulting.

However, in the era of information technology, the number of alternatives available even to small one are hundred times more than the time when CPAs or law firms began establishing their business models. Consequently, with the availability of greater choice of service providers, and ability to compare between alternatives, the chances of client dissatisfaction multiply. This is why, in today’s consulting, it is sufficient to point out the necessity of direct service delivery to a client, without embroiling yourself, or pushing your own agenda of direct service.

In a globalized service providing market, you can never outbid the “I’m cheaper than you can ever be” brigade, and don’t even think of that. To make small business consulting profitable, stick to your guns and be a consultant primarily, and act as direct service provider only when the client asks you, and only when you can afford to do so at the client’s rates.

Signs That You’ve Hired the Right Business Consultant

Looking for the right expert to help you develop our business can be tricky, but once you have found the right person the benefits for your company are numerous. Not only can hiring an independent business consultant help you streamline your business for greater efficiency and competitiveness, but they can also offer access to new technology and the bigger picture of global business trends.

There are many criteria that people use to choose the right business consultant, ranging from choosing those with vast experience right through to those with qualifications from certain schools. Here are a few major signs that you have hired the right business consultant for you and your business.

Firstly, one of the major signs of hiring the right expert is that they understand your company aims and what you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term. Although you would hope that this would be a normal quality of your business consultant of choice, one who expresses a deep understanding of your company will really stand out in the right way.

An expert offering their services in this area should have taken note of all your objectives in a meeting together, and have a very clear outline of what you can do to meet those goals. Where you differ in opinion, the consultant should be able to explain their reasoning and listen to and address your concerns.

In all cases, the consultant should be absolutely attentive to what you want to achieve, rather than what they think you should achieve based on their experience. This will set apart a great expert who can truly help you from one who is not adapting himself or herself fully to your business.

The next sign of a great consultant is one who also understands the market for your particular services or products, and has proven experience in it. Although many consultants have great business skills, there is a great difference between various sectors and industries, and your consultant should be aware of that and be able to take it into account.

The right expert for you will be able to address the unique concerns and goals of your business as well as see the larger picture in your industry. As mentioned above, a proven track record of working with businesses like yours in the same industry is the best choice here.

Another thing to look out for in a business consultant is one who is up to date with the technological trends that are transforming the international marketplace, such as Google for work migration services, cloud solutions, online marketing, SEO and more. Although the provider does not need to be an expert in Google for work migration services, they should at least be able to guide you.

Technology plays a huge role in modern day business, and a consultant who is able to offer perspective and knowledge in this area – about what technological changes you should be implementing and when – will be extremely valuable in helping you remain as competitive as possible. Some business consultants are also IT consultants too, which is very helpful.

Lastly, make sure that the consultant that you choose to work with is reliable, and is always available to answer your questions and queries when you need something in a short time frame. If you are paying for business support solutions, it is imperative that they do actually support you in the everyday running of your business.

A consultant who is always there to offer the benefit of his or her advice when you need it is extremely valuable. On top of this, knowledge of your industry, knowledge of cutting edge technological solutions like Google for work migration services, and a deep understanding of your business objectives are signs that you have found a great consultant to work with.