Are you still struggling to get your business under control? Does it feel like your team members are going in different directions? Do you feel like you’re having the same conversations at every meeting? Maybe it’s time to review your strategy?
On the other hand, everything is going great! Your sales are growing – maybe not as fast as you think they could, but positive growth nonetheless. Or perhaps all is well, but you want to grow your business, but there are resource constraints and growth is not possible with your current staff.
Below are five good reasons when it would be prudent to consider hiring a Consultant.
In a 2014 article from Entrepreneur Lead From the Top: 5 Core Responsibilities of a CEO, the following responsibilities were proposed as core for the boss:
1. Own the vision. A CEO should determine and communicate the organization’s strategic direction.
2. Provide the proper resources. Only the CEO can perform the task of balancing resources -- the two most important ones being capital and people.
3. Build the culture. Culture is the set of shared attitudes, goals, behaviors and values that characterize a group.
4. Make good decisions. A new CEO is often surprised by the breadth of issues confronting him (or her). One minute the CEO is discussing a new product, the next a human resources issue -- and then along comes a legal issue.
5. Oversee and deliver the company's performance. Everyone agrees that the CEO is ultimately responsible for a company’s performance. To be successful, he or she must take an active role in driving that performance. This requires maintaining a keen awareness of the firm's industry and market and being in touch with the core business functions to ensure the proper execution of tasks.
It’s easy to see that even the most educated, most experienced managers could find it difficult to cover all of these areas without engaging external expertise from time to time.
When considered together with the pace of change in today’s technology-charged world it becomes easier to justify contracting with a consultant that can ‘jumpstart’ the knowledge acquisition process when high priority needs arise.
Strategy formulation and execution are two of the most important exercises your senior management team will perform. The outcome can literally be “”Life & Death” for your organization. It is crucial to engage a strategist that will enable your team to extract the most effective approach to achieve your organization’s strategic objectives.
Some senior managers struggle with the decision to hire consultants because they are under the misimpression that by doing so it somehow ‘reveals’ a weakness on their part. That is non-sense! It is the strong and wise that know when to seek counsel.
Not only should your consultant have expertise, you should be able to draw out a ‘neutral’ view from them as well. In small businesses, or company units, owners and directors have a lot of time and energy invested in their projects. It is not uncommon for these leaders to attach significant ‘emotional collateral’ to these projects.
This is why it is vital that a neutral third party be consulted for a ‘fresh’ perspective. The external consultant can provide an unbiased analytical review without the attendant ‘baggage’ that can influence decision-makers.
This is also true in family-held companies that could suffer from dysfunctional relationships. One family member’s poor performance may be causing a detrimental situation to the business, where everyone needs to work and get along personally and professionally. An external consultant could speak openly about these problems without fear given their impartial position.
Similar to ‘Knowledge’, mentioned above, this refers to a specific skills gap that exists in the organization. There could be a need for a Facilitator for a Management Away Day, or Moderator for a company sponsored conference, or a Project Manager for a short term project.
By hiring a consultant, you hire someone with specialized skill in the area that you need it. The world is full of smart and capable people, there are few resources who can work as efficiently and effectively as those who specialize in offering a specific function or service. Yes, Mary from Finance is fantastic in dealing with general budgetary reports, but is she adequately equipped to produce a Strategic Plan that will be the foundation for your organization’s Strategy?
If you hire a consulting specialist, you are choosing to invest your resources in a focused manner with the expectation of a specific outcome. This enables you to purchase the time and talents of an expert that has already invested in the education, certification, projects, and ‘Lessons learned’ that it takes to gain specific expertise (without making the financial investment to get them).
It could be that the Knowledge or Specific skill you are willing to pay to a consultant could also be learned by one of your team members. In this case, it makes sense to engage an external consultant to run a training course for your staff.
In fact, hiring a consultant should be an option if the training is something that needs to be done quickly and the expertise is business critical. If there is not time to locate a training program and then select staff to enroll and specific skills are required, then hiring a consultant that can deliver to those expectations should be considered.
I mentioned earlier that owners/directors tend to invest a lot of ‘emotional collateral’ into their ‘personal’ projects. While this can be a good thing, like having a passionate champion for your project, it can also have a negative impact.
Like the example above where an outside perspective is need to bring fresh insights into the business. Sometimes these managers cannot or do not make good ‘Change Agents’. They do not want to see things change so the incentive to change is biased.
Likewise, when considering the topic of Performance Measurement (or Performance Improvement), it is hard to get a manager that is “wearing rose-coloured glasses” to agree which metrics are most important to the business.
An external consultant is ideally suited to provide this type of service in a neutral, unbiased manner.
In summary, this list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it does give a better idea of when to call for backup.
For more than two decades, Greg Pilkington has focused on assisting senior executives address their most complex core business issues. He has led talented professionals dedicated to delivering smart insights and innovative solutions to their clients -- giving clients the confidence to win in today’s complex and dynamic global landscape.