When it comes to small business owners, a lot of the time they want to try and do it all themselves, from picking out the office decor to handling the tax returns and everything in between.
The DIY approach gives business owners a feeling of control, and can save money in many instances. Due to financial restrictions, many small business owners have to be a jack-of-all-trades, while battling to delegate and employ assistance.
The truth is that as a small business owner there will be times that you need to call on the experts for help, especially if you want to give your business the best possible chance at success. The business sphere is becoming increasingly complex, and a business owner cannot possibly know everything there is to know about the different facets of their business.
In this article by Real Business, we’ll discuss what small business consulting could offer your business, the benefits, and when to use this service.
What does a small business consultant do?
Small business consultants are business experts that usually work on a contractual basis with small business owners to help them find more efficient ways of doing things, and how they can run their businesses in the most optimal way possible. Many small business consultants specialise in a particular field, such as IT consulting, Human Resources consulting, and so on.
While good small business consultants can be pricey, their services are highly in demand as they can offer exceptional value and insight for your business.
Their process usually works by spending some time observing how your business currently runs, and then coming up with innovative, time-saving solutions to some of the problems and challenges that your business may be facing.
Areas in which a small business consultant can really help your business
Like we have already mentioned, small business consultants often specialise in a specific area of your business but there are also small business consulting firms that offer you a comprehensive consulting service. Some of the areas in which a small business consultant could assist your business include:
Accounting and bookkeeping are probably the two most popular consulting services that are used by small businesses. This is because small business owners often try to take on the accounting and bookkeeping for their businesses but don’t realise just how complicated some of these processes are. Not having your books balance or having problems with your accounting can result in major issues for your business.
Getting a small business consultant to handle your accounting can help you navigate the confusing realm of tax laws, introduce you to the latest accounting software, and provide you with the optimal solutions to your accounting challenges.
The world of Information Technology is forever evolving, and if you don’t want to get left behind, you better make sure that you are using technology in your business’s best interests. Technology can speed up processes and offer security to your business. Having an IT consultant come in means that they’ll be able to examine your current IT systems and recommend the very best ways in which they can be improved upon, and which new technologies you could implement.
The systems in which IT consultants should be well-versed in, include:
- Point of sale
- Desktop systems
- Cloud computing
- Social media and websites
- Word processing
- CAD systems
Investing in your IT systems ensures that your data is secure and protected, and that productivity is increased.
When it comes to dealing with employees and other workplace personnel, things can definitely get tricky. You want your employees to be happy, and have a workplace that is free from drama, but most small businesses cannot afford to have an entire HR department to deal with human resource issues. This is where an HR consultant could be extremely useful and beneficial. They’ll be able to create a better working environment and increase employee morale often by performing surveys (which are often anonymous) to get to the bottom of how employees feel about their jobs and their surroundings.
HR consultants can also handle recruitment, terminations, manage safety and wellness concerns, and organise training and team building seminars.
No matter which industry you are in, there’s bound to be a lot of competition. Even if your products and services are impeccable, you won’t get very far without a professional marketing strategy.
If your marketing is well managed, you have the opportunity to reach potential customers before your competition does and it will serve you well to remember that marketing is not as easy and straightforward as it used to be. A marketing consultant will be able to provide you with extremely valuable marketing techniques and advice. Based on your marketing budget, they’ll be able to tell you which marketing avenues are worth investing in, and which you should just forget about entirely.
Consultants will also be able to create and implement customised marketing strategies and techniques for your business, and assist in training your marketing team, if you have one.
Legalities are one facet of your business that you should definitely never compromise on. Legal consulting specialists can help you with a wide variety of legal issues, including:
- Employee contracts
- Partnership contracts
- Trademarks and copyrights
- Franchise agreements
- The sale of your business
The benefits of working with a small business consultant
So what are some of the benefits that your business is likely to experience when working with a small business consultant? While the benefits are varied, you can expect the following:
Identify problems you didn’t know were there
Oftentimes there can be problems within your business that are lurking just under the surface. A small business consultant has a fresh and objective pair of eyes and is able to spot and prevent potential issues before they escalate. Catching an issue early makes it far easier to deal with.
Find ways of increasing revenue
It is every business’s goal to increase their revenue and turnover right? A small business consultant will be able to examine your accounts and see where you may be spending too much money, recommend more affordable suppliers, as well as provide you with different, more cost-effective ways of doing things.
Ensure that you are fully compliant
You’d rather a small business consultant find legal irregularities in your business, than have a lawyer or official find them. If you are not fully compliant and above board, a small business consultant will be sure to tell you if you are not operating within industry regulations and guidelines.
Futureproof your business
Small business consultants look towards the future when recommending changes and upgrades for your business. They find ways in which your business can maintain sustainable growth, and remain relevant for many years to come. In a business climate where trends come and go in a flash, this benefit is extremely valuable.
Help identify opportunities
You may be surrounded by incredible opportunities but not even be aware of them. But a small business consultant is well aware of the current business climate, and has a wide network, so they will know what type of opportunities could really work for you and your business. These opportunities could help your business gain more customers, and increase your brand awareness.
Improve efficiency and organisation
Oftentimes the processes that you use in a business setting are simply being used because of tradition and laziness to change them. A small business owner will be able to look at the way in which things are done in your business and find ways in which to streamline these methods to make them more efficient, effective, and organised.
Signs that you need help from a small business consultant
Not every small business needs the assistance of a small business consultant, but there are many instances in which their advice and expertise would certainly be helpful. Some of the scenarios that may call for the help of a professional small business consultant include:
Your business has hit a plateau
Are things feeling a little stagnant? Not sure of what should be your company’s next big move? If you feel like your business has hit a plateau and that it’s been a while since you got an influx of new customers or were part of an exciting new project, you may want to bring in a small business consultant to help you decide what your next move should be and help create an effective implementation strategy.
Responsibility within your workplace is a grey area
Is your workplace environment a bit of a jumble where no one is quite sure who is responsible for what? This is usually a recipe for disaster. A small business consultant can assist you in defining roles and responsibilities in such a way that each team member is making use of their strengths, and creating methods and processes that get the job done in the best way possible.
You continuously go over budget and battle with cash flow
Money issues are one of the top reasons why small business owners hire consultants. You may be spending too much on the wrong things or not making use of financial opportunities that are right in front of you. A small business consultant can help fix issues with your cash flow and help you find ways of increasing your revenue.
Your employees are unhappy
Are your employees complaining regularly? Do they appear to be generally disgruntled? While no employee is going to be totally happy 100% of the time, unhappiness amongst employees in the workplace is a major red flag and if there are human resource issues that you feel that you cannot handle yourself, it may definitely be time for you to make use of a small business consultant.
When is the most ideal time to make use of a small business consultant?
While most small business owners only look into hiring consultants when they see problems arise or want to tackle a new project, the most ideal time to make use of a small business consultant is in the very early stages of your business. This can help prevent any major issues from occurring and ensure that you have a sustainable business plan in place to futureproof your business and prepare your business for growth.
The main reason why most business owners don’t do this is because of financial restrictions and the mindset that they know best and can handle everything on their own.
If you make use of business consultant services in the beginning stages of your business you’ll start your business off on the right foot and have the peace of mind that you are headed in the right direction when it comes to things like your accounting, HR, and IT systems.
Working with a small business consultant
When looking for a suitable small business consultant, you can speak to other small business owners in your area to see if they have any recommendations for good consultants. You can also look online, and be sure to look out for reviews when choosing a small business consultant that you’d like to work with. In our initial meeting with them, be sure to ask them a lot of questions and ensure that they have sufficient experience in your industry.
Before you begin making use of their services, ensure that you draw up a contract with them that addresses the following:
- Description of services
- Confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses
It is very important that everyone involved in the contract is on the same page and knows what to expect when working together. When discussing the project with your small business consultant, make sure that you communicate your goals, the problems you’re hoping to fix, and what you hope to gain from working together.
Remember that if you try and do everything on your own and handle tasks that you are not equipped to handle, you’re likely to suffer from burnout or make some big mistakes. Focus on what you’re good at and what your business needs from you. Learn to delegate and call in back up when need be. When running a business you want things done properly, and in many cases small business consultants offer you a direct route to achieving your goals.