Why Should You Consider Hiring a Consultant for Your Business?
By Larry Girouard
The Business Avionix Company
No one knows my business better than I do. Why should I hire a consultant to tell me what I already know? This is a familiar retort from most company presidents, especially from those at the helm of smaller organizations. It certainly makes sense that company presidents and management teams would want to solve their own business issues internally, and not expose the inner workings of the business to “outsiders”.
While there are many reasons to look outside your own company for help, the foundational reason for bringing in a consultant is the fact that they are not emotionally encumbered with any of the activities, politics, or tribal knowledge within your organization. Consultants approach a company like a case study. They look at options based on the company data presented, and what they have learned throughout their years of experience in the field. It is rare that a seasoned consultant has not faced the issues that are currently impacting your company.
Seeing the Forest through the Trees
This experience provides the consultant with a different perspective than what you, as president, would have because you are too close to the situation.
Most consultants I talk with approach a client issue by initially looking at the company from a more strategic view, whereas the business owner is usually stuck in the weeds of detail on most issues, and are unable to see the forest through the trees. The ability of a consultant to first view a company from this loftier vantage point helps to assess the big picture, and the impact that any specific issue, or issues, might have on the overall operation of the company.
Also, this approach brings the owner up to this more elevated position, enabling the owner to better place most issues onto a more global map of the business. It is rare that any company issue has a single cause. Issues are not likely to be addressed by a quick fix. The consultant is more focused regarding the task at hand as outline in the Statement of Work, and are not pulled away by the day-today activities that detract from finding effective solutions.
Beyond the ability of the consultant to focus on the task at hand, bringing in someone with a specific expertise that is not currently available inside the company represents a learning experience that can positively impact the overall culture of the company. While every consultant hopes to achieve the “ah ha” moment when it comes to company culture, these transformational moments remain elusive. The “we have always done it this way” is deeply engrained in almost every organization.
Managers often look at consultants as a threat. As the consultant offers solutions to address the issues at hand, management sees these implementations as a threat because they see their reputation within the organization being lowered if they embraced these suggested solutions. It is not just the normal resistance to change that comes into play, but it is compounded by the fact that it is not their ideas.
Regardless of why you bring in a consultant, the net result is that, in most cases, change in something will be the prescription. Change!!!! That’s right, if a company president is not willing to undergo some discomfort regarding implementing the suggested changes offered by the consultant, the targeted issues will remain.
That said, a consultant can help drive change. If you hire a consultant just to address your issues you will shortchanging yourself. A good consultant will teach you their expertise instead of just reporting the results to you. Good consultants get you involved with the process so that you are learning while doing. They teach you how to fish. Every consultant has a process for addressing a problem, and the ultimate solution is likewise a process. This is all about learning new processes.
This all sounds good, but there is a very familiar response that company presidents seem to have all learned at “Resistance University”. The universal response is … “ I do not have enough time in the day to implement all that is being suggested. I have customers to satisfy!”. If you, as president, are not open to learning and trying new things, little progress will be made.
If you have struggled with the concept of bringing in an outside consultant because of the extent of the overall commitment, try contracting for a small project. Have the tapped consultant work on a project that has a limited scope, but one that will have a measurable deliverable. In this way you will be able to determine how the consultant approaches a project without much financial risk.
If you are having persistent issues with your business, hiring a consultant is one option for you to consider. While an overused but true statement, Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. Change is difficult even under the best circumstances. If you are open to receiving advice and learning new things, hiring a consultant is the fastest way to get you there. The return on investment will speak for itself.