Every good company has its advisors, and typically those are a business attorney, and a CPA and a financial planner. I would encourage all business owners to include in their advisory group an experienced business consultant. Why? Because an experienced, well-rounded business consultant can help a business to grow and prosper, becoming an invaluable strategic advisor.
Ok, so you are in the market for a good business consultant, what do you look for? Here are some top things to consider when interviewing prospective consultants.
Look for a Minimum of 20 years Business Experience
If a consultant is going to advise you on all facets of your business, he or she must have a considerable amount of real world business experience. Education is important but more so is business experience. Consultants are a dime a dozen now days. You can quickly weed many out based on length of business experience. Start with this filter to cut your list down quickly and efficiently.
Has the Consultant Turned Around Companies Before?
If the consultant has successfully turned around companies, then chances are the consultant is very good and skilled. Turnarounds are tough and demanding. If a business consultant has gone through the process then the consultant is definitely up to the task of advising your company.
Look for a Varied Skill Set
A business consultant only skilled in financial analysis is not going to be helpful for all your needs. Find a good generalist who has skills in business planning, strategic planning, financial analysis & modeling, marketing, sales, staffing, management, and particularly, determine if the consultant is skilled and experienced in the digital side of business (i.e. internet marketing, web design/development, SEO, SEM). The digital world is so important for business nowadays, make sure the consultant is highly skilled in this area.
Does the Consultant have a Deep Network of Specialist Consultants?
Every business needs a good generalist consultant who can look at all facets of the business and strategically advise. But it is also important to have access to specialized skill sets should the need arise. A good business consultant will have ties to a network of specialists who can advise as called upon.
A business consultant who has extensive experience in many industries makes them a good fit for most companies as the consultant will probably have experience in and around your type of business and market. Find a consultant who has familiarity with your type of business and the markets you serve.
Look at the Consulting Process Closely
Find a business consultant who doesn’t just offer x,y,z processes of analysis. Find one who will customize their proven consulting process for just you. Also look for a consulting process which highly engages you the business owner and the rest of your company. The more a consultant is interested in learning about your business in its entirety, the better advice you will receive.
There are many consultants who are skilled in analysis, but it is as important to look at the implementation side. Is the business consultant results oriented whereby the consultant is accountable to the results derived from the advice and plans provided? As important is whether the consultant will help you and continue to work with you through implementation, tweaking strategies as needed for maximum value and success.
Lastly, Does the Consultant Listen? Really Listen
This is a big one. Some consultants just sit on their high horse and tell you what to do. Forget that. Find one that is a listener who will appreciatively listen to what you have to say and where you need help. This is an indication that the consultant really cares about you, your people and your company. Now, don’t mistake this as being a pansy. Quite the contrary. Any good business consultant will speak up and tell you what you don’t want to hear, or be a contrarian in a room full of those who are in agreement with you the CEO. A great consultant dutifully listens but also speaks up!