When should small businesses consider hiring business consultants?
And if it really is worth the money to get outside help, how can you find the best consultant for your business’s needs?
Even established companies sometimes encounter problems that need the help of outside consultants. Business owners can’t foresee every potential roadblock, or be expected to know how to fix every problem by themselves.
What is a business consultant?
A business consultant is simply a contractor who advises your business, contributing knowledge, skills and experience without becoming a full-time employee.
For example, a contractor might be brought on board to solve a specific problem, implement expansion, set up procedures or help establish a sales and marketing strategy.
Some consultants might work for your business for just a few hours. Others, such as financial or IT consultants, may continue assisting a business for many years.
Types of consultants and how they might benefit your business
There are as many different types of consultants as there are aspects to running a business. Here are just a few of the most commonly needed types of business consultants and how they might be able to help.
Human resources consultants
Recruitment is a very common aspect of human resources management to hand over to a consultant.
Recruitment consultants have access to resources that make hiring new staff much easier. HR consultants can also handle disciplinary issues and terminations, background checks, orientation for new employees and arranging employee benefits such as medical aid or provident funds.
Marketing agencies are essentially consultants, just ones that tend to be long term.
A marketing consultant with more experience might also help the internal marketing team of a business establish a strategy and teach them how best to implement it.
Design and branding consultants are also quite common, especially when the business’ brand is still being established.
In-house counsel is a cost few businesses can shoulder, so legal consultants are very common.
They usually help with things like contracts, lawsuits, property purchases or lease agreements, acquiring of other businesses, selling of your own business or trademark and intellectual property rights, amongst others.
An accounting consultant could be on a long-term retainer or simply come on board to help set up accounting and bookkeeping procedures. You might also hire an accountant just during the tax season to make sure your business meets its tax obligations.
IT consultants usually come on board to set up the computer and network infrastructure for a business. They would also take care of installing the necessary software and might even offer training services to staff.
Some IT consultants work on long-term retainers, so they can be called in when and if necessary.
Finding the best consultant for your business
The first step in finding the right business consultant is to identify where you need help.
Once you’ve established the type of consultant you need, you can start the process of hiring the right person or team for the job.
1. Sourcing candidates
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to find a good consultant. Reach out to your business contacts and ask if any of them can recommend a consultant.
Referrals and testimonials from other businesses will give you an idea of what to expect from the consultant and will help narrow down the list of candidates.
2. Interview the consultants
A face-to-face interview is the best way to get an impression of the consultant you want to hire. Even though they won’t be a full-time employee, they still must have the best interest of your business in mind and be enthusiastic about solving your issue.
Be sure to ask them when they’ve encountered a similar problem and how they tackled it.
3. Finalising the contract
Once you’ve decided on the consultant you want to hire, you’ll need to finalise a contract between them and your business.
The contract should outline the work they are undertaking, the agreed upon rates, conditions of termination, the expected timeframe, and any confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses.
4. Timeline and implementation
It also helps to establish a clear timeline so that you can track the consultant’s progress. Even once the consultant has been hired, there should still be on-going feedback from both sides to ensure the agreed upon terms of the contract are being fulfilled.
Once the consulting period is over, there should also be a post-consultation meeting to discuss your level of satisfaction and whether you’d like to extend the contract.
At The Workspace, we don’t offer business consulting, but we do support small businesses by offering affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking. For more information or to book a tour of one of our branches, call us on 087 059 7777 or contact us online.