Would a consultant help your business?

Running a business is complicated. It takes many skills. 

Most business owners don't possess all the abilities required. While employees can sometimes fill the gaps in the owner's skill set, at other times, hiring a consultant may make sense.

When are those times? And what should you consider with hiring and working with consultants?

ConsultingChanging market forces – You may have operated your company successfully for many years but suddenly find that the game is changing. Bringing in a consultant at these times can help you change your thinking, explore new possibilities and develop new approaches. The consultant's value here is two-fold. First, he has likely been exposed to other models and may have a different way of thinking about your situation. Second, he isn't vested in the current model. He can challenge assumptions and play "devil's advocate" to get you to think out of your box.

Increasing complexity – As your company grows, you will likely get to the point that your management structure and style are no longer effective. Managing more people, more projects and more clients requires a different kind of structure. You may also fall under more government reporting and regulatory criteria, requiring better record keeping. A consultant in this instance can help bring knowledge and experience about different types of management and reporting structures. He can help you evaluate how the transition from the current state to the future state might work best. He can also help you move these changes forward while you continue to operate the business. Doing both can be a challenge.

New opportunities – Companies sometimes have opportunities to merge with or acquire other businesses. If you've never done that before, then you don' know what you don't know. Consultants and advisers can bring practical experience to the table to help you through new situations. What may seem straightforward at first look may actually be very complex. Knowing the pitfalls to avoid and the benefits to grasp can mean the difference in a good deal and a disaster.

When you think about choosing a consultant, talk to your trusted advisers for suggestions. You want a consultant who has experience with the issue you're facing, and one that will be a good fit for you and your company.

Ask for references, and talk to other business owners who have used the consultant. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Do your due diligence – it will pay off.

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