How to Hire a Consultant for Your Small Business

In this article we will explore how to hire a consultant for your small business.

There comes a time in the life of small business when the owner decides he/she needs help. It seems like every other company out there knows something you don’t. But getting help as a small business is difficult because you have no peers only employees and competition. So you need help. There is no shortage of self proclaimed experts who will help you improve your business… for a fee.

My mother who was a teacher used to say, “Those who can do and those that can’t teach.” There is a lot of truth in the statement. If the consultant was so good at doing what they are expert at why aren’t they doing it instead of helping you do it.

So what do you do when you decide you need help?

  • Decide what you really need. Make a list of areas where you feel you need help; accounting, sales, production.
  • Prioritize those items from “need desperately” to “it would be nice.”
  • Make a list of what you want to get out of the consultant; get better control of inventory or find more customers.
  • Decide can you do better with a expert such as a sales consultant or with an employee such as a new sales person or do you need a consultant to help you hire a sales person. If the employee is an expert in the field you need make sure you find a way to capture the skill so you do not become a hostage to an employee looking for a raise or looking to be your partner.
  • Is there a way to get expert help from your current advisors such as your accountant. Is your accountant or other advisors specialist in your industry. Expertise required for a retail store is very different from the expertise required for a construction operation.
  • Is there a way to get the expertise you needs from lectures, seminars or books.
  • Interview a consultant the way you would a new employee. Get a resume. Make sure they really have the expertise you require. There was a self proclaimed expert in housing I knew. He presented himself as a construction expert when his only experience was in sales. He was, however, a very good speaker. He leveraged a series of speaking engagements into a series of consulting jobs. I attended a couple of his lectures. The lectures were compilations of recycled information some of which was outright wrong.
  • If you decide you need help decide what you are willing and able to pay for the help.
  • When you interview the consultant make it very clear what you hope to get out of working with them. Set metrics you can measure: increased sales by 30%, increase production by 25% or others. Without metrics you have no way to hold the consultant accountable.

A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is. There is no easy answer to the question “How to Hire a Consultant.” It is however expensive so if you are going to do it do it right.

copyright T Robinson 2012

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