Tired of Doing the Same Boring Thing, Become a Business Consultant

Every day, small businesses and companies grapple with all sorts of problems. Business owners and executives sometimes have no clue as to how to handle these challenges which make their jobs more difficult, or cost the businesses to lose money.

These people need help.

And if you’re the type of person who can help these companies come up with solutions to their problems, you can have a successful career as a business consultant.

I’ve enjoyed the life of a business consultant for the last 8 years, and I can tell you that businesses of all sizes, and in all industries respect business consultants, and rely on them a great deal to help their businesses succeed.

What exact types of problems do business consultants help clients solve?

Any type of business problem:

  • Reputation Management
  • Increasing sales
  • Improving productivity and performance
  • Improving communication
  • Team building
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Financial Audits
  • Risk Assessment
  • Insurance
  • And the list goes on and on

I know consultants who specialize in working with businesses in particular industries like manufacturing, health care, or waste management. There are other consultants who work with clients in a variety of industries, but concentrate on specific business functions, such as marketing, human resources, or information technology. and then there are those who specialize in certain industries and functions.

In my own case, I currently work as a high performance coach and marketing consultant focusing on Africa. With many western companies expanding to Africa, I get to help them reduce turnover and maximize performance through the implementation of high performance leadership and marketing principles.

There are many consultants who go on to work for large consulting firms; but there is huge opportunity for those who want to have their own business or work as freelance consultants.

If you have a decent amount of knowledge in your area of expertise, you can become a consultant helping businesses solve their problems, and earning a decent living for yourself.

And you can do all of this without any large start-up costs. In fact, you probably already have all that you need – a computer and phone – and much of your business is likely to come through low-cost marketing such as networking. This is what I do.

You can also start on a part-time basis, while keeping your current job as your primary source of income. Then as the demand for your services grows, you can commit to consulting fulltime if you so desire.

While many consultants do have Master’s degree, it is not a prerequisite. As a matter of fact, you don’t even need a degree to become a consultant. There are many independent consultants who don’t have degrees.

But they have education. And there’s a difference.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 28% of consultants do not have a degree of any kind. When I first started consulting, I did not even have a bachelor’s degree.

Those who succeed in this field of independent consulting are the ones who are constantly learning and improving themselves so they are able to serve their clients better.

The bottom line here is, if you have the ability to solve a business problem, and are confident enough to sell your services to senior management, you will get projects.

If you want to know if consulting is the career for you, here are some questions you need to be asking yourself:

  • Do people frequently ask for your advice?
  • Do you enjoy finding solutions to problems?
  • Are you a critical thinker?
  • Do you know a variety of problem-solving techniques?
  • Do you enjoy doing research?
  • Do you have a good vocabulary?
  • Do you avoid using jargon or technical terms that others may not understand?
  • Do people consider you to be a good listener?
  • Do you understand non-verbal communication such as body language?
  • Do you have excellent written communication skills?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of a group?
  • Do you have project management experience?
  • Can you see the big picture and break it down into manageable components?
  • Are you well-organized?
  • Do you meet deadlines?
  • Do you have experience leading teams?
  • Are you ethical in all your business practices?

The need for business consultants continues to grow especially as economies become though globally. There’s no better time to position yourself as an expert consultant in your field.

Business Consultants Compared – What Makes Firms Different?

When inviting a business consulting firm to get to know your business and its weaknesses, it is a delicate dance to find the best corporate qualifications, experience, and ability to navigate the inevitable invisible issues that will come up. It is also important to make sure your own corporate culture and on-going business do not get lost in the process.

In the marketplace of Business Management Consulting or Management Consulting, competitors generally fall into just a few categories:

-Sole proprietor consultants, who are generally niched and geographically based

-Larger consulting firms, who have multi-niched teams and the ability to reach out to other cities or regions

-Small consulting firms, regionally based and team oriented

Sole Proprietors: Personal Touch

Smaller and sole proprietor consultant competitors, like Jannelle Buzzell, Jim Grew, Will Moore, Mannus O’Donnell and others, get to know the client and their needs very personally. They start from exceptional business acumen, and make sure to create buy-in within the company. The client company is trusted to know their core business and its people very, very well. There is often not a pre-conceived corporate formula other than profitability, efficiency, and better managerial controls through feedback. To these folks, it is common to receive a fearful call where a business owner shares that they ‘aren’t even sure what the problem is or where it started’.

Large Consulting Firms: depth and breadth

Larger competitors, like Boly Welch Consulting, CBS Consulting, Georgia S. May, Point B and PeopleFirm, all offer fresh eyes, strong business acumen, and an understanding that all business evolution comes from the people within the firm. To make any consulting project stick, it has to come from within, which starts from leadership. Once leadership has aligned the goals and strategies, the consulting firm assists in rolling out change. This change management happens from setting measurable goals, checking in with ROI, and staying in regular touch with the feedback loop.

Small Consulting Firms: Personal touch and depth

What makes the smaller consultancy different is the unique blend of these styles. With a small firm, you are likely to meet the owner, but not work with them regularly. You will have a small, personal team, but enough distance to call their supervisor if necessary. A small firm has 8-30 employees, and is generally based in a single city office. Conversely, the consulting firm is big enough to have scheduling and launching flexibility more like a larger consultancy. Small consulting firms cannot do everything involved for a larger project, so they are forced to rely on (and train) the employee team. This strategy keeps the consulting team in alignment with owners, in order to organize which work is done by which team. Smaller consulting teams do not take over a floor of your building and set up shop. It is necessary to work along side the employee team constantly in order to on board change at a pace owners and employees can handle.

How Much Do They Cost?

When we compare business to business consulting, price is an unavoidable topic. If you don’t care how much the consulting firm costs, you are not in the market. Clients care, even if they aren’t sure they can afford it (or have plenty of money to afford it). Small firm prices lie in the middle, just as you might expect. Many sole proprietors charge a lower rate, especially if they aren’t busy. However, if they are busy, they simply cannot take the work, or quickly bump up to the rates of larger firms. Larger firms have additional overhead for travel, benched employees and significant benefit packages at all levels. These higher prices are significant and consistent. With a smaller firm, you are unlikely to receive enormous perks as a part of your purchase. They focus on the work done, and building the relationship on the job.

In general terms, a client can expect:

Team Size Typical Hourly Rate

Sole Proprietor 1 $40-$150

Small Firm 2-30 $75-300

Large Firm 30+ $200-750+

These rates are a generalized survey in Portland, OR, based on surveys of a small handful of varying small and medium businesses.

Conclusion

When you are considering outside consulting for your operations, spend some time considering the depth and breadth of the project, the budget you expect, and then consider requesting proposals or conversations from varying firms. Some projects are clearly one size or another, but medium scale projects that can take some time to evolve are a likely fit for a blended small consulting firm. If you go that route, you will save significant money and train your staff along the way.

How Can Business Consulting Help Struggling Companies?

Business consulting has come a long way. From small companies to major ones, these firms are looking at ways on how they can prop up their business through outside help. The competition is tough and this is the reason these businesses are looking for ways to get ahead of the competition. With the wish to get ahead, consultant services are getting popular as they help offer insights to business owners and managers. So don’t be surprised to find different sites and companies offering this kind of service.

Right now, companies and organizations can turn to providers of business consulting for a number of reasons. For example, a business may need some boost in terms of advertisement and popularity. This is true for many fledging businesses where their business management practices are no longer in tune with the demands of the market. When the business is no longer considered as a serious contender on the industry, then business consulting can be considered.

In business, it’s all about getting noticed thus this kind of service can help. And advertising is something that can prop up the business, and firms providing consulting can help. There are some ways on how advertising can transform a so-so business into a best business. The simplest approach to advertising and spreading the word is the handing out of fliers, or going big by designing television commercials. Advertising should come in at the first launch of the business.

If the business owner is still a newbie in the business and doesn’t know what to do and where to start, a business consulting firm can help shape up the marketing plan for the company. The consulting firm can help customizing the advertising message of the business. The firm is staffed with professionals that knows the business of the advertising and can suggest ways on how to place the business. The consultant also knows every outlet that can be used to spread the word about the business.

A business that is slowly losing traction and customer support in the market can also count on a consulting firm. Businesses that are having trouble attracting new customers can also tap into the services of this firm. The consulting firm can talk with the present customers of the company and learn how the company can improve. The consulting firm can also research why the business is not getting new customers and clients.

Perhaps customers are not doing business with the company because it does not carry a certain product or service that they are looking for. If this is the case, the consultant can make the proper recommendations and work with the owner to find out if it would be a good move to market and carry the product or service that the customers are looking for. The firm can also use different tools to come up with the recommendations for the business. A popular tool used is a survey, and this can be used to test how a product is being received by the client base. For example, the firm can commission a survey to test how the customers will respond to the new product offered. The survey will focus on the acceptability, profitability and customer satisfaction. Whatever the results may be, the consultants will report these to the business owners so that the proper tweaking of business management practices can be made.

This is the good thing about the services of a business consulting firm- they know what to do and how to do it. Whatever the needs and requirements of the business, they can offer the business solutions required by the business. They are the professionals that are trained in this field, and this is the reason why many businesses depend on consulting firms for advices and directions.

The consulting firm can also help a business owner come up with a reliable and updated business plan in tune with the times. The business consulting company can study the business and the market movements in order to come up with the best business plan for the organization.

Consulting firms can help struggling firms in many ways. Whether the company wants to reclaim a lost market or wants help in crafting a business plan backed by best business and business management strategies, a consulting firm can definitely help.

Dany Cooper