So, an opportunity presents itself with regard to your business – expected or not. Either way, your business plan might not account for it. Or perhaps you’ve got a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right with what’s happening and you don’t (easily) know how to figure it out.
That’s when it’s time to seek guidance on the best path (i.e. to proceed immediately or later, or not at all).
A consultant could help. Hmmm … or maybe a coach. But which one? Well, the answer depends on if you want to be guided through a process or be given a solution or skills when it comes to making a change.
A Coach to Rally Me/My Business Forward?
A coach is going to help you develop you. To better your current position through recognizing, working on and moving past limiting beliefs. Coaching is all about helping individual clients understand the right questions to ask to achieve the desired business destination – to discover the true “wants”.
The important thing to remember is that the client – you – does all the work, with some sage direction from the coach.
A Consultant to Discover What to Change and HOW to Get it Done?
By comparison, consultants offer hands-on, practical business ideas and solutions.
A consultant is “up in your business” … pun totally intended!
There are many reasons why one would contract with a business consultant: to determine how best to take advantage of an opportunity; to increase lagging sales; to reallocate and ensure the company remains profitable not only when times are lean, but also when planning to invest and/or expand in a different area.
A pain point exists within the company of which you may be cognizant. It may be hard to tell, however, if it just a symptom of a larger underlying problem. As the business owner, you need to say:
I have a problem and I need someone to help me define that issue – even if I’m not sure what “it” is.
A consultant functions to discover and identify.
Due Diligence Before Committing to a Particular Consultant
Equally important is evaluating whether a particular consultant(s) is the right person (or people) to potentially solve the issue. Specifically, determining if the consultant:
- Understands the business culture;
- Is cognizant of the constraints working with; and
- Is willing to do some hard work, starting with asking tough questions when going through the problem-solving process.
The best consultants are ones who understand their own skills, the ones at which they truly excel. Such individuals will ask pertinent questions to ascertain the nature and scope of the company’s needs, and won’t offer solutions before gaining a full understanding of the issue at hand.
If finding the person/people who truly “get” you and your business, then the time is right to move forward.
As the Relationship Develops, The Word’s the Thing
The more people with whom the consultant or consultancy team is involved inside the company as the relationship progresses, the better they will understand the organizational culture/politics/authority.
Words matter. Some terms that hold a unique meaning for the company culture may have a completely different significance to an outsider. Sometimes, those same words have different meaning for different people within the company itself … which, understandably, can create conflict.
Consultants have to sometimes tread carefully in recognizing and validating both executive and employee opinions, which all matter. Because, generally, everyone is doing what they think is right for the success of the company (including the consultant, of course).
Finally, Does that Consultant LISTEN?
In order to ask the right questions of (and find useful long-term answers for) you/your business, and to recognize those organizational culture vocabulary, excellent listening skills are paramount.
Pay close attention and you’ll know if a potential consultant doesn’t listen well, because they won’t perceive … well, pretty much everything about a company that’s covered in this article!
On the flip side, if that consultant does listen well it will be obvious from the get-go. Grab ’em!
Have you ever hired a consultant? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment below!