Benefits of an Outside Consultant

For some small business owners, hiring a consultant may seem like big, unnecessary expense. You’re trying to cut operating costs, not find ways to increase them.

These are valid concerns, but shouldn’t preempt the idea of hiring someone with specific expertise to help you. This is especially true when you first start your business. If you get off on the wrong foot, it may cost you a lot more in the long run if an expert could have helped you avoid problems to begin with.

It’s like a golfer who doesn’t takes lessons and never learns to swing the club properly. Bad habits turn into a bad golf game that becomes very difficult and expensive to correct later on. Some money wisely spent in the beginning would have prevented those bad habits and provided a very high payoff in the end. The same is true in business.


Here are several reasons why hiring a consultant might make sense.

Business Plan

If you’re trying to get financing to start or expand your business, most banks will want a business plan to support the loan request. That plan details all the financial aspects of running and marketing your business. If you’ve never put together such a plan, you probably lack the skills to do it right. There are people who do this for a living, and they might make the difference between getting that loan or not.

Online Presence

In today’s digital world, it’s crucial to have a robust online presence and marketing strategy. If you can’t build your own professional website, hire someone to do it for you. For many potential customers, your website will be the first place they are exposed to your business. It’s worth the cost to build a site that is optimized for search engines (SEO), captures business, and keeps customers coming back.

A specialist can also set up an online advertising campaign that capitalizes on a variety of tools and social media. Some of the more popular include Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Once the website and marketing tools are set up, you can monitor and update them on your own. So unless you need major changes, this is a one-time cost that will pay off in the long run.

Sounding Board

If you’re a sole proprietor and have little or no business experience, it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with someone who does. If you have access to a mentor who will help you at no charge, take advantage of their expertise. The alternative is to hire a consultant who can objectively evaluate what you’re doing. Together, bounce your ideas around and get real-time advice and feedback.

The value of constructive criticism and a fresh perspective from an outsider who has no stake in the business can’t be overstated. A consultant’s neutrality helps offset your personal bias that may influence you to make decisions without considering all the facts and issues. They can provide a critical eye to evaluate everything from complex issues to daily routines, and suggest ways to improve and streamline what they see. They can also assist with developing product and marketing strategies.

Best Practices

Consultants stay up-to-date on all the latest innovations in their field. They also have experience working with a wide spectrum of contacts and clients who face the same issues as you. If you’ve been racking your brain trying to solve a problem with no success, that’s time wasted that could be better spent on productive tasks. There’s a good chance a consultant has seen that problem before and may be able to offer an effective solution very quickly, and provide guidance on how to efficiently implement it.

Training & Augmentation

Consultants can train you to do specific tasks on your own so that you don’t have to hire anyone to do them. For example, they can set up a computer network that you use for keeping the books and interacting with customers. They can install the software and teach you how to use it. The more you can rely on automation, the more you’ll save on payroll costs.

If you have employees, consultants can help improve and develop their knowledge base, skills, and mindsets to maximize their effectiveness. They can also act as temporary employees when you need immediate help but don’t want to hire anyone permanently.

Summary

Find a consultant who has hands-on experience, not just theoretical experience in a classroom. Ideally you should hire someone who has run or worked in a business similar to yours. While a great educational background doesn’t hurt, you want someone with actual business and technical skills who can apply those skills to provide real help.

Consultants apply the lessons learned from other businesses, and can also draw on the analytical horsepower of others they work with. The have a breadth of resources available to make you more competitive and appear more professional. It’s a short-term cost that has the potential to save time and money in the long run.


Michael Sanibel is a freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, personal finance, law, science, aviation, sports, entertainment, travel, and political analysis. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy and is also licensed to practice law in California and New Hampshire. Michael wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.