As any business grows, it may face problems that the owner can’t solve. The problems will be outside of their immediate expertise, or will be ones that keep coming back when they thought they were solved.
They’ll help you see deeper into your business problems. A good consultant has the experience needed to bring forward solutions that can help you build your business.
What is management consulting?
Management consulting is the practice of helping organizations improve their performance. Because management consultants have experience with a bunch of businesses in your field, they’ll be aware of best practices that you can use in your business to improve your results.
There’s even a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation administered by CMA-Canada.
Management consultants are usually focused on helping those in executive positions work through the complex issues that their businesses are encountering. For many startups or sole proprietorships, this is the business owner.
What types of issues they help with
In practise, a management consultant may improve your hiring process so that you’re not hiring workers who don’t fit with your company. A management consultant will know what hiring processes work to land qualified candidates in your industry and help you do away with the parts of your process that aren’t yielding benefit.
Management consultants can also help when you’re working on a project that requires specific knowledge you don’t have.
Maybe you’re looking at expanding your consumer products into the commercial field — a management consultant can help you evaluate the pros and cons of that move. Her or she can also help design a process to reach commercial clients.
I’ve taken the role of a management consultant as I’ve helped a team manage their company website.
Prior to my joining their team, they regularly had site downtime and site features wouldn’t get completed without long delays on due dates. Once I helped them build out a process for their developers to stay on track, we finished new features weekly and stopped site errors in their tracks.
In short, management consultants help get past the problems by identifying the causes at the root of the problem. You basically solve them together.
Outlining your options
If you decide you need management consulting, you’ll have to choose between a smaller boutique consultancy or a larger firm that may have hundreds or thousands of employees.
Smaller shops may have more flexibility and be able to provide individualized attention that a larger firm may not be able to do.
Small consultants can focus on you as their single client and move quickly with you as things change.
But smaller shops don’t have the institutional knowledge that a larger firm has. Big firms will have internal white papers on pretty much every field, and entire teams dedicated to doing research for their customers.
A big firm is also a better choice if you’re breaking new ground. No one may know exactly the problems you’re dealing with, but because the team has the combined experience of hundreds of people, someone has seen something similar. What’s more all the consultants in the firm can access that knowledge to use with your business.
Ask the right questions
It’s important to make sure that any consultant you’re considering does indeed have the expertise that you need.
I’m a great choice if you need to build out web development workflows, but I’d be terrible at helping you figure out if you should expand your business into a new region.
Ask whomever you’re talking to about:
- The people they’ve worked with
- What their results were
- Any projects that didn’t succeed and why
Anyone who’s been at their job for a while will have a few failures under their belt. This isn’t a problem, as long as they’ve taken steps to learn from their failures so that they don’t happen again.
Finding a qualified consultant
To get actual names of consultants to consider, there are a few options. First there are some online directories of certified management consultants, including certified management consultants, that you can check. You can also post your opening for a management consultant online and see what this yields.
Have they worked with anyone they could recommend? If you don’t know a business that is similar enough to make a recommendation, reach out to your local chamber of commerce or any business organization you’re a part of.
Do they have management consultants they can recommend that members have been happy working with? Start by talking to those recommendations and see if they have the expertise you need.
This second option may be a better place to start because you’re getting a personal recommendation from someone you know and trust. In my experience these recommendations often yield the best project outcomes.
Make a personal connection
Whether you go with a smaller or larger firm, you want to make sure you get to talk with the actual person who will be working with you. You’ll be seeing a lot of them for at least a few months, so ask yourself:
- Is this someone you can see yourself working with?
- Are you on the same wavelength? Do you get along in a way that will make work productive?
- Do you both share the same expectations around communication times?
If there isn’t a good match with the person you’re actually going to work with, then it’s going to be hard to finish the project well.
Find expert advice
At some point in every business, the owners are bound to encounter things they’re not familiar with. Don’t let yourself keep getting stuck on problems that never go away. Good management consulting can help you see deeper into your business and make the changes you need to succeed in your industry.