Although business, economic, and management consultants have been around for a relatively long time, many business managers, especially small business owners and managers do not have a clear understanding of what these professionals do. They know what accountants do and often use their services, but to them, business consultants are esoteric. In this article, we remove some of the mystery that surrounds business, economic, and management consultants, and provide some inkling as to when to hire them.
Who is a Business Consultant?
A business consultant is a professional who provides guidance, advice, counseling, and training to businesses. They also do research, develop strategic plans, perform human resources audits, conduct feasibility studies, and perform a host of other duties for their clients, depending on their area of expertise. There are many different stripes of business, economic, and management consultants. On one hand, a young individual, who has taken a few courses in business, puts a desk in a room in his/her home and calls himself or herself a consultant. On the other hand, a highly trained and well educated lady with many years of experience in management opens an office in town and calls herself a management consultant.
Generally speaking, consultants are expensive, and those with a record of success can be extremely expensive, but the benefits of hiring a competent consultant can far outweigh the cost if one knows when to hire a consultant. If you are hiring a consultant on a whim or just to be fashionable, you may find that you are throwing money down the proverbial drain. Below are some instances when it makes good business sense to hire a consultant.
- The need for fresh insight and objectivity
If your company is dealing with an issue or problem and you seem to be making little or no progress in finding a solution, maybe the process is bogged down with “business as usual” when a fresh outlook and greater objectivity are just what the process needs. In this instance, a consultant with a fresh “outside” view and greater objectivity could find a solution to the problem.
- The need for new talent
Often, a company wants to expand into new areas of operation. It may find that it does not possess the required talent internally to take the lead in launching the project. It is quite possible that hiring a consultant for this purpose is more cost effective than recruiting and hiring a new employee.
- The need for external auditors
It is of paramount importance that companies audit their operations and processes. Self-assessments reveal areas of strength and weakness and lead to measures that can be taken for improvements. As important as internal audits may be, it is often necessary to have an independent and totally objective view. An independent consultant can provide that kind of objective audit.
- The Need for quick action
Occasionally, a company has to embark on a particular project. Although suitable human resources may be available in-house, perhaps they are being utilized elsewhere. In such a case, it seems reasonable to bring in outside consultants who can quickly complete the project.
- The need to make difficult choices
There comes a time in the life of a company when difficult decisions have to be made. Often, the managers and employees of a company have built up a close relationship, and it may be difficult for a manager to make a decision that will adversely affect the workers. For example, consider the case of redundancy. Technological improvements might cause some workers to become redundant. It may be better for the company to hire a consultant to detect the redundancy. The consultant will then recommend the appropriate action to be taken to solve the problem, that is, the termination of some employees.
Business, economic, and management consultants have been making significant contributions to the effective and efficient operation of businesses. In many cases, their roles are absolutely essential. Before you hire a consultant, make sure that you have a common sense reason for so doing.