Starting your own business? Already have one? With small business consulting, you can be in business for yourself but you don't have to be in business by yourself.
Like all great structures, every successful business is built on a solid foundation. Small business consulting can give you a little help laying a quality foundation now so you can reduce the risk of problems later.
You may be thinking, "Wait! Small businesses can't afford consultants, can they?" Truth is, you can't afford NOT to benefit from the knowledge and experience of others. Sound advice is not exclusive to big corporations and with a little effort, you, too, can have expertise and quality small business advice at a reasonable cost.
Good small business consulting can give you the knowledge gained only through years of real-world experience, present it in a straightforward and objective manner, and combined with your company's unique strengths, produce results you've only dreamed of.
Do you have a plan?
Whether you are starting your own business or are well established, the same principals apply: If you want to reach a destination, a roadmap gets you there faster with the least effort and expense.
A good small business consultant will be, first and foremost, a business plan writer. A well-developed plan will define your business, your vision and your goals and lay out a strategic plan for attaining them. And unless you have a cozy relationship with a senior executive at a bank or a commercial lender, chances are virtually nil that your business will be offered traditional small business financing without one. Commercial lenders almost universally require a written business plan before they will take you seriously.
A small to medium firm like yours need not spend a fortune to develop a plan to achieve its development goals; on the other hand, if you invest little or nothing in planning . . . well, as the time worn adage says,
"Fail to plan and you plan to fail."
More Than A Business Plan Writer
You may be considering hiring a consultant to help you develop or refine your existing business plan. In fact, assisting owners with business plans is cited by most consultants as the core purpose of small business consulting. But you want your consultant to be much more than just a business plan writer. Because a good business plan needs to reflect a carefully thought-out business strategy for growth and profitability, your consultant must work with you one-on-one to develop and refine your overall business strategy. The consultant needs to meet with any other key employees as well — perhaps several times — to understand, to talk and think through your firm's marketing, financial and operating strategies.
Your passion for your business likely has you so immersed in what you do, it is difficult to see the "big picture." A good business consultant will offer you a fresh, broader perspective and help you widen the field of your own vision beyond the immediate concerns that occupy your time and attention.
In the end, you should have a sharp focus on the future — a clearly defined destination and a map to get you there.
Before Hiring Your Small Business Consultant
You have decided you need some professional small business advice and expertise. Whether its a new business plan, a revision to an existing plan, or a solution to some technical or operational problem you seek, take the time to define as precisely as possible your expectations from the consultant you hire.
This pre-hiring exercise will serve you and your consultant well. You will be able to clearly describe your project and objectives, which:
To put it simply, the more clearly you define your expectations, the more beneficial your small business consulting experience is likely to be.
You should interview a prospective small business consultant with the same care as you would if taking on a partner. After all, your consultant will be a partner — a source of great ideas, strategies and tactics, with a sharp focus on attaining your goals for the company.
Look carefully at the experience and credentials of your prospects. If you are looking for a comprehensive business plan, your candidate should be a good business plan writer. For small business financing assistance, search for a commercial finance consultant; for operational or technical help, a specialist is generally the best choice.
Bottom line? Small business advice is not hard to find. There is a business consultant for every field, every industry, and every functional specialty. For the best possible result and benefit to your company, take extra care at the outset to find a consultant who meets your specific small business consulting needs and expectations.
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