Every day, I get asked to explain what I do. Over the past 16 years, I have worked hard to find the right way to explain the answer, depending on who was asking. There are so many reasons that a business should hire a consultant, and I only fit about half of the needs that are brought to me. My brand pitch answers the question “what do you do,” but tends to leave more questions. After giving this some thought lately, I’ve identified six specialties that consultants tend to help with.
Objective perspectiveBusinesses often fall into a routine and see the same results because of it. Like the quote, “when you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always gotten.” When that strategy stops working, it’s time to bring in someone with new insight. A consultant is great for this because they come without the baggage an employee would bring. They are invested in finding, diagnosing, and solving your company’s problems without being invested in the company itself, which creates less of a conflict of interest problem for the business. Consultants bring creative solutions, resources, and tools to solve issues that are keeping the company from moving forward. They are the short-term intellectual capital that a company requires when they don’t need a full-time person with that skill set.
Automation and optimizationSometimes changing workloads among employees cause problems that a company cannot fix on their own. There might be skill gaps or overlaps that can cause decreased productivity among the teams. A consultant can evaluate and implement solutions that save time, save money, increase productivity, and build scalability within the company by evaluating the needs of the company and the skills of the employees. Then, the consultant can offer advice on how to automate and optimize the workloads so that the right people are contributing to the right work.
Crisis managementThere are several things that can cause a “crisis” within an organization — employee turnover, exit planning deficiencies, declining sales, and restructuring are just some of the actions that can throw a company into a downward spiral. These issues can cause serious and sudden productivity issues, declining sales, and poor strategic planning. A consultant can help in crises by assessing a company as it is and building a plan to get it where it needs to be. Crisis management consultants work similarly to the automation and optimization plan but under extreme pressure to turn situations around quickly.
Facilitating a functional teamIn business, personalities can be just as important as skills. Serious personality differences can cause conflict among teams, which reduces the team into a dysfunctional semblance of individuals who are unwilling to work together. Consultants can work through these issues to develop cohesion and make sure that goals are better aligned. They can teach skills and procedures in order to overcome the conflict that exists, and create a plan to keep it from destroying the progress that a team should have. They can also evaluate the needs a particular team should have, and make recommendations for missing or overlapping skills that would help the team to flourish.
Internal personnel cannot be the bad guysOftentimes, it is detrimental to a company to hear bad news from the higher ups. The news can create an anxious and sometimes hostile working environment. When a business has to deliver bad news, a consultant might be the best choice for the message. Consultants specializing in delivering changes and strategies that cannot come from internal personnel can craft the bad news in a way that makes sense, and since they are an outsider, the ill effects of the message are often taken less personally. A consultant specializing in crisis management is often the right fit for delivering the changes to the masses and knows how to strategize a plan for a turnaround.
Building new opportunitiesBusinesses looking for growth have many options, and sometimes the path leads them to develop new lines of business, and occasionally, a new business altogether. Sometimes companies have current ideas and projects that need outside validation in order to move forward. A consultant specializing in business and product development, project management, and startup growth strategy is the right fit for these needs. In many cases, employees don’t have the entrepreneurial skill set needed to grow creative ventures — but a consultant can teach a team the right skills, strategies, and processes for achieving the goal of creating a new product or service. They can also facilitate team building and evaluate skill sets in order to build the right team for the project.
Most businesses need to hire a consultant to solve a problem that they have at one time or another. Clearly identifying the needs of the company and finding the right consultant to fit that need is important to gain the results desired. Not every consultant will be the right fit, so be sure to have an understanding of what you need and make sure that they can offer the right solutions. Whether it’s for a fresh point-of-view, to improve productivity, to solve a serious problem, to fix a broken team, to deliver bad news, or to create a new venture, consultants can find the right way to grow your business.