During the process of growing a business, entrepreneurs, business owners and managers are often faced with the question of whether to bring in an outside business business planning consultant . This can be an especially challenging decision for entrepreneurs, who are by definition independent and self-reliant. However, it’s important to recognize that even the most talented businesspeople can benefit from the support and guidance of an experienced consultant (or consulting firm).
From our perspective, here are some of the key benefits to bringing on an outside business consultant.
Perhaps the most common benefit a consultant brings is his or her experience. More specifically, the consultant’s experience should directly fill gaps in the entrepreneur’s or management team’s own skillsets.
For example, a businessperson may be gifted at recruiting employees and partners, and motivating them to achieve the company’s strategic goals. But that same person may struggle to assemble a detailed financial model, conduct strategic market research, or convey the company’s growth plans in a succinct, marketable written document.
A skilled consultant or consulting firm often fills these functional gaps, in order to help the company complete a particular task or achieve a milestone.
Prior Domain Experience
Especially when venturing into new markets or devising a new product or service offering, a client may seek a consultant’s experience in a particular domain. Experienced consultants and consulting firms can apply past consulting experience to new client engagements. Aside from simply getting the project done, this familiarity with various markets and business models is a value-add that an entrepreneur or manager would not likely otherwise receive, without conducting months or years of competitive and industry research.
Engaging with a consulting firm provides more than smart, timely advice on crucial business decisions. Specifically because they are not engaged in the day-to-day operations of their clients' businesses, consultants are able to analyze a business decision from a position of greater objectivity. By working with an experienced, credible consultant, you receive 3rd party, objective analysis of your situation. This perspective is critical for gaining organizational consensus around one course of action out of a sea of competing choices, and it helps assure you that you’re following the best business opportunity.
Time (Opportunity Cost)
Aside from the expertise and objectivity that a consultant brings, perhaps the greatest value is the simple fact that another person (or firm) is handling a part of the burden. Engaging with an outside firm to assist with tactical or strategic responsibilities allows the internal management team to remain focused on the critical day-to-day actions and responsibilities that drive ongoing revenue and sustain the operations of a company. Each person and company may set a different value on their own time. However, often times it is economically beneficial to hire a qualified firm to efficiently manage a project, rather than allocating resources internally or hiring additional full-time staff to fulfill the need.
Aside from the direct value of a consultant’s domain and functional expertise, engaging with a consultant or consulting firm can provide other benefits. Because of their existing relationships, established consulting firms can introduce and connect clients with a wide array of potential customers, strategic partners, supplies, investors, and board members, etc.
What Do You Think?
What are other reasons why you have hired an outside consultant? What advice would you give regarding the pitfalls and benefits of hiring a consultant?