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What is a business consultant?

If you’re wondering what the answer is, you’re not alone.

According to a study done by a research group in Finland, “the first responsibility of business consultants is to provide clients with a reassuring sense of control that reduces their uncertainty and anxiety. In a sense, business consultants play the role of “therapists” by relieving managers of the anxiety that prevents them from doing their job efficiently”. (1)

So, someone comes into your business, and makes you feel happier? I’m sure there are cheaper ways for that to happen. Perhaps a puppy, or maybe a slice of cake?

Alas, I don’t think the puppy will be able to help set up processes that make your business more efficient, or help you generate and implement ideas on how to improve your product and it’s reach.

(Of course, if you did find a puppy that did that, I’d say that was amazing. Frankly, you’d be onto a winner and probably don’t need to continue with this blog).

The by-product of a good business consultant is that you feel clearer and more assured of your short and long-term direction. A bad consultant might come in, suggest a load of changes, and then leave. Without seeing through those changes, and helping you adapt from the results, it’s not really that useful in the long term.

Is this the point where we tell you why we’re different? Yes! Well, kind of. As business consultants here’s what we really do:

- Listen to your business and management problems

- Help you find a solution to them that will work

- Inspect the changes and adapt if required

- Help set up processes and gritty details, rather than just big ideas

- Make sure, most importantly, that everything is tailored to you and your customers

But, I’ll tell you a secret. When I was less open-minded I used to hate it when someone said they were bringing in a consultant or third party.

Why do it, when people in the company probably know more or maybe could help, if we asked them to?

Well, there are many reasons to hire a business consultant:

- Consultants frequently have experience in different industries and companies, giving them perspectives and insights you just might not have. This all leads to innovation and change

- It’s true when people say, sometimes you’re just too close to the problem

- Consultants don’t usually eat into your staff budget. You’ll receive targeted advice, while spending a lot less, and will have the flexibility to choose when to stop working with them

- Employees don’t have to invest huge amounts of time away from their daily responsibilities as the consultant is the one doing the extra leg work

- You might not have the experience or expertise to do what you want right now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t learn it in the long-term. Consultants can give you a short-term boost if needed

- Most important to me is that consultants listen, learn, and remain objective. They will look at the problems without any emotional attachment (something hugely beneficial in management and business change projects where the company can be resistant to change)

Objectivity, perspective, expertise and experience. OPEE. I’m not sure that term will catch on, but the point remains. This is what you’ll get with a business consultant.

(Although, I’ll quickly add, we’re not robots who don’t have any empathy. We care about the clients we work with and prefer to build as much rapport as humanly possible!)

So hopefully, you now have an idea of what business consultants do and why they’re useful. Of course, only you can say for sure if you need, and want to accept help, from an outside party. But the first step here is identifying that your business may have a problem that you can’t quite solve yourself, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Have you watched Ghostbusters? Remember the line: “If there's something weird, And it don't look good, Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

So maybe our slogan should be “If there's something strange, In your business-hood, Who you gonna call? Working Progress!” What do you think?

Image: Daisy Anderson/Pexels

(1) Helo, Petri & Nordstrom, Fredrik & Ajmal, Mian. (2008). Assessing the Effectiveness of Business Consulting in Operations Development Projects. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management. 58. 10.1108/17410400910977073.