No matter where I navigate, I am bombarded with ads from various agencies and consultants that claim that their solution is the holy grail. The amount of products, services, and promises to businesses are overwhelming.  Business owners are struggling to understand the rapidly changing digital landscape.  Most are tangled in a mess of unproductive online mediums.  With all of the noise, it’s hard to discern who and what services are the right solution.   

Most small businesses are struggling in how to accomplish their goals with their limited time and resources.  They are choosing between two incomplete options: (1) trying to evaluate all of the options, learn and implement it themselves, or (2) hiring one of the multitude of consultants.   Doing it themselves, while the cheapest option, is inefficient due to the time involved and the inevitable mistakes that ensue.  On the flip side, hiring specific agencies and/or products alleviates the time, but is often a costly mistake once the off the shelf program does not bring the promised return.

So what should a small business do?  How can you ascertain who’s the right fit for your pain points?  Businesses shouldn’t have to choose between the two incomplete options above, but instead have a hybrid choice: choosing a partner who is not only an expert in the implementations required to turn your business around, but also one who will customize their services to your needs and teach you how to implement these services in the future.  Businesses of today need a consultant, a partner, who can weed through all the noise, access exactly what the business needs, and construct the changes with the business owner.  

Similar to hiring a caregiver, you need to research the following before selecting the right partner for your business:

1.     RESUME

Do they have the experience in categories that are similar to your product goals?  Each business is unique and needs a personal touch by a seasoned professional.  Will their references back up their stories?  Unfortunately, a lot of consultants are all talk with little to show for their experiences.  Has the founder and the consultant spent years in corporations building their craft before advising you?  Or is this their first foray in ‘selling’ their services?  You need someone who can apply the lessons and theory that they were taught in their education with best practices that they have seen work well in various business types and problems.  When I graduated from my undergrad, over seventeen years ago, I was hesitant to join a consulting firm with only theoretical perspective. I felt that I needed business building skills, and action, before I could consult with other businesses. 

2.     VALUES

Do they have the same ethos that you espouse?  Do you speak the same language?  Do you know where they are based and the background of their owners?  What you need is a servant leader, someone who truly cares about your business and will work with you to see results, and not just recommend theory.  The best consultants won’t lure you in with a free download and then the pricy training session.  They should work with you over the course of your business to ensure that the steps are not only outlined, but implemented successfully.  You need a coach, a friend, who can advise you on how to accelerate and handle your business.  You need someone you trust, someone who will be there to help and tell you when they honestly can’t, based on their skill set.

3.     ACCOMODATION

Do they listen first, and then recommend a solution?   Do they quickly recommend their product / service without truly accessing your business needs?  Not every digital, social, or new product is the right fit for every business.  A warning sign is when all of their services are automated and they promise that their solution is the best.  A great partner / consultant, will work with you to understand your pain points and the key areas that will lead to a better return and growth.  They should also provide course corrections as needed.  They should be willing to work with your existing resources and negotiate a project that works for both of you.

4.     RESPONSIBILITY

Have you identified the core responsibilities?  Can you articulate your exact needs from the relationship?  Do you feel that the partner in question can meet your expectations?  You need a partner who will help you implement, after thoroughly understanding your challenges, marketplace and consumer reach.  Businesses need someone to help ‘do’ the work, while teaching how to in the future.  You also need someone who can meet your timelines and budget: be sure to clarify the fee schedule and delivery before you begin. 

Consultant is an overused and trite word.  ‘Consultant’ is now a term that most unemployed professionals use.  It’s also a term used by every type of business service provider.  It’s no wonder that the understanding and equity of the role has declined dramatically.  Hopefully the research above will help you find the right partner, whether it be a consultant or any other type of servant leader, for your business needs.

While most consultants are profiting from the confusion, I want to truly help your business and walk through the changes together.  I won’t make you pay for the e-books, courses, webinars, etc., I will teach you what to do and help you implement.  I’m vested and interested in helping your business thrive over the long term.  I won’t push the solution before understanding your pain points. I love seeing businesses grow and prosper.