Hiring A Business Development Consultant – Mistake Or Opportunity?

I just finished searching the web for business and marketing consultants, and even as a professional Business Consultant, I was left confused and skeptical. The profession seems to be filled with those who over-promise, have little experience, and some who only want to sell you anything but knowledge based on experience. Fortunately, under the rubble, there are those who have spent a lifetime in business and who are practicing professional consultants with a great deal to offer the right customers. Since this is my business, I decided it might be time to offer my observations on why you might need a professional consultant, and how you can benefit.

I am a Business Development, Strategic Planning, and Marketing consultant. I specialized in helping small to mid-sized companies review their current activities and providing Critical Analysis, Strategic Planning and Implementation guidance in my areas of expertise. My goal is to help small business and mid-sized companies grow by understanding where they are today, where they want to go, and exactly how to get there.

With the disclosure out of the way, let me provide my guidance on hiring a business consultant, what to look for, and what to expect for your time and money.

1) EXPERTISE: The single most important reason to hire an outside business consultant is to bring in expertise that you do not already have in house.

Most people have a background in their industry, and many have experience in two or three industries. Some people even have experience with 10 or 15 products within that industry, but knowledge, experience and hands on management of a broader range of products, from over a hundred companies, and building marketing and distribution in diverse markets such as North America, Europe and Asia is experience few people have.

When you look for a consultant you want someone who has a breadth of knowledge and experience that exceeds that which you already have. Along with bringing a new or different perspective to your analysis and strategic planning, a consultant should bring knowledge that is outside the scope of your current environment.

By bringing in someone with a wide range of knowledge and experience in their area of expertise you supplement your current knowledge base. Most companies already have excellent people on staff performing their duties in the areas of business development, marketing and sales. Limitations occur because of the ‘box’ in which we work. You and your staff are running full speed ahead to keep up with the demands of your business. In many cases, you are putting out fires as quickly as they ignite (if you’re lucky). This environment dictates that you focus on the job at hand. When you and your staff meet, you are discussing real problems that need immediate solutions. There is little time to research what other companies are doing and what is successful or not for them.

A consultant should bring an ‘out of the box’ perspective to your table the moment they walk in the door. They may not understand the minutia of your business immediately, but through discussion and some research they will bring new perspective and ideas to your problem solving and business planning process. Their expanded world view will open new doors of opportunity for your organization and offer ideas that have proven successful in other environments.

2) ECONOMICS: The second most likely reason to hire an expert business development consultant is saving money.

Hiring the expertise you need for every aspect of your business development process is not only impractical, but impossible.

When we need professional expertise we either outsource or bring on new staff. Today, in this economy, hiring new staff is a luxury most small business cannot afford. Outsourcing is a good alternative, and in the case of consultants, a highly cost effective alternative.

In addition to bringing immediate knowledge, consultants bring all the benefits of outsourcing. Taxes and Benefits are the responsibility of the consultant and never carried as overhead by the company. Costs are controlled and can fit your budget. Hiring and firing are as simple as picking up the phone. No job search, no severance. Consultants are usually available when you want them and expendable when you do not. For many that description is a little uncomfortable, but a professional consultant is an independent business person (or company) who works at the pleasure of YOU.

In addition to all the benefits of outsourcing, a professional consultant brings immediate payback. Duplicating the expertise of a good consultant might require 3, 5 or even 8 different positions to be filled by experienced managers. Each position requires training and integration into the organization. One expert not only provides the knowledge-base of those positions, but also hits the ground running.

Finally, regarding a good consultant’s hourly or daily fee. My experience is that they are usually priced at the level of a senior partner in a law firm or regional accounting firm. When compared to the cost of hiring that same expertise on a long-term basis, they are almost always a bargain.

When hiring a consultant, clearly define your objectives and identify the deliverables he or she will provide. Always receive a firm bid quote. Then consider; can we do this in house? If so, what is the cost in using our own manpower, including the cost of pulling that manpower off other projects? If not (which is usually the case), then ask if the deliverables and benefits are worth the cost?

3) USABLE DELIVERABLES: You want a deliverable that can be used over a long period of time throughout the organization.

In most cases, you hire a business development consultant to help you solve a specific problem or more often help you define a plan of action for taking you where you want to go. In such cases, you want someone who can deliver in writing a road map for future activities. To do this, they must be able to guide you through a careful and thorough review process in which both you and the consultant identify what is working and what is not, and where the holes are in your present plan.

A good consultant will then be able to lead a strategic planning process in which the consultant, you and your staff collaborate on developing an expanded plan in which your ideas and wishes are combined with the consultant’s to create a plan that is much better than anyone alone could create.

Finally, a qualified expert consultant will be able to create a written plan that includes a full marketing plan and budget that can be used as a guide, a road map if you will, to take you where you want to go.

This document should not be an academic study, but a dynamic real-world document that reflects the hands-on expertise of your organization and the consultant, and is used, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.

4) OBJECTIVITY: You must have objectivity that ensures the advice you receive is in YOUR best interest.

You want a consultant that is objective with no conflicts of interest or hidden agendas. In order to give you the valuable information you’re paying for, your consultant must have only one allegiance – you.

This doesn’t mean that the consultant you hire hasn’t, or won’t in the future, work for companies in your industry. In affect, that experience and diversity of knowledge is what gives them value. It does mean that they sign a confidentiality agreement; they do not discuss or disclose any proprietary information to anyone outside your organization; and they are not obligated to another company in any way that would degrade their work for you. ­­­­­­­

What you want is someone who has the experience to be called an expert, and professional ethics to match their expertise.

5) HANDS ON EXPERIENCE: Finally, you want someone who has experience in the field. As a small business manager or entrepreneur you need experts who understand the challenges you face, and who have had to meet and solve those challenges.

As a small businessman in my first company (a drafting and engineering company) I hired someone who had been a high level manager with a very large engineering firm. I thought they would bring expertise in how to run my business. What I got was someone who was used to managing assistants and departments, but who had no real knowledge of how to get the job done. In other words, he understood big business and big budgets, but he didn’t know how to roll his sleeves up and deal with my problems. After spending much time and money, I finally realized my mistake. After that, I made sure the advisors I hired had the hands-on experience of an entrepreneur and knew what running a small business was all about.

When you hire a consultant you want someone who has been there, built and managed companies, analyzed markets, and implemented and managed business development, marketing and sales campaigns in a wide range of markets for diverse products, for small to mid sized companies. You want a professional consultant with hands-on experience who understands your problems and can offer real world advice and solutions.

The best way to ensure you have an experienced professional that can truly help your organization is talk with them. A qualified consultant will have a history that speaks to your market, will have references, and will be able to communicate with you in a way that tells you they know what they are talking about. You will hear their competence in their answers to your questions and in the questions they ask you.

What I suggest is after you read their materials, visit their website, and complete your due diligence, call the individual(s) you think are qualified and talk with them. Ask questions specific to your business and industry, and listen carefully to the answers. If the answers are full of fluff and hyperbole know that the service you receive will likely be the same. If, on the other hand, you hear information that feels real, has substance, and reflects an understanding of the subject, you may have found someone who can truly help you shortcut the learning curve of building your business, help you reduce costs, and help you significantly move your small business or mid-sized company forward.

Some final comments about hiring a business development consultant:

Consultants may be experts, but they won’t know everything about every industry. In most cases, you will know your industry and business better than they ever will. What a good business development consultant brings to your table is a diverse range of experience that can apply to your situation. They bring new ideas, and the ability to think outside of the box, which, when combined with your specific company knowledge, catapults your organization forward. Don’t expect them to know upfront all your industry statistics or demographics, that they can obtain through research. What they will know is how to solve the broader questions of where you want to go and how to get there.

Professional consultants are full time and have been for a long time. They are not part time consultants and not ‘between jobs.’ Their expertise is born of long term work and effort, and it is displayed in the service they provide you.

The best consultants work on a fee basis, with costs quoted and known upfront. Proposals should be in writing and itemized to identify a projects objective, scope, and timeline. Transparency and no-surprises are exactly what you’re looking for.

Good luck and good marketing.

Business Development Consultants Share Experience, Know-How

Most business people can say that they have been involved in a situation where they later determined that they hadn’t seen the whole picture, and as a result they didn’t solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity like they maybe should have. In other words, they didn’t see for forest for the trees. This type of situation is the primary reason why business development consulting is important.

Regardless of the situation, business development consulting can be an important step in the life of any business. With an experienced consultant, owners and managers of a company can learn new ways of doing things, or just bounce ideas off of a well-versed coach. This is someone who may have been in a very similar situation, and can teach others how to deal with such a situation effectively, efficiently, and most importantly, profitably.

Business development consulting gives company owners and managers first-hand experience in dealing with situations, whether problems or opportunities. Unlike books or many workshops, the owners have the benefit of a consultant’s full attention, as well as the opportunity to get answers to direct, real-world problems. Advice is not based on a lot of theory. It is real-world guidance to deal with concrete problems.

In recent years, these types of professionals have enjoyed exponential growth, due mainly to the success stories that have been told by their former clients.

Whether the situation has to do with financing, accounting, marketing, sales, administration or other areas of a company, there is probably a consultant that is available for the task, one who will give owners and managers the benefit of their knowledge, the good as well as the bad.

It is also important to note that just as is the case with any financial expense, since development consultants are not employees, their cost is a tax-deductible expense. They can be used when a company is considering expansion into foreign or domestic markets, or when an underdeveloped market in a foreign country is suspected.

Most importantly, these consulting professionals can offer experience and solutions from as wide or as narrow a scope as an owner or manager desires. Whether it’s an issue of making a company grow in general, or to focus on a particular aspect of marketing, sales and accounting, designing, development or a new product, service or project, a business development consultant can make the difference between success and failure.

No More Excuses for Small Business Owners for Not Growing Their Businesses

When talking about business related issues, solutions, and technologies, you will almost always group businesses as small and large. While the separation is there, it won’t be wrong to say that in a modern where digital technologies prevail, it should not be a problem for small businesses to compete with large ones. The large corporations have the advantage of having more resources without a doubt. However, there was not a time in the past when growing and expanding was as easy for small businesses as it is today.

Digital Marketing for Everyone

Digital marketing starts with a website today. When it comes to website designs, more money does not always mean a better design. If you are working with the right people and are clear about your requirements, your website can be just as impressive as the website of a large business. In fact, internet users today are more in favor of simplistic websites with a focus on the information they are looking for rather than the glitter and sparkle.

As for social media marketing, there is no difference in the size of the market that small and large businesses have to target. They are both targeting global audiences and how good they are at it is not defined by how much money they put in their marketing efforts. Social media marketing is free marketing, so there is no excuse as to who has more resources.

And if you believe that the large corporations make it to the top of the search engine results, you always have a better and more effective niche to compete within – local. With local search engine optimization, small businesses can compete with the medium and large businesses head to head. In simple words, regardless of the size of the business, everyone has access to the same market and same people today. What matters is who does it better.

Digital Solutions Are Available Specifically for Small Businesses

When it comes to software solutions for businesses, the focus is not on large corporations anymore. Today, all types of software solutions have their versions built specifically for small businesses. These digital solutions allow small businesses to cut down their costs and make use of the same technologies that large companies are using.

Take the example of CRMs. At one point, there was a notion that customer relationship management software are only for large businesses, but the things have changed quite a bit today. Web-based CRM are a revelation for small businesses. First, these CRMs provide great marketing, database, customer service and sales solutions to the businesses. Second, they are unbelievably affordable. If you own a small business, you don’t even have to worry about software integration, hardware compatibility, updates, and upgrades, etc. Keep in mind that with in-house solutions, these are the costs that make it difficult for small businesses to grow financially.

With web-based solutions designed for small businesses, you can now have access to a world-class CRM at a fractional monthly or yearly cost. Other affordable digital solutions available include invoicing software, bookkeeping software, payroll software, etc.

Customers Have the Power in Hands

The Internet has empowered customers like never before. You can’t say that just because a business is in multiple countries, it will be impressive enough for people to buy its products. The amazing thing about today’s economy is the power that customers have in their hands. Online reviewing websites, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. are among many platforms that allow customers to know more about businesses. In fact, even Google now puts business ratings and customer reviews right within its search results.

What this means is that when a customer searches for a business today, he/she is already able to see the reputation of the product they are going to buy. Furthermore, negative reviews from customers can greatly affect the sales of business, giving other businesses a chance to make their name.

Furthermore, it’s not just the quality of products that matters today. In the modern world, businesses are competing for better customer experience. If your business can give customers the experience they are looking for, your growth is inevitable despite the small size of your business.

Funding Is No Issue for Startups

It is always the starting days that matter the most for business. When you are a startup, you are looking for ways to fund your business so you can materialize your idea and polish your product/service according to the requirements of the customers. Finding a platform where you could connect with investors was a challenge in the past. This is not an issue anymore.

With like our websites, it is easier than ever for small businesses to get in touch with investors and get the right amount of investment that sets them on the path of growth. These are websites that act as a bridge between investors from all around the world and startups. With traditional banks and lenders, you are only limited to a local audience of investors. When you can’t find an investor in your local market, your hopes are almost dead.

With online funding websites, all you have to do is create a convincing pitch that explains the viability of your startup to the investors and its scope. Your pitch along with all the necessary information that you think investors should see goes on the website where it is visible to hundreds and thousands of investors. If you have done your homework and have a team of right professionals on board, getting the right investment is just a matter of hours or days.

Final Words

You can see that a small business can overcome almost all of their challenges much more efficiently today. Starting a business has become so easy that even students can be entrepreneurs today. They can lay the foundation for a business using just their pocket money. From connecting with the right investors to cutting down operational costs, all can be done from the comfort of a person’s home. The only thing that makes the difference today is if you are confident enough to take the first step.

Digital Menu Boards Can Boost Your QSR Business Too!

In the contemporary scene, technology is drastically and constantly reshaping the fast-casual and quick-service restaurant businesses. If restaurants wait for very long to change; there are chances that they may be left behind, both by customers and their competition. Oh yes, from online ordering to digital menu boards and targeted social media campaigns, everything has almost changed in this industry.

Digital Solution for QSR – Why are Digital Menu Boards Popular? Implementation of digital menu boards cuts on line time, increases productivity, and improves upon overall customer satisfaction. Listed below are some of the ways in which this proven digital solution for QSR can boost your business too.

1. Instant Updates:

When you decide upon updating your menu, you can digitally communicate the necessary modifications to the POP system. This makes it easy for you to change the price in the menu card or add an extra item. Updating your drive-through digitally operated menus is easy, convenient and simple. By making the menu cards automatic, digital and electronic, you can streamline the process well, thereby resulting in less customer frustration -especially if the items or pricing are mix-matched.

2. Finance Ability:

It might be difficult for you to invest in your QSR business and expensive equipments upfront. However, there are many finance companies that allow you to lease the digital menu board equipment and pay back the borrowed amount over a period of time. This way, you will be able to reap benefits before you actually pay for the same.

3. Customer Satisfaction:

Customers want menus that are laid out well, making it easy to search for the dishes that they are looking for. Implementing digital menu cards will help them get exactly what they want, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

4. Customizable and Updateable:

Digital menu boards are available with a cloud-based technology, allowing the operator to customize and update the board more than once. If you own a chain of restaurants, you can change multiple menu boards, all from one location. Or, you may even highlight, the item of the day, or showcase a new item, as and when required. Besides, if you find that the changes made are not showing adequate results, you can further update and customize them accordingly.

5. Up-sell Opportunities:

You may have noticed that a menu board design is related to the way in which customers order food. If you want customers to buy combos, high-profile items, or big ticket meals, you have to place them at the center of the board. With digital menu boards, you can place photos along with the written text to make the order more impressive!

It is time you adapted to this digital solution for your QSR business too. If you like making customers happy and want to increase your sales, this is the best change that you will make in taking your venture to the next levels of success.