If you’re in charge of a business, whether as a founder or a CEO entering a business after a degree of development, then your job is primarily making decisions. You identify the challenges in front of you, and work out how to face them – and profit from them – with the resources you have on hand. Resources that might take the form of money, of hours of work from your employees, of accumulated reputation and brand power, or expertise. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of expertise as a resource to boost your success – having the right insights and training can turn a sheet of incomprehensible statistics into a vital injection of data for your next marketing push, or help you predict what your customers and competitors will do over the next five years, or help you keep your employees engaged and developing so they don’t go elsewhere.
Big businesses, at the national or international level, have the option of hiring in experts full time to guide their market research process, to plan their growth strategies and to run whole legal and HR departments keeping the company on safe rails internally and in its dealings with the outside world. Smaller businesses don’t have that luxury – they have to remain focussed on the task in hand rather than bloating payroll with experts they’ll use only rarely. Fortunately there is an alternative.
Consulting work has become more accessible and more widespread in recent years, meaning you can find consultants for every form of expertise and insight, in agencies tuned to every industry and level of business. They used to be a luxury for big businesses, but are now a useful resource that can give a startup an advantage that was previously the preserve of the big players.
Consultants can be expensive, and while using the right ones carefully can repay that expense in optimised processes and boosted revenue, you still need to consider carefully where to spend your consulting budget to get the best results.
The Best Consultants
There’s no one list of the best consultants to use – you need to look at the needs of your business and the strengths you already have. It’s important not to be seduced by a tempting sales pitch into replicating skills you already have. You need to understand and trust the talent you’ve hired before looking elsewhere.
For many brands, business strategy development firms will be a good investment – creating and reviewing strategy is by its nature an infrequent task, well outside the normal processes of your business. It makes little sense to hire the expertise into your business full time even as the business grows.
Other forms of consulting can give you a leg up into specialisms bigger business would hire for: marketing and market research can supercharge your ability to sell, microtargeting the customers who’ll convert and spending less to get you a much bigger return.