Free Business Consultancy
A business consultancy provides an objective service to clients, assessing their businesses' performance and needs, and offering solutions to problems and challenges that the client has encountered. Consultants may specialize in particular areas or offer a general management support service. The consultancy works with the client, typically over an agreed fixed period, and undertakes a thorough investigation of the client's business in order to present solutions to a particular problem, or to manage a specific project through to completion. Consultants can be employed for a single one-off period, on an ad hoc basis, or on long-term contracts.
Management consultancy is an established and growing area. Consultants cover a number of business spheres including: outsourcing;
- corporate strategy and development;
- financial and administrative systems;
- project management;
- production and services management;
- human resources management;
- market research;
- corporate communications; and
- economic and environmental studies.
The sectors most in demand currently are IT and outsourcing, and, although a return to more traditional strategic topics is being detected, e-business consultancy is the fastest growing specialist area within the sector.
You must have good interpersonal skills in order to communicate effectively with your clients, and win repeat business. Consultancy is a highly competitive sector, often labelled as 'cut-throat' in terms of vying for lucrative contracts. Sufficient energy and enthusiasm to provide a flawless and dedicated service to your clients is therefore vital. The ability to conduct effective meetings and deliver confident presentations will also be useful, and you should also be comfortable speaking to clients on a one-to-one basis.
Good written English skills are important, as you will regularly be expected to produce reports and written reviews on behalf of your clients. You should also be perceptive and intuitive, with a sound understanding of business and management principles, as it will be necessary to form an accurate assessment of the ethos and culture of your clients' businesses, in order to provide them with the best possible advice.
Excellent organizational and time-management skills are vital in order to manage your workload and treat each of your clients with the same level of attentiveness. You may juggle a number of short, intensive assignments with many different clients at any one time, and will need to remain calm under pressure, managing your time diligently and conscientiously. An aptitude for dealing with a heavy workload and tight deadlines will be beneficial.
Although it is possible to specialize in a particular area of management consultancy, such as IT, many consultants are able to apply their knowledge and experience to a broad range of projects and problems. You should have an enquiring mind and an aptitude for thinking laterally as well as logically.
Additionally, many management consultancies have previously been managers in their own right, either working independently or as part of a larger firm. You must have built up sufficient business experience and expertise before you can consider competing in the intensely competitive consultancy market. You should also bear in mind that your work may necessitate frequent travel, both locally and internationally.
There are several major trends that have affected all businesses and the business environment itself. In working with clients you shouldask them to address the changes in their market by identifying three main issues:
- Technological Change
- Globalisation of Markets
- Demographic & Cultural change & major changes in Buyer Behaviour.
These issues have great significance in determining the kinds of problems and the range of services that clients are looking for. It is therefore important you apply the same analysis to your own business and market. Over the last ten years the rate of adoption of tecnhology has grown exponentially, and there are a large number of generic applications for small to medium sized businesses. Many businesses have invested heavily in custom-built systems, however there is strong demand for us to integrate our solutions and help 'upgrade' their legacy systems.
Increasingly sophisticated software programs like MYOB Accounting offer businesses a range of D.I.Y functions, which previously might have been outsourced. At the same time much of the technical information you provided clients in the past is now available over the Internet. Indeed there are now consulting and advisory services available over the net. Also with the improvement of video conferencing it is possible in the foreseeable future for services to be delivered using this technology.
It is imperative to identify practical technological tools and include them in our range of services. Our ability and know how to provide our clients support in gaining the full benefit from these products is a growing need in all businesses. However we believe that the importance of face-to-face contact is essential for forming the deep rapport necessary for addressing most of the relational issues in the business.
Many major macro-economic forces continue to change the basic business environment. Many large corporations have re-engineered their operations and outsourced many of the non-core support functions of their operations. This together with serial redundancies of middle managers and technical staff has contributed to continued growth in small business sector. Many business-to-business service providers are run by managers made redundant from larger organizations, which often contract their services back to their former employers (at commercially suicidal rates). These businesses often have a very strong management and operational focus but lack a grasp of the marketing and commercial realities of small business.
These businesses represent a growing but challenging new market.
Similarly the continuing 'commercialisation' of the public sector at Federal, State and Municipal level also contributes to the increasing number of small business start-ups. We have been successful in tendering to provide a mentoring program to officers in the recently formed CPD, a Public sector Service Bureau that has recently been 'commercialised'. This represents another relatively new market segment with great potential.
We see more successful businesses being established by women and consultancies have failed to change in the way our businesses services are sold. We believe that we may be missing out on a very significant part of this market simply because women establish separate business networks to men and deal primarily with other women. This situation could be remedied by the appointment of a woman to join the business as a senior consultant.
The rise in the number of franchise operations represents a significant challenge to most small businesses. Here too, we see evidence of similar forces affecting our own business. Several franchise operations are selling a business opportunity that in turn offers a comprehensive business development program to small to medium sized businesses.
This raises the issue of another major trend affecting the market. Increasingly, accounting practices are diversifying away from their reliance on compliance-based work for business clients. New technology (computer programs) that allows businesses to prepare their own financial statements and documents are reducing the reliance of businesses on their accountant. There is also the likelihood of tax reform in the near future that will reduce the complexity of personal tax returns. This will lead to more and more accounting professionals looking to extend the range of services they offer their clients. These trends are expected to continue over the next few years.
Professional consulting has become one of the fastest-growing segments of our society. What do consultants do? They provide information and advice in exchange for a fee.
They can be found under a variety of names:
- consulting engineer.
Almost everyone within a society uses their services in one way or another.
What each of these consultants has in common is the need to identify and find clients, and to package their own unique know-how in a fashion that will appeal to others and be useful and meaningful. They find that marketing themselves is quite different than marketing a product that people can put their hands on. People still like to visually see what they are putting their money out for.
Many consultants know they could provide their service ever so easily from a private office in their home. They don’t need large areas to warehouse inventory, or to staff many employees. However, their clients need to see and feel an atmosphere that will justify spending money on. Hence consultants often can be found in luxury office buildings.
The service that a consultant renders is often difficult to describe. Some clients only use the services because forced to by law (such as needing an attorney). Some clients are encouraged by family members or friends to seek the services of a psychologist. Unless one is financially well off, there can be strong resentment in paying a consultant for advice. Clients need to feel they are receiving value in return – and to feel respect and admiration for the one who is doing the consulting.
Many consultants spend their working hours in large companies training and advising sales staff or increasing the morale of the employees. Proving that one’s services can provide large-scale differences in a large segment of a huge company requires positive feedback from prior clients and also strong marketing skills. Acquiring these marketing skills and putting them into practice consumes a large part of a consultant’s time.
Marketing requires planting many ‘seeds’ of what you have to offer. These seeds need to be spread as far and wide as possible in the areas where potential clients might see them. And, as we all know, not all seeds germinate and sprout. One of the safest ways for a consultant to successfully create a large marketing program is to apply the old standard rule of 80 – 20. Eighty percent of their income will come from 20 percent of their clients or leads (seeds).
By carefully analyzing which potential clients are going to be the most irritating and troublesome, and which will be a great joy to work with, consultants are usually able to eliminate eighty percent of the seeds and focus on where they can truly serve and make the best use of their time. This is how a consultant acts as his own consultant!
Using a Consultant
It is almost certain that, if not already, there will be times when you wish you could use some assistance and advice during the running of your business. Even though some of us may be modest and prefer to deal with the issue ourselves, the extra help would be extremely welcome.
Times are changing fast in the business environment: new technology, new markets, politics and environmental issues all contributing. For your business to survive and compete, now and in the future, you need to deal with these changes almost instantly and certainly effectively.
Up to now, you and your workforce may have coped with the pressure of change, but what about the future?
There are always new and better ways of dealing with change which may be out of reach or limited by your own ability. This is when you will realize that professional assistance with the extra knowledge and capability of pushing your business forward is needed. 'Professional' is the accepted term, however, 'knowledge' is the real goal.
Although you will will learn in more detail the role of a Consultant, they work alongside the manager (this may be you) to analyze and deal with those problems (both positive and negative issues) that are troubling them. In time, the knowledge of the Consultant will be absorbed by your workforce which will be an added advantage for dealing with future problem solving.
Below are the most common reasons why businesses seek a consultant:
- The need for specialist and technical advice for a specific problem.
- To get a task done that requires skills/knowledge that currently aren't held by anyone in the business.
- To help make changes and development within the business that requires an independent view and knowledge of how it can be done.
- The previous attempt at solving an issue wasn't successful.
- To do work that no one else has the time to do.
- A potential funder of the business has asked for extra expertise to be brought in to have confidence that it will be a good investment.
- To provide training.
- To act as a temporary Director or Executive
The Benefits of Using a Consultant
There are many benefits that you will get out of using a consultant and these may be determined more specifically by the reason you have used them. Below are the more popular benefits that businesses have got from using a consultant:
- Business plans have more direction
- Introduction of new skills/expertise in the workplace
- Targets and objectives are more clear and approachable
- Loose ends of uncompleted jobs have been tied
- Staff gain better powers for problem solving
- Management team have better guidance at tackling problems
A Great Consultancy Business does not just happen.
It is planned that way.
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