Should I hire a business consultant? Large companies have the advantage of a large revenue stream and have a much larger corporate structure. It gives them focus and direction while keeping seven figure construction projects running like a well-oiled machine across the country. They likely have one or more business operations managers on staff to tackle their strategic alignment.
Smaller companies working in the local residential and light commercial market are in a different boat. Pulling someone into the office with a starting salary somewhere in the $50,000 – $75,000 range really isn’t in the budget in many cases. But when you’re pulling your hair out as your business grows beyond what you can manage, you need to find some help.
When you have more work than workers, the solution seems easy: hire more labor. Well, that’s actually harder than it sounds these days with the labor shortage, but I digress. Managing your growth effectively takes more than your niece’s boyfriend’s thoughts on how his dad ran his plumbing business. While there might be some nuggets of wisdom in there, you’re looking for sustainable growth specific to your part of the industry. That’s where hiring a business consultant comes into play.
I got in touch with Venture Further Consulting, Inc., a local consulting company that works with construction company owners, among other professions, to answer a few questions.
What Should I Expect From a Business Consultant?
A good business consultant will start by getting a broad picture of your specific business. This will include how your business currently operates, who the key players are that make the wheels turn, what gaps there currently are, and where you want your business to go.
Once your consultant understands the big picture, they’ll start working with you on what fundamental changes need to take place now so that the foundation is in place for your growth. Then you’ll start working on the growth side.
Fair warning – a good business consultant is going to expose weaknesses in your current structure. As business owners, we often have an emotional attachment and don’t like people calling our babies “ugly.” Just keep in mind that a consultant who isn’t willing to drag weaknesses or gaps into the light is going to build your growth on a crumbling foundation that might not be able to support it.
When Should I Hire a Business Consultant?
Different businesses have different goals and needs. A construction company at any stage of its life can benefit from a good consultant. Keep in mind consultants have a focus as well. For example, Venture Further Consulting focuses on companies that are established and profitable that are looking to manage sustainable growth.
Other firms focus on getting a struggling company to the point where they’re profitable, while still others may have a focus on helping a local company move into a regional market. Then there are the major consulting firms out there that help medium and large corporations.
The answer to the question really boils down to your comfort level and what you’re trying to accomplish. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you’re having to do to run the business or you’re getting to a level where managing the growth is moving outside your comfort zone, it’s time to consider what a business consultant can do for you. Even if you don’t end up taking their advice, sometimes just having another qualified perspective can help you see things you were too close or too busy to notice before.
How Much Should I Expect to Pay a Business Consultant?
A consulting firm offers professional services similar to your accountant and attorney. Depending on what area you’re in and the size of the firm you’re working with, plan on spending $150 – $300 an hour for their services.
That sounds like a lot, but you’re paying for their expertise. The good ones are going to work closely with you so they’re in tune with your business and get you to your goals efficiently.
Keep in mind that they’re working with you, not for you. You and your current staff will be providing a lot of the information and background your consultant needs to help develop the strategy. So while there might be 100 hours of work going into your alignment, many of those hours are actually coming from your end. That being said, be prepared to invest some additional time in your business on the front end if you’re bringing a consultant onboard.
How Do I Choose a Business Consultant?
There’s some legwork involved in choosing the right business consultant for your construction or trade company. Asking around is always a good place to start. Word of mouth advertising works just as well for a consultant as it does your business. There’s nothing like a testimony from someone outside a company to give you the confidence to call them – or not.
Ask some important questions. Do they work with other construction or trade businesses? At what stage of growth are most of their clients in? What’s their typical approach with new clients? What are their expectations of you? Do they have clients that are willing to talk to you about their experience with the consultant/firm?
A lot comes down to personality since you’ll likely be spending a good amount of time working together. Are you able to converse easily with the consultant? Do you want someone who will come in and basically just take charge? Would you prefer to maintain the reigns and weigh recommendations yourself? Do you feel comfortable with their proposed approach?
Check Online Reviews with Discernment
Be cautious of online reviews and read them with discernment. Most people that write them are either very happy or very upset with their experience, and many of them are not objective in their ratings on either side.
As you look through, pay attention to patterns that pop up, like “ABC Consulting takes forever to return my calls” or “XYZ Consulting doesn’t seem to have the same goals for my business that I do.” There’s a difference between one or two comments like that and a pattern of them. There’s also a difference between a two-sentence “review” and someone that takes the time to go into more detail.
While you can glean some information online, those face-to-face conversations and phone calls directly to people are going to be a more solid approach when it comes to working with a local consultant.
Are you currently working with a business consultant to grow your own construction or trade company? Tell us about your experience in the comments below and feel free to give them a shout out if you love the work they do for you!