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Strategic Business Consulting: Tips for Start-Ups & SME’s

September 30, 2020 / Comments (0)

Strategic-Business-Consulting

The largest companies in the world invest heavily in developing and constantly refining their strategy…they have to because, in their hypercompetitive world, every little edge counts.

Customer growth, retention, and shareholder value in today’s world, is more dependent on having the right strategy than ever before.

Strategic business consulting, or boardroom consulting is a term that fits with these companies perfectly, and just take a look at some of the key companies that provide it:

McKinsey and Company

Boston Consulting

Accenture

The chances are that as a start-up or SME, you cannot afford the eye-watering fees that go hand-in-hand with hiring those companies and you probably would be small-fry on their list of clients!

But you still need to have the right strategy and especially in today’s economic climate and in the midst of a global pandemic, which looks like it will change the landscape of business and economics forever.

I know from personal experience, the value of strategy — I built my main business from a living room in South London, in the UK, and from a strategic point of view, it was backward!

I executed first and with very little strategy…but over the early years of business growth, I quickly realized that I was severely lacking in the strategic department and then invested heavily in the right people to help me.

I have hired individuals and companies over the years and I will say that it is essential to bring in fresh thinking to your organization and not to have people who will remain impartial, but challenge you to the max.

You do not want a team of “yes” people who will simply stroke your ego and tell you what you want to hear.

Related: “How I started my first business from a living room in London.”

Why you need to invest in strategic consulting

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I will go back to my story to tell you exactly why!

I was all about execution — I wanted to get out there and sell my services to generate revenue quickly and that meant doing what I do best…selling and marketing.

It worked well, but there was a price to pay down the line.

Taking my business from standing start with little capital and infrastructure to a profitable and going concern, was a task in itself…but in doing so, I had not built the systems ad procedures that I would need to take it to the next level.

I had done things on a “needed” basis — each time I encountered a problem, I rushed to find someone who could help me solve the problem, but I didn’t always conduct the right due-diligence.

And that is one of the key tasks that a consultant can do for you — conduct the necessary due diligence across the board of your business for everything that you do:

  • Reviewing/sanitizing your business plan
  • Obtaining the right finance
  • Buying products and services
  • Establishing the right technology infrastructure
  • Hiring people
  • Developing your sales and marketing plan
  • Credit management
  • Overall business risk management

And a whole lot more.

If I had taken the time to invest in this one aspect of my business a lot earlier than I did, I would have saved myself a small fortune and a load of time…you can make the money back, but good luck with reclaiming lost time!

So, I will say that having a fresh set of eyes and ears is invaluable, having someone to talk through your entire business from the plan to execution is invaluable…but having someone to conduct the right due-diligence is a necessity.

Don’t be “married ” to your own business…divorce is extremely expensive!

Business consulting online

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In today’s digital economy, the first place to search is online and you will find a ton of information related to business consulting, coaching, and other advisory services.

But you have to be aware of the plethora of online gurus, experts, and the like who offer fixed consulting programs for a fixed fee, with fixed appointment times, or a drip-feed of information to give you the 10X experience, etc.

I’ve got to admit that some of the advertisements are extremely tempting and the marketing is slick, to say the least, but you must resist being taken in at face value.

As a business coach, mentor, and consultant I cringe at some of the ads I see on social media and the promises they make to their “victims.”

I use the term “victims” because that is what the unlucky people end up becoming.

The world of business is dynamic and problems don’t fit into the schedule of your consultant…they are real-time and totally inconvenient.

I cannot stress this enough — make sure that any consultant you engage with understands the dynamics of your business and the importance of being able to solve a problem in real-time.

And that they are available to at least speak to you — I cannot stand people who cannot answer their phone or return a call or message.

Whoever I am working with, I always explain to them that my phone is always on and I will take calls from other clients…as I will always take their call if I am with someone else.

This is critical.

I tell people that I help them solve those tough and challenging problems that keep them awake at night and throughout my business and entrepreneurial career, the strategy issues did just that.

If you are going to work with an online strategic business consultant then make sure you have access to them by phone.

I love to research and it is a lot easier today than it’s ever been — you can take each business function such as sales and marketing, finance, technology, etc, and start to build a list of trusted online resources on the topics.

I did this the hard way and I used to spend Saturday afternoons in bookshops collecting as many books as I could on business, entrepreneurship, strategy, finance, sales, and anything that was wildly related.

This gave me a ton of reading material and the knowledge foundation I needed to be able to work with specialist consultants.

Too many entrepreneurs and businessmen are simply not commercially aware enough and that is a hindrance.

Working with a strategic consultant

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The first step to tackle here is to make sure you assess the consultant thoroughly before hiring them.

I will give you a recent example concerning me — I was approached by a guy who wanted my specific experience to help him devise the strategy for his new business.

I knew exactly what he needed and simply because I had started a company in the same field some years previously.

He listened intently to what I had to say, but it was clear we were both getting off on the wrong foot.

I offered a ton of free advice on the first phone call and he could have walked away from that call with everything he needed to know, but he decided to argue point by point with me on every suggestion that I made, which was his prerogative.

But why look for a consultant?

I explained to him that I didn’t think he needed me and then he talked about the fact that being in business can be lonely and it’s good to bounce ideas off someone…I explained that yes, I understand that, but if you are not prepared to listen to those ideas it is pointless.

Both of us realized that working together was impossible, even if I could provide the answers and help to grow his business.

I have my own beliefs, standards and operate with a total commitment as should you, so make sure you find someone who is similar to you — you may not get on, but you could just get what you need.

Here is another story:

I worked with and eventually hired an ex creative director from one of the worlds leading advertising agencies and initially, I hired him as a consultant to transform our marketing and get ahead of the competition.

He presented me with a new campaign strategy and a slightly updated logo, which I initially challenged, to which he responded:

“I will give you the campaign and logo you need…not what you want.”

This took me aback a bit and now my ego was about to kick in…I was tempted to throw him out of the room and reclaim my position as CEO of my thriving business — I was the expert and what did he know?

It would have been a huge mistake and one I thankfully didn’t make.

Instead, I took him to lunch and asked him to explain it to me in detail.

He explained that the whole campaign was strategic — it would involve taking a series of steps that would propel us ahead of the competition.

He had done his research and knew what was out there…he dug deep into my industry and then put his own expertise into it and his proposal to me was a combination of his expertise, industry understanding, and his entire life experiences.

He stood by his values and would not compromise.

Little did he know that he sowed a seed in my thinking during lunch and he would go on to become one of the key members of the leadership team that won us a global agreement with one of the worlds leading technology companies.

You need to work with people who understand your industry and business intimately, then they must be experts in their field and make themselves accessible to you.

Accept nothing less.

If you are a start-up who cannot afford to pay a consultant, then it is time to bring in some entrepreneurial thinking.

Find a consultant who is prepared to take the risk with you and offer an incentive.

This is something I always consider and providing I can see some mileage in the company and the individual is totally committed, then why not give it a shot?

If the consultant has faith in their ability and genuinely want you to succeed, then you are in with a chance, but make sure you come up with an incentive plan that is fair to you and the consultant in question. You do not want to hand over equity to someone who will do a job and then sit back and wait for the rewards, nor does a consultant want to put the company on the map with their hard-earned expertise to be discarded later.

Use common sense, fairness, and work out a deal!

Conclusion

Strategic business consulting is probably the most important component of business in today’s ultra-competitive world and it is not limited to the global corporations who can afford the fees of the major players in the industry.

Start-ups and SME’s need to focus more intently on strategy before execution…it will pay dividends later and if you cannot afford the expertise then try to work out a deal that will give the consultant an incentive to work with you for reduced fees or maybe no fees, but one that will reward them handsomely later…and you of course.

Today’s economy is more time-pressured and margin sensitive than ever before and companies need all of the help they can get — they need expert, on-demand advice.

Don’t immediately fall for the online programs that promise miracles in 3 months — any experienced businessman and entrepreneur will tell you it is nonsense, so make sure you check them out thoroughly.

Make sure that you are hiring the right consultant — check out their expertise, industry understanding, and most importantly their understanding of your business.

Make sure they are accessible and in line with the dynamics of your business.

I built my own business from scratch and over the years I have survived 3 recessions and now share my experiences with others to help and inspire their success.

I have used consultants extensively and believe that all businesses need every ounce of help that they can get.

Please share this information if you feel it is helpful and If you want to talk further on this subject then please get in touch with me:

neiljcfranklin@gmail.com

Neil Franklin

Neil Franklin-Entrepreneur

Last modified: September 30, 2020

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