South-Western - Management  
Getting the Most Out of a Consultant.
Topic Entrepreneurship
Key Words Consultants, Planning, Strategy
InfoTrac Reference A121447173
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News Story

Small business owners who are trying to grow their businesses can not be expected to know and do everything themselves. There can be a great advantage to calling in a consultant with the specific expertise needed to help a small business to thrive. Some of the things consultants can do for a business include:

  1. Educate and validate: use consultants to support a direction or project you are debating.
  2. Corroborate and accelerate: consultants can bring a sense of urgency to projects and help you to be competitive in a fast changing market.
  3. Facilitate: brainstorming sessions, focus groups, strategic planning meetings and management retreats can all be coordinated by consultants who are immune to the agendas and politics of the organization and can help to keep the focus on objectives.
  4. Negate: A consultant's objective perspective and experience can prevent costly mistakes that your organization may have been unknowingly about to make.
The expense of a consultant is no small undertaking and the following should be considered to get the most impact out of the relationship:

  1. Function: Be clear on what is needed from this outside expert, whether it is specific help with things like billing or staffing, or bigger picture things like exploring new ideas or projects or providing a perspective on parts of the business that are troubled and dying or growing and expanding.
  2. Fit: Because many consulting arrangements can require intense interaction, you should find someone who inspires trust and confidence and has the right chemistry to mesh with your organization.
  3. Freedom: The consultant should be trusted to work in an environment of full disclosure. In small businesses, this may mean sharing personal as well as business information to align goals properly.
  4. Final Outcomes: Decide what the end results should be and how the relationship will proceed. It is possible to use a consultant for a one-time assessment and recommendation or to have an ongoing advisory relationship with this person.

Questions
1.

What are some ways that a consultant can provide service to a small business?

2.

You are making the transition from an IT consultant for a large corporation to owning your own small business that provides in-home service to people who are experiencing troubles with their home PCs (like the "Geek Squad" in Chicago). Name three specific instances where your new business could benefit from the services of a consultant.

Source "Getting the Most Out of a Consultant," Home Care Magazine, Sept. 1, 2004, v27 i9
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