“Consultant” has long been a buzzword that isn’t very well understood. If you ask someone what consulting is, you can expect a lot of stammering. This means that now is the perfect time to learn what a consultant is and what they actually do so that you can nail these questions in the future or even hire one for yourself:
What Is a Consultant?
A consultant is a professional hired by an organization to provide guidance or expertise within a specific area of business. These professionals are considered experts in their fields and work with organizations to help them run more effectively and efficiently.
In most cases, consultants are brought in from outside the organization to act as independent contractors providing unbiased and straightforward advice and information.
What Does a Consultant Do?
But what do consultants actually do? The day-to-day life in the field of consulting varies depending on what type of consultant they are.
Consultants are expected to provide expert opinions, analysis, and recommendations to top leaders at organizations to effectively solve their problems based on their knowledge and experience in their respective fields.
Why Should You Hire a Consultant?
Now you’re probably wondering why you should hire a consultant. After all, you know everything about your business which must mean that you’re the best person to solve your problems…right?
Not necessarily. Companies may choose to hire an outside consultant for a number of reasons including professional services within a specialized field, the development of plans for future growth, or advise on best practices to meet your client’s business needs. From categories like the use of technology to data collection to operations management, there’s no end to the practical applications for consultancy.
Before you completely ditch the idea of using consulting services, here are some potential benefits to consider:
- Expertise: A consultant can provide you with the expert advice you otherwise wouldn’t get. Business owners are always tempted to be jacks of all trades and across-the-board experts, but with the help of consultants, you don’t have to be. Benefit from deeper levels of expertise from an experienced professional with years of experience.
- Objectivity: A consultant also provides you with objectivity since they’re usually an outsider. It always helps to have an objective third-party opinion when evaluating the direction and future of your business.
- Problem-solving: A consultant can also help you with solving specific problems within your business. They have the knowledge, analytic skills, and experience needed to help you effectively troubleshoot the issue and get things back on track.
- Change and innovation: A consultant can help drive much-needed change and innovation within a stagnant company. Their fresh ideas and experience can help take the company to the next level with new procedures, help remedy organizational problems, or guide your company through mergers and acquisitions.
- Teaching: A consultant can also be used to help teach your full-time employees skills in their area of expertise you need to ditch the consultants for good.
Common Types of Business Consultants
There are so many different types of consulting to meet all of your business needs from consultants in the medical sphere to financial advisory consultants. Here are some of the most common general categories and types of business consultants you may want to hire for your business:
1. Management Consultant
Management consultants help businesses improve performance to create more value for shareholders and owners. This is a very broad yet prestigious type of consulting reserved for the most experienced professionals.
Essentially, the role of consultant in management appears as problem-solvers for complex business and industry issues — dealing primarily with high-level leadership in the process.
2. Marketing Consultant
Marketing consultants help businesses improve their marketing strategy to boost brand awareness, build leads, and drive revenue.
A marketing consultant can help you determine your target audience and your brand message so that these components can be incorporated into an effective advertising campaign.
Marketing consultants like Greg Gillman can help you achieve an omnichannel marketing approach wherein you integrate all available channels to create an enhanced customer experience.
3. Financial Consultant
Financial consultants act as financial advisors and help businesses manage their finances. These consultants typically begin with a financial audit to get a good idea of the company’s current financial situation.
From there, they can identify potential problem areas and come up with ways to address these issues before they get worse. They also help businesses establish long-term financial goals and come up with road maps to help achieve them.
4. Strategy Consultant
Strategy consultants are similar to management consultants wherein they analyze complex situations to develop actionable plans that effectively address the situation at hand. These consultants are often concerned with the “bigger picture” surrounding the business and its future direction.
5. HR Consultant
Human resources (HR) consultants deal exclusively with human resource management, including things like recruitment, hiring, background checks, payroll administration, benefits administration, compensation planning, and legal compliance.
HR consultants can be categorized as either “generalists” that handle all of these tasks or “specialists” that are dedicated to a specific HR-related task.
6. IT Consultant
Information technology (IT) consultants deal with technology management, including things like computer repairs, network maintenance, and software installation.
IT consultants can be categorized as either project management consultants, maintenance and repair consultants, or security consultants that protect data and systems against cyberattacks.
How to Hire a Consultant?
As you can see, consultants and consulting firms can be hired to do just about anything. But how do you go about hiring one for your business? Here are the five steps you need to follow:
Step 1: Determine Your Consulting Needs
The first step to hiring a consultant involves determining your consultant needs. Do you actually need a consultant or can you handle things on your own?
Once you have determined you really do need a consultant, you need to think about what type of consultant you’re looking for, whether they’re focused on one of the above categories or a more specific field like healthcare, architecture, data analysis, manufacturing, or translations.
Step 2: Research Potential Consultants
From there, you need to research potential consultants. Ask colleagues for recommendations before looking online. Also, be sure to check the credentials of any potential candidates and ask for references to make sure that they’re worthwhile. If you’re looking for specific purposeful activities, ensure that each candidate can excel in satisfying your specific client needs.
Step 3: Meet With Potential Consultants
After you’ve narrowed down your list of potential consultants in a specific field, you need to meet with them — either in-person or virtually. Go in with a specific list of questions to ask them and vet them based on their answers.
You also want to hire someone that you have good chemistry with — so take that into consideration as well when you quiz potential candidates.
Step 4: Establish Expectations
Before moving forward, both parties need to establish their expectations. Make it clear what you expect of them as a consultant and ask what they expect from you in return. Take detailed notes during this process so that you can include these expectations within the final agreement.
Step 5: Come to a Final Agreement
The final step involves coming to a written agreement wherein both parties agree to a timeframe, schedule, salary or fee, and other important details. Now it’s time to get to work.
Wrap Up on Consulting
In a nutshell, consultants offer professional skills that can be extremely valuable for the largest finance businesses to the smallest subscription business looking to solve issues or otherwise expand their operations.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that you get out of consulting what you put into it. Whether you’re working with a consulting engineer for technical advice, looking for public-relations expertise, or hiring an external consultant for C-suite level executives, the more trust and time you invest into your consulting relationship, the better.
If you’re willing to take a hands-on approach with your consultants, you’re going to get better results. If you want the best results from a qualified and experienced marketing consultant, reach out to Greg Gillman to get the consulting ball rolling.