Author: Ian Meharg | Reading Time: 5-6 minutes
Problem: You want to grow your business but find you lack the skills
There comes a time when small to medium businesses with high growth expectations discover they don’t have sufficient experience or expertise in their current team to take them to the next level. This is a common and completely understandable problem because running a business of 5 people with a turnover of £2m requires a different set of skills, knowledge and resources compared to a 50 person, £20m one. To get access to the expertise they need SMB owners often turn to consultants.
Oxford Review found that the 3 top reasons cited for bringing in consultants were:
- Providing information and expertise to the client
- Solving a client’s specific problem or problems
- Diagnosis of a problem (and redefinition of the problem)
Solution: Bring in some outside expertise
Businesses that hire external help are 25% more likely to achieve sustained high growth – BEIS UK SMB Survey
There is no question that finding the right consultant can literally transform your business, but a significant number of engagements still leave the customer unsatisfied. In fact only 33% of UK business owners surveyed by the University of Oxford believed they got value for money from their consulting engagement. Consultants cost a lot, their business model dictates this.
So before you sign up to any consulting engagement, and to make sure you are going with the best possible option for your business you should ask the consultants these questions. And as a comparison I have provided the response that Visible Pathway would give you too.
10 Questions to ask BEFORE you hire them.
1. Can I get a fixed price for the engagement?
Consultants typically provide an estimate of total cost but will charge a per day rate plus costs e.g travel, meals, accommodation, printing.
Visible Pathway prices are fixed, affordable and linked to the value realised from completing the project. Buy it once and it’s yours forever to use as many times as you want.
2. Is your fee linked to the value we get and the outcomes we achieve?
Consultants typically charge a fee for time, and you can expect to pay 1,000’s of pounds or dollars per day.
Visible Pathway’s price is a fraction of a consultant’s fee. The price is tied directly to the value you get from the Project you choose – there’s no hidden add-ons or additional costs.
3. How can you provide the best expertise and solutions to our problems in different areas?
Business problems come in all shapes and sizes and can affect all areas of such as sales, finance, IT, production, marketing, project management. Consultants are usually only experienced in one field or industry. You can go to a big firm with many experts but you will pay a significant premium to access their combined knowledge.
Visible Pathway expertise comes directly from specialist consultants in their field, all have world-class experience and knowledge in their respective disciplines and we work collaboratively with them to build our projects.
4. Can you deliver what you do remotely?
Consultants still prefer face to face because it’s what they know and only within normal business hours. Travel time is often an additional charge plus associated expenses.
Visible Pathway delivers everything remotely, so no consultant is required in the delivery.
5. How do I know there will not be any scope creep?
Consultant are incentivised to find more work from the same customer as that is so much easier than finding a new client, so scope creep is a very common practice.
Using Visible Pathway only you can decide if there is scope creep and then how you want to manage it. There is no additional cost from us. You prioritise the action list completing the lower priority actions later when it suits you.
6. Do I have to pay expenses on top of the daily rates?
Every consultant I know (and I was one too) will charge out of pocket expenses on top of their day rates. Some even charge their time when travelling. Over a long period this can become a significant amount for which there is no value gained.
Visible Pathway has no consultants so there are no out of pocket expenses like transport and accommodation. we don’t bill for time either.
7. Can you give us access to some of your content before we commit to buy?
The best you’re likely to get is a meeting or two while the consultant actually qualifies you in or out of their sweet spot. You’ll have to make the judgement based on whether their personality aligns to the team, their expertise with your problem and from viewing their LinkedIn profile. Maybe you can speak to a current customer. It’s highly unlikely you will see any useful documentation in advance of signing an agreement.
Visible Pathway offers a free trial period of all our projects so you can go through some of the actual content yourself to assess whether it is a good fit for what you need and will address the problem you want to fix.
8. Will you make the content available to us forever?
Consultants might give you a pdf of their slides but that is it. If you need to do the exercise again, you will pay again, their delivery model is not scalable
Visible Pathway projects are available to you forever, you pay once and then you can use as many times as you want.
9. How do you transfer the skills we need to continue to succeed?
Consultants rarely do true skills transfer. Unless it is a technical skill or system training. The high value skills stay with them since they are doing the bulk of the work and they own all the IP and documents. This presents a situation where your team does not really grow in terms of business experience. You might also find yourself going back to them at a later date for a new engagement.
Visible Pathway first delivers the business theory to your team who then put it to use in your business in virtual workshops. We use a ‘learn by doing’ approach that will upskill your team through them actually doing the project.
10. Will I understand my business better than I did before?
Consultants do not follow this principle. Their methods and diagnoses are usually opaque where they learn more about your business but you do not. It’s a self serving model.
Visible Pathway projects include self diagnostic tools and exercises designed so you first discover and then understand your business much better than you did before. You will not only better understand your business but also your team and their capabilities. This learning helps you know what you need to do next and how to go about it.
The future of consulting
The good news is that some business consultants are now inventing new ways to deliver their traditional consulting services. One small step for man. However, their business model remains based on money for time. This doesn’t scale in the sense that there’s no way they can handle more work without adding more resources. And the cost doesn’t make them attractive to a lot of businesses that would profit immensely from some outside help.
Your business is far more likely to succeed if you get outside support and advice such as consulting. But traditional consulting is often out of reach for SMB owners. Fortunately it’s also no longer the only way. More and more business models are popping up focused on disrupting the traditional fee for time approach. Amen to that.And Covid has forced through significant changes that will likely be with us forever.
For more information read this article titled Is Consulting Disrupting Itself?