As a small business owner, you are paying big bucks for a skilled consultant to help resolve a pressing issue. What should you expect from your business consultant? This article will list why most business owners or managers hire a consultant. This article will also describe four key areas of knowledge a highly skilled consultant should possess in order to provide performance consulting.
The reason most businesses hire a consultant is generally because they need someone who has the technical skills, the knowledge and the experience needed to perform a required function. Most business owners or managers are juggling a lot of balls in the air during day to day operations. They do not have the time or the resources to stop everything and focus on the tasks required to resolve some issue or develop some new program or process. Another reason is that some issues, such as conflict resolution, strategic planning, or establishing a more visible brand may require skill-sets that are not currently available within the organization. In any case consultants provide a valued service by focusing on the needs of the organization through their knowledge, education and experience.
There are four key areas required by a performance oriented consultant:
1. People Skills
2. Content Knowledge
3. Organizational Knowledge
4. Consulting Skills
A competent consultant takes the initiative to seek out the stakeholders who will provide invaluable insight into the organization, its operations and it processes. Stakeholders include everyone who has a stake in the business, such as top management, middle managers and supervisors, and workers. Stakeholders may also include all those external players such as supplies, distributors, outside sales, and even customers. A good consultant will have the people skills to forge relationships at each level of the organization and create a working network of key people. It is though these people, the consultant will gain insight and discover the inter-workings of the organization.
A competent consultant will have the content knowledge necessary to bring in-depth understanding to the project. This does not necessarily mean that the consultant has to be an expert in the same field as the business. For example, while working with a winery, an organizational development consultant does not have to be a wine expert. The winery’s staff members are the real wine experts. The organizational development consultant is an expert in organizational development and combined with the winery staff, they will form a sort of team of experts.
Organizational knowledge is another key area. A consultant must understand how the business or organization is put together. A good consultant will seek the connections between various operational components, the people working in those areas and the various stakeholders that influence or rely on each area. One of the first things a manager can do is to check on the consultant’s background and experience. Who has he or she worked with in your industry? Does the consultant provide a list of references? Another way to check on a consultant’s organizational knowledge is to check out the professional organizations the consultant belongs. Ask about the consultant’s professional development. A good consultant should belong to key organizations, read professional journals, and attend appropriate conferences and workshops to keep up with new innovations.
The last important area for a competent consultant must include their consulting skills. The practice of consulting is a synergistic process between the consultant and the stakeholders of the organization. These skills should include the ability to perform an in-depth assessment of the situation. This is a hands-on top down process for collecting data. Once the assessment has been performed, a proposal is written explaining the situation as it appears, the steps the consultant will take to perform the consulting function, a time frame, the fee schedule and method of payment, and the performance outcomes or deliverables. A good proposal will be a sort of checklist of how things will be done and what is expected at the end. A good consultant will provide a professional looking document in the form of a contract, which when signed will be the agreements on how and when work will begin.
A competent consultant will be one that is considered a performance consultant. You should expect a lot from your consultant, especially when it comes to their people skills, their content knowledge, their organizational knowledge and their consulting skills. It takes the whole package of skills and knowledge, backed by education and experience, to provide your organization the very best results.