Turning Consultants Into Hidden Weapons
And Not Financial Sink Holes: for owner-managed businesses.
About the author
Francis J. Haines, Jr. is President of Janvier Associates, Inc., a
Concord-based consulting firm providing financial, bank credit, and operating
performance assistance to owner-managed businesses. Mr. Haines established
Janvier in 1990 after a 23-year career in commercial banking as senior
commercial loan administrator and bank president. Jay can be contacted at 603
223 0901 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is reasonably easy to know when to consult a lawyer or an accountant.
But knowing when to call a business consultant can be elusive. Most executives
know their business better than anyone else, so they might not recognize when
the use of outside expertise would be beneficial
Why Use a Business Consultant
A business consultant is a professional with a specialized expertise - and
one who brings an unbiased view to your business. As such, a consultant
provides specific talents that are not likely to already exist on your staff.
You pay a premium for these talents, but the long-term benefits far outweigh
the short-term expense.
When to Use a Business Consultant
From start-up to the day you sell your business or retire, the services of a
business consultant can be invaluable. In "getting started",
consultants can help you draft a business plan, write employee handbooks and
job descriptions, prepare marketing materials, set up your computer system, and
get you on-line. Later, you may use consultants for market research and
strategic planning, organizational structuring, performance analyses, executive
searches for key employees, and financial/tax advice for expanding, merging or
selling your business. By using outsourced expertise, you get what you need
without having to add costly full-time experts to your payroll. You know you
should bring in a consultant when your own ideas aren't being effectively
implemented, or don't bear the fruit you had expected.
Finding a Business Consultant That's Right For You
The best way to determine if a consultant is right for your needs is to seek
recommendations. Professional advisors and business peers are good sources of
information. Then, conduct a series of telephone interviews. Once you've found
a consultant - or better yet, a few - who seem to grasp your needs, set up a
meeting with each to describe your situation in more detail. This meeting
should be at no charge to you.
This meeting is important in helping you to get a feel for the personalities
involved and the working relationship you can expect. During the meeting, ask
for a detailed proposal to include a definition of the issue(s), the scope of
work to be provided and the expected results, how long it will take, fees and
payment schedule(s), and any other conditions. Also ask for references and then
How to Use Your Business Consultant
Like anything else, you have to work to get the best results. Don't bring
someone in and say "do your thing". Know the situation and what you
Before beginning, sign an "Engagement Agreement" that reflects the
consultant's proposal. By the way, it's not uncommon to pay half the fee up
front and half when the job is done, or to stagger payments over the course of
the project. Since consultants rely on referrals for their next job, they
should be happy to ensure your satisfaction before receiving their last
Finally, stay in touch during the life of the project. Through regularly
scheduled meetings, you can stay "on track" and make sure your
consultant is also "on track."
Used Properly, Consultants Become Your "Hidden Weapon"
With remarkable advances in technology, the marketplace is forever
reinventing itself and it's getting larger. Hiring consultants with the
expertise you need, when you need it, can give you a competitive edge that
might otherwise slip through your fingers. Using consultants during the
"start-up" phase of your business familiarizes you with the benefits
of outside experts. As a result, you're more likely to effectively use
consultants during subsequent business stages.
Tips To Remember:
Consultants are outsourced experts, available as needed Identify your
specific needs Work from a list of referred consultants Ask for a formal
proposal Sign an Engagement Agreement Fee payment(s) must be justified in value
of service Final payment only on satisfied results Consultants provide value in
all stages of the life of a business
Francis J. Haines/ Janvier Associates tel. 603 223 0901