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Business Consultants Compared – What Makes Firms Different?

When inviting a business consulting firm to get to know your business and its weaknesses, it is a delicate dance to find the best corporate qualifications, experience, and ability to navigate the inevitable invisible issues that will come up. It is also important to make sure your own corporate culture and on-going business do not get lost in the process.

In the marketplace of Business Management Consulting or Management Consulting, competitors generally fall into just a few categories:

-Sole proprietor consultants, who are generally niched and geographically based

-Larger consulting firms, who have multi-niched teams and the ability to reach out to other cities or regions

-Small consulting firms, regionally based and team oriented

Sole Proprietors: Personal Touch

Smaller and sole proprietor consultant competitors, like Jannelle Buzzell, Jim Grew, Will Moore, Mannus O’Donnell and others, get to know the client and their needs very personally. They start from exceptional business acumen, and make sure to create buy-in within the company. The client company is trusted to know their core business and its people very, very well. There is often not a pre-conceived corporate formula other than profitability, efficiency, and better managerial controls through feedback. To these folks, it is common to receive a fearful call where a business owner shares that they ‘aren’t even sure what the problem is or where it started’.

Large Consulting Firms: depth and breadth

Larger competitors, like Boly Welch Consulting, CBS Consulting, Georgia S. May, Point B and PeopleFirm, all offer fresh eyes, strong business acumen, and an understanding that all business evolution comes from the people within the firm. To make any consulting project stick, it has to come from within, which starts from leadership. Once leadership has aligned the goals and strategies, the consulting firm assists in rolling out change. This change management happens from setting measurable goals, checking in with ROI, and staying in regular touch with the feedback loop.

Small Consulting Firms: Personal touch and depth

What makes the smaller consultancy different is the unique blend of these styles. With a small firm, you are likely to meet the owner, but not work with them regularly. You will have a small, personal team, but enough distance to call their supervisor if necessary. A small firm has 8-30 employees, and is generally based in a single city office. Conversely, the consulting firm is big enough to have scheduling and launching flexibility more like a larger consultancy. Small consulting firms cannot do everything involved for a larger project, so they are forced to rely on (and train) the employee team. This strategy keeps the consulting team in alignment with owners, in order to organize which work is done by which team. Smaller consulting teams do not take over a floor of your building and set up shop. It is necessary to work along side the employee team constantly in order to on board change at a pace owners and employees can handle.

How Much Do They Cost?

When we compare business to business consulting, price is an unavoidable topic. If you don’t care how much the consulting firm costs, you are not in the market. Clients care, even if they aren’t sure they can afford it (or have plenty of money to afford it). Small firm prices lie in the middle, just as you might expect. Many sole proprietors charge a lower rate, especially if they aren’t busy. However, if they are busy, they simply cannot take the work, or quickly bump up to the rates of larger firms. Larger firms have additional overhead for travel, benched employees and significant benefit packages at all levels. These higher prices are significant and consistent. With a smaller firm, you are unlikely to receive enormous perks as a part of your purchase. They focus on the work done, and building the relationship on the job.

In general terms, a client can expect:

Team Size Typical Hourly Rate

Sole Proprietor 1 $40-$150

Small Firm 2-30 $75-300

Large Firm 30+ $200-750+

These rates are a generalized survey in Portland, OR, based on surveys of a small handful of varying small and medium businesses.

Conclusion

When you are considering outside consulting for your operations, spend some time considering the depth and breadth of the project, the budget you expect, and then consider requesting proposals or conversations from varying firms. Some projects are clearly one size or another, but medium scale projects that can take some time to evolve are a likely fit for a blended small consulting firm. If you go that route, you will save significant money and train your staff along the way.

Business Consulting Firms – Leveling the Playing Field for Small Businesses

Opening your own small business isn’t as easy as it was before. Big multinational companies and local industry leaders are going to be your competition. This is why business consulting firms exist — to help small business owners level the playing field. They will guide you through the entire process of starting your venture.

There are many reasons for hiring business consulting companies. Most small enterprise owners are first-time business people. They will greatly benefit from the help of these industry specialists. You can improve and alter your business practices upon their advice. Each consultant has years of experience in marketing and knows what it takes to compete with the so-called “big guns.”

Consultation agencies can help with all the paperwork you need for your venture. They are familiar with the registration procedure and may even offer to process papers on your behalf. These firms additionally assess your industry, determining the kind of equipment and manpower you will need. Your business will be up and running faster with their assistance because they can help you avoid unnecessary steps.

Business consulting firms continue to help you after successfully opening your business. They can streamline your business processes to make them more effective. Together you can devise methods to improve your current practices. Your consultants also help you develop marketing plans to attract more customers and generate more income. Some agencies also offer templates for different office documents. Providing templates for these basic documents helps you focus on more important matters.

Giving an honest assessment of your business is easier for business consulting companies. Years of experience helps these consultants determine which of your practices are effective and which ones need work. They also know your competition thoroughly. This lets them give better recommendations on improving your performance as an upcoming enterprise.

Different consultancy companies offer different kinds of support. You can get a consultant who will stay with your company throughout the opening and transition process. More and more firms provide online consultation services. This gives start-up companies access to a consultant regardless of location. You can ask questions and get support any time of the day with this online account. You can choose a sit-down session with a consultant if you feel confident about handling your own business. Just prepare a number of questions and these consultants will discuss solutions in detail.

Consult different firms to find the perfect fit for you. You need similar business ideals to work together well. Take time to ask about their business philosophies.

Inquire about their experience in handling a company such as yours as well. You may want to talk to some of their clients to find out more about their services. Ask whether your chosen firm helped these companies grow. Find out how they reached different milestones.

Starting your own business need not be difficult. It becomes easier when you do it with experienced consultants guiding you throughout the process. Get the help of business consulting firms today. You can compete with industry leaders successfully and become one yourself.

How to Make Small Business Consulting Profitable

For a beginning, let’s ask ourselves the question: Is small business consulting profitable? The answer would be a resounding “Yes,” from all corners of the world. So, why are you unable to make it work, and in the process help small consulting with your unique experience and approaches?

You are a business consultant, not the direct worker

The most common mix-up faced by small consultants is that rather than remaining as business advisors, they end up as direct service providers. They end up handling the major workload of the business process where they were expected only to provide advice, and the client ends up with a steep bill. In place of mutual satisfaction, you now have mutual dissatisfaction. The results are unwelcome on both sides – but they happen all too often, where in small business consulting, the consultant fails to maintain the position of a consultant.

There are three possible outcomes in such situations – the client pays up and remains upset with you, the client doesn’t pay your bills and you are upset with the client, or both parties reach an unhappy compromise.

After a few such mix-ups, you become convinced that there is no profitability in consulting. But you know, that’s not true. The reality is your approach needs to be transparent and needs to change case by case.

In certain cases, time-schedule, lack of resources on part of the client, or other exigencies may call for you to provide most of the work as a direct service provider. But in such cases, the client needs to understand from the very beginning that the instant situation needs a service provider with your experience, more than it needs power of consulting. The client needs to have a clear idea of the bills that may be chalked up if you were providing direct service, or the client is free to hire another direct service provider, to save the day. Even providing that little advice is sufficient for you to bill as a consultant, because the client was unable to recognize the situation. What you are doing is business consulting, and not creating a fallible situation.

Why small business consulting mix-ups happen with such regularity

The oldest and most traditional businesses in providing consulting have traditionally modeled themselves as consultant-cum-service providers, take for example, law firms, or Accountant firms. Each of these sectors are used to clients coming to them at the last moment or when the situation is precarious for them, and according to the laws of maximizing business opportunities, they have set up systems to provide service alternatives ready at hand. In fact, in many such traditional firms, service delivery starts first, and then it turns to consulting.

However, in the era of information technology, the number of alternatives available even to small one are hundred times more than the time when CPAs or law firms began establishing their business models. Consequently, with the availability of greater choice of service providers, and ability to compare between alternatives, the chances of client dissatisfaction multiply. This is why, in today’s consulting, it is sufficient to point out the necessity of direct service delivery to a client, without embroiling yourself, or pushing your own agenda of direct service.

In a globalized service providing market, you can never outbid the “I’m cheaper than you can ever be” brigade, and don’t even think of that. To make small business consulting profitable, stick to your guns and be a consultant primarily, and act as direct service provider only when the client asks you, and only when you can afford to do so at the client’s rates.