Doug Wendt is a co-founder and senior partner with Wendt Partners.
1. Won't It Take Too Much Time to Do This?
The first myth many CEOs have about hiring a business growth consultant is that it will take enormous amounts of time to launch and manage the consulting engagement. The last thing a business owner or executive can afford to do is lose time to the logistics of an unexpectedly complex consulting process.
And yet, the reality is that a professional business growth consultant provides a clearly defined process and approach that is preconfigured to minimize time commitments on the part of the CEO and senior managers. Certainly, some time is required but in most cases what is more essential is access -- access to allow the consultant to gather information, collect data, review documents and interview people.
In short, the consultant will spend a little time with more people, rather than a lot of time with one or a few. In addition, a well-formulated consulting model will balance meetings and interviews with other forms of assessment including external reviews, internal audits and third-party research. The result is a comprehensive look at your business with a minimal demand on your time.
2. Why Hire an Outsider to Learn About My Own Business?
It's common for CEOs to feel that they are the only person who can truly understand their company -- especially if they are also the business owner or founder. Coming from that perspective, it can seem downright silly to pay a new person from outside the company to learn what you already know. Won't the consultant just spend 99% of the engagement getting up-to-speed? How can they possibly understand my business in the engagement timeframe and actually come to meaningful conclusions or recommendations to boot?
In reality, a business growth consultant is an expert specifically at examining your business from a fresh perspective and zeroing in quickly on issues that you may have missed or been unable to see fully. The consultant's job is not to become completely versed in every single aspect of the business. Rather, the consultant has learned through working with hundreds (if not thousands) of companies, how to rapidly examine, assess, analyze and benchmark to find the issues and opportunities that warrant new strategic focus.
3. They'll Tell Us What We Already Know, Won't They?This criticism is often rooted in previous experiences that CEOs may have had with prior consulting engagements. However, more often than not this misperception confuses strategic planning with strategic consulting. Many companies hire a professional facilitator to guide them through an annual strategic planning process. The role of the facilitator is just that -- to facilitate. It is not to research, assess, examine, analyze, benchmark, compare or plan.
Since so many businesses perform strategic planning as a purely internal exercise, it stands to reason that they are likely to leave the process feeling like they just discussed things they already knew. This is, of course, because they only talked with one another. Strategic planning that involves nothing more than a group of executives holding a day-long retreat together once a year is exactly the kind of strategic planning that doesn't work, since it is neither strategic nor really well-positioned to create an actionable plan.
Strategic consulting is completely different -- it may encompass facilitation of course, but that is just a small part. The role of the strategic business consultant is not limited to that, however. In fact, it may be the smallest aspect of their overall scope of work. When a consultant properly engages with your business, their entire focus is on learning things that others know which you don't -- and recommending what to do about them.
4. By the Time They're Done, Won't Their Findings Already Be Outdated?
Consulting must be time-consuming, right? Isn't the goal of most consultants to keep stretching the engagement timeframe to run up the billable hours clock? And when all is said and done, won't we just feel like it's time to start all over again?
The myth that consulting processes have to take enormous stretches of time is inaccurate. Using a team approach and using modern project management methods to keep the engagement tightly choreographed and moving on all tracks, a business growth consultant can provide preliminary recommendations in as little as 30-60 days on average. Many engagements continue beyond that scope to 90 days or more, but that is specifically to move into greater depth or more specific areas of focus. Time is not the issue with business consultants, and expert ones will work to help you find time to execute as well.
5. Doesn't Hiring a Business Growth Consultant Cost a Lot?
The field of business consulting sounds expensive. Thanks to global management consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, Accenture, Booz, Deloitte, PwC and Ernst & Young, many growth-stage and mid-market CEOs have come to believe that business consulting must be a luxury purchase, sequestered to the $150K-and-up category.
Global management consulting firms are certainly in that category (if not more often in the $1M-and-up segment), but business growth consulting is a specific sub-segment of the overall management consulting field, with most practitioners operating small or boutique firms. These firms, on average, are more likely to employ senior practitioners (those with 15 years of experience or more), whereas ironically many of the "Big Ten" firms often deploy freshly-minted MBAs on their client engagements.
Since business growth consultants are more senior experts leading smaller, more specialized practices, their focus is on helping CEOs to achieve direct results. Engagements often start in the range of $25,000 to $75,000 for an initial assessment centered around a specific focus area, with more extensive engagements coming in at $75,000 to $150,000 or more when applicable. In short, the cost difference is dramatic – 90% less expense than major firms, and twice the average career experience among the people on the engagement.
That's why a business growth consultant is an outstanding option for more and more B2B companies -- they provide the high-touch relationship of a small firm, mixed with more senior experience from the core team and a highly competitive price point and delivery timeframe.
Image Credit: IFP @ Flickr (Creative Commons)