As a SME business owner, you’ll not be the first to assume that business consulting services are for large enterprises only. You will also not be the first to believe that there’s not much that business advisors can do for your SME, considering your limited budget and resources.
And that view needs to change.
In reality, business consulting can be the gamechanger for small and medium businesses. It is the secret, magical ingredient that your business needs for going to the next level. Consulting, done right, can enable your business to find new opportunities, identify challenges and roadblocks, and optimise your resources and finances for business improvement and growth.
In this article, we discuss how business consultants can help SMEs grow their business and drive success in a practical, sustainable and economical way.
- Bring objectivity and practical solutions to your business challenges
Business consultants are not your regular employees. They are external contributors, often freelance consultants who are hired to solve a specific challenge based on their expertise.
As such, they approach your business problem unbiased. They look at it with an external lens to identify the root challenges and provide a strategic solution to it. Your in-house team though more involved may not be able to approach the problem objectively, making external guidance a more suitable solution.
Let us understand this with an example:
Your business problem:
Time tracking and attendance mapping for remote workforce
How a business consultant will guide:
- Gather historical data on employee attendance, leaves, overtime, shift-work etc. over the last 6 months (approx.) across all departments
- Analyse the data and draw data-backed insights eg. which teams are irregular with attendance, which teams are overworking, which teams have higher absenteeism etc.
- Interact with senior management and employees to understand core problems, daily issues (especially when travelling) etc.
- Discuss with senior leaders and HR and call out what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to change
- Recommend feasible solutions, for instance, using a HRMS software for time-tracking, attendance and payroll, eg. greytHR, HROne
- Facilitate HR teams to drive the change process and train employees on its benefits
- Monitor progress and suggest further change if required
- Provide an economical solution to specific situations
It’s absolutely acceptable if you want to build an in-house strategic advisory team instead of going to a small business consultant. In theory, this may sound more economical. Let us debunk that:
- Consultants are independent business advisors who work on a project basis or as a retainer or on hourly/weekly/monthly basis making their services affordable for all
- As external consultants they do not enjoy the org-wide perks and benefits that employees get, eg. PF, incentives, bonus, reimbursements etc.
- They have been hired for a specific problem and are compensated accordingly, i.e. for long-term business consulting services, payment can be in phases to ensure deliverables are in time; for short term consulting, payment can be on set deliverables
As a MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) it is important for you to identify the right type of consulting services you require. Popular business consulting firms may prove expensive as they bring senior global experts to the table. Alternatively, online business consulting from reputed consultants on a weekly or monthly basis will prove economical and practical.
- Expert business consulting like no other
Your business advisor is an expert and comes with years of experience in specific fields (eg. marketing, sales, HR processes, supply chain, automation, compliance) and/or sectors (eg. construction, real estate, manufacturing, textile) or even general business consulting. They may have worked with large businesses only, or with a mix of large, medium and emerging businesses. What each of them brings to the table therefore is unique.
As a SME, your business challenge is unlikely to be one that they have not encountered earlier. They have the understanding and know-how required to approach it in a systematic way like no other.
For instance, if your business challenge is generating online leads for sales, a business consultant can advise you to:
- Try organic SEO for higher search engine ranking: This is a low-budget solution and may involve building a website with content optimised for search engines
- Try paid marketing for Facebook, Instagram and other relevant social media platforms: This will incur minimal cost but will take your business to a wider targeted audience pool
- Join a B2B platform for building new connections and networking: This will also provide an opportunity to create a digital profile, get business verified, add product/service details, send enquiries to other businesses and more
- Have a WhatsApp Business number to connect with customers easily: This is a fast, economical and effective way to message and connect with customers and can drive faster sales conversions
Business consulting in the new age
Professional business consultancy is not a new concept. There are established business consulting firms that have been aiding businesses in their growth journey for years.
And there are independent consultants and boutique business consultancies that specifically cater to the needs and requirements of the MSME and emerging business sector. For instance, a general business consultant with expertise in cross-functional roles might be able to provide better solutions for MSME growth; whereas a financial specialist may be more suitable for specific challenges related to GST, compliance, working capital management, cash flow etc.
Consider the following when hiring a business consultant for your MSME:
- Ask for recommendations from peers and associates
- Check reviews and recommendations, clients worked with and testimonials
- Visit a consultant marketplace to find relevant business consultants by sector, experience, specialisation, availability etc.
- Consider both offline and online business consulting to explore diverse options