Why companies hire management consultants in 2017

Recent developments in the consulting industry show an evident transition from traditional consulting, primarily designed to help organisations improve through problem identification, action planning and advice to a more hands-on approach, where management consultants are multi-skilled doers and are seen as an integral part of the business.

As this transition takes place, the business services offered by consulting firms are also re-evaluated to reflect the clients’ needs and wants. Small businesses in  particular can only benefit from this, as access to expertise, specialised skills and business support becomes more available and affordable.

There are obvious reasons why companies have and continue to use management consultants. These include the unbiased and objective perspective they bring, the invaluable expertise and industry insight or employee training and development purposes. However, lately, a few traits businesses look for in a consultant have become more and more important.

In our vision, this is what a management consultant should be for you and your business:

1. The one contact point for all your business needs

Business owners, especially when starting up, attempt to do everything themselves, from business plan, operational practices, marketing strategy,  to recruitment, business development and sales.

Anyone who juggles between all these is admirable but at the same time it is not realistic for one single individual to successfully achieve objectives throughout all various aspects of the business. Thus, business owners end up wasting a lot of time working out what running a business fully entails, from legal implications to day to day operations, instead of focusing on their vision for the business.

2. Available when needed

A business professional will not allocate a day a month of their schedule for your business. It’s impractical, non-committal and frankly, once they’re gone, you’re probably still left doing all the work. Instead, they are within reach whenever there is a need for them. Whether you need 5 minutes of their time or need them to help you land you that big contract you want.

3. Trustworthy

Being able to share details of your business and your vision with your consultant is not something to be taken for granted. It requires you building a relationship with them, where compatibility and trust play a major role. If they’re missing, you will not get the best results out of the collaboration.

4. Cost effective and practical

More often than not, to remove an obstacle that your business has come across, you need to rethink, reorganise or increase your resources to allow for a positive change. In such cases, it almost feels very easy for someone outside of your organisation to offer solutions to your problems without fully analysing what you would potentially be sacrificing to implement them. There is indeed a myth that engaging professionals to help with the workload is expensive and pointless, however when you collaborate with a company whose vision is to be a partner for your business, it is your business that becomes the priority.

5. Willing and able to introduce you to new opportunities

A good consultant has a broad network of contacts and knowledge that translates across a range of industries. They are able to open doors for you and introduce you to opportunities which would otherwise remain unexplored.

6. Able to supplement your workforce

Start-ups and small businesses generally work on very limited budgets, which leaves little financial room for additional resources, like hiring more permanent staff. When your business needs short-term cover for different positions, your management consultant should be able to either fill in the role or at least point you in the right direction.

7. Committed to understanding your business and passionate about its success

If you’re going to make the decision of engaging a consultant, you will want to work with someone who knows where your business should be heading, knows how to get it there and is determined to do so.

If you’re flirting with the idea of getting some extra help for your business, make sure you do your due diligence and choose the right consultant.

Have a chat with us and see if we’re a match. 

 

6 public speaking tips that might make it less stressful

Some people have an almost innate talent for addressing audiences but for most, speaking in front of a crowd is a daunting and nerve-racking experience. Should you find yourself in the latter category, be assured that there are things you can do to help you make the best of public speaking.

Here are a few practices that if done properly, can make the difference between a stressful and a memorable experience.

Know your stuff. We can already assume that since you have been asked to speak in front of an audience, you are considered an expert in the subject or at least more knowledgeable than everyone else. However, when addressing a crowd, your nerves usually take over and when this happens, your brain becomes foggy, your memory is impaired and you find it more difficult to express your thoughts eloquently. A lot of the time though, confidence stems from knowledge. So, if you master the subject you are talking about, most of the fears associated with public speaking, like the fear of being nervous, or not finding your words, will diminish.

Be engaging and memorable. This one is easier said than done, especially if you dread addressing an audience. If you’re speaking at an event, there will most likely be several speakers presenting different subjects. Try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself: ‘how can I make sure that my speech will be remembered?’ Can I maybe integrate humour in your presentation? Can I tell my audience facts that will change their perspective on a topic? Should I use creative visuals and sounds? Can I give my audience materials to take with them?

Make eye contact. There are only a few things worse than listening to a speech where the speaker doesn’t take their eyes off their notes, the screen or looks at the ceiling. A good tip to avoid this is if you have a few familiar faces in the crowd, start with them and as your nerves pass, you can move on to other members of the audience.

Eliminate or prepare for factors that might make you anxious. A few suggestions would include: prepare your materials long in advance, make sure you know how to get to the venue and be there early, triple check your presentation, test all equipment in advance but always be prepared for technical failures, anticipate what questions you might get and think about your answers.

Don’t let personal issues affect you. Whether you’ve had a bad day or you’ve just been given some bad news, you need to put all that aside. Your audience will feel if you are distracted or not your best self.

Practise your speech. Even if you are an expert in your subject, if you are anxious about public speaking, improvising will almost never work. The best to do is practise. You can practise in front of the mirror or even better, in front of your family, friends, co-workers etc. Listen to their feedback and improve, whether it’s making sure your body language is adequate or that you speak loudly and clearly enough.

Lastly, try to enjoy. See it as it is, proof that you are successful and that you have the power to share your knowledge.

Top 10 business success advice quotes

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1. ‘To any entrepreneur: if you want to do it, do it now. If you don’t, you’re going to regret it.’- Catherine Cook

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2. ‘Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.’ Theodore Isaac Rubin

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3. ‘What helps people, helps business.’ Leo Burnett

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4. ‘Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.’ Drew Houston

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5. ‘To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.’ Sr. Thomas Watson

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6. ‘Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.’ Jim Rohn

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7. ‘It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.’ Tony Robbins

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8. ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.’ Warren Buffett

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9. ‘The successful man is the one who finds out what is the matter with his business before his competitors do.’ Roy L. Smith

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10. ‘The golden rule for every business man is this: Put yourself in your customer’s place’. Orison Swett Marden

4 sales objections you might hear from a prospective customer and how to handle them

Unless you happen to call at the right time and have the perfect product/service at the right price, it’s very rare that you’ll close the deal from the first interaction with the prospective buyer.

These are some of the responses you might get from a prospective buyer:

Cost: ‘The price is too high for me’ or ‘I don’t have any budget for this’.

This is a fairly common objection that most businesses have to deal with at some point. The best strategy for handling this type of objection is to justify the cost and paint the picture of how your service/product will bring value to the customers’ life/business, as well as, if this is the case, how it will actually save them money in the long run. What you might also want to emphasise is flexibility in payment terms or lack of contract commitment, if this applies to what you offer. The key is to move away from the financial aspect to the benefits of using your product/service.

If you still get the same answer after highlighting the benefits, you might want to find out whether there is a budget in place and work out whether you can present the customer with a cheaper alternative for the service or if you can authorise a discount.

Loyalty: ‘I already use Company X’

Probably the worst thing you can do in this situation is go on about how your competitor is rubbish. You don’t want your customer thinking that you really only care about closing a sale and not about their needs or wants. Instead, try asking questions. Ask them how they find what they get from Company X, how long they’ve been with them, what they like about them, what they dislike about them, etc. What this will do is open a conversation and give you the exact information you need to put you in a position to compete with Company X. If they do something good and you can do it better, surely the customer will want to at least hear from you.

Timing: ‘I’m really busy right now, call me another time’

What you shouldn’t do is think it’s an excuse to get rid of you. Although, granted, in most cases it can be. But the reality is that we’ve all been caught at really busy times and we genuinely don’t have the time to listen to any new information. What you should do is find out if there’s a better time or date to call, when the customer might have a bit more time but don’t forget to say why they should give you even 2 minutes of their time!

Request for information: ‘Can you just send me an email and I’ll get back to you?’

Again, a fairly common response and maybe not necessarily an objection. Don’t get discouraged though, a lot of people feel that a conversation over the phone, due to its nature, will force them to make a decision on the spot and most of us like to do their due diligence and make informed decisions. In cases like this, you should do what the client has requested but remember to follow up. Don’t wait for the customer to contact you. They might have questions or need that bit of a push to actually say yes but you’ll need to show you’re there for them. Do give them enough time before following up though.

When trying to sell a product/service, your role is to understand why the customer should buy from you (from an objective point of view), deal with their objections professionally and make the process of buying from you as straightforward as possible.

In some cases though, no will mean no, so you’ll need to be able to identify when to move on. Harassing your prospective customers is never the way to go.

5 advantages of having a business plan

“A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.” H. Stanely Judd

It gives you a better definition of your business.

You might start out with an idea and have a clear picture in your head of how you’d like this idea to translate into practice and into the real world. But it’s not until you go through the process of writing up your business plan that you get a good grasp of what your business will entail.  Don’t get this wrong, paper doesn’t always match reality either but it’s the fact that a business plan forces you to think of matters that you may had not considered before.

It points out the risks you might have to deal with.

Having to conduct research on the industry you’ll be operating in, entry barriers, competitors and customers usually leads to discovering what can go wrong. But that’s not a bad thing. Because if you know what to expect, you can plan on how to avoid risks or at least what to do when something goes wrong.

It helps if you want to get funding.

Investors need to see a business plan before deciding whether to invest or not. Good ideas are considered for funding only if they’re backed by a robust business plan, covering all main points.

It focuses your business.

Having a better understanding of the industry you’re operating in can clarify what your position in the market should be and what sets you apart from the competition. This in turn allows you to focus on your strengths and create a better product/service.

It keeps you on track and gives you the tools to monitor progress.

You will have to set targets, design strategies on how to achieve these targets and financially plan for the required actions. This process will come in handy when you assess your overall business operations, as it will clearly indicate whether you are achieving what you have set out to do or whether you need to review your strategy.

Writing a business plan isn’t always easy, because it most definitely require an objective perspective on your business idea, which is why a lot of businesses choose to engage professionals to help them with it.

Don’t do these if you’re a recruiter

Based on true stories.

Not everyone is the right person for sitting in the recruiter’s chair. It is an art in itself to be able to conduct an interview, select suitable candidates and do justice to the perks that the job has to offer.

These are some situations and attitudes collected over the years that should be avoided.

Asking a successful candidate to start straight away.

What this will do is convey an image of weakness and frankly, desperation. It will also create a false sense of superiority for the candidate, who will see himself/herself as so valuable that you couldn’t wait to hire them. In addition, it will confuse the candidate (is this company innovative and forward thinking enough to take this risk or did the previous employee simply storm out, left a mess and there is no contingency plan in place?)

Stopping an interview after introduction because you can tell straight away they’re not suitable for the role.

Each candidate should be given the courtesy of being able to present themselves properly and emphasise why they think they should get the job. You might not want to spend too much time on a candidate that is clearly not right but don’t get up half a second in and say ‘thank you for coming’.

Being too honest.

Don’t ask a candidate if they have questions and when they address them, say ‘that’s a stupid question’. As a recruiter or business owner, you are the image of the company. Avoid being too blunt or rude, even if you feel like it. Think about what the first thing is that candidates do after their interview: they call someone to tell them how it went. You don’t want them to say that they don’t care if they got the job or not, the company’s a bit of a joke anyway.

Advertising high wages and then negotiating a way lower offer, ‘because they’re lacking some skills’.

What the candidate thinks when you do this: ‘I’m grateful for the opportunity but I do have what’s needed, what’s she/he on about?’. And even if they do accept the lower offer, unless you have other company perks or a great organisational culture, it’s highly unlikely that they will stick around., because it’s not why they wanted to join in the first place.

In conclusion, if you really want to get recruitment right, try and put yourself in the candidate’s shoes and make sure that your processes bring results and are effective but also ethical and fair.

What you need to start a business

You need more than just an idea and a trigger to establish a successful business.

For the idea to be translated into reality with a chance of success you need to have the personal skills and personal character traits to run the business.

Crucially, you also need to find customers that want to buy your product or service.

If you are to prosper, you need to understand your competitors and the market place in which you are going to compete. You need to understand how you can attract customers at the expense of these competitors – your marketing strategies.

Finally you need to ensure that you have sufficient resources – and that usually means money.

Pulling these things together means research and that means you will probably have to acquire new skills. To evaluate whether your business idea has a chance of success means that you will have to plan how you might launch the business and how it might grow. Evaluating its potential for success means that you need first to prepare a business plan. Indeed, if you need start-up capital a business plan is essential.

Developing a business plan, as well as acquiring new skills for the purpose of conducting research can be time consuming and demotivating in most cases. Because, really, what you want to be doing is grow on your idea and introduce it to your world. This is what business professionals do best: they give you the time to focus on your idea and do the legwork for you. 

Adapted from Entrepreneurship and Small Business by Professor Paul Burns 

There is a small number of people who actually enjoy business networking. Most of us find it daunting and would rather skip it, if possible. The pressure of trying to build a connection with so many different individuals from so many different backgrounds, having to perfect your elevator pitch, trying to sell your business without coming across too salesy, it’s all a bit much.

And let’s face it, the whole purpose is to exchange contacts, who in turn will hopefully generate lucrative leads, so why does everyone make it sound so complicated?

There are generally four main types of people who attend networking events:

  1. The pros. These are the people who know the ins and outs of networking and work it well. They are generally the loudest and they interact the most. What they do well? They speak to everyone and make sure that everyone gets a piece of them (they are difficult to forget) but if they don’t see the value you or your assumed contacts can bring to their business, they move on. Cruel, huh? But this is what makes them in most cases more successful than others: their ability to filter their interactions and focus on the most profitable ones.
  2. The delegates. They don’t really want to be there but they’re happy to get out of the office and enjoy the freebies (yes, there are usually free drinks or even food). They will speak to a sufficient number of people and collect enough cards so that they can go to their boss the day after and show proof of their successful outing.
  3. The newbies. They are excited to be there and in most cases overdo it. They are likely to have just started their business or working as a freelancer and are usually encouraged to attend by one of the organisers, so they are sold this idealistic image of the benefits of networking. They will prepare thoroughly, wear their ‘Sunday best’ and will usually be lovely to talk to.
  4. The pushy. Quite self-explanatory but generally, these are the people everyone avoids one hour into the event. They are relentless when it comes to presenting their business, they pitch to everything that moves with little to no interest in creating a two-way conversation. You will often see a newbie falling into their trap and trying to catch anyone’s eye in the hope that they will come to their rescue.

The secret to successful networking is finding your own approach. Don’t be like everyone else. Relax. Be memorable. Be insightful. Getting to know people is fun! And not only that, but it also helps you reflect on your own business. Think about the feedback you get, the reactions to your pitch, analyse how people respond to your ideas and use this information to improve your business. It’s like having your own focus group (how good is that?).

There are a few types of events so try to experiment with each and see which ones suit you best, be it breakfast meetings, evening events or more casual gatherings.

A few good standard practices when it comes to networking:

  1. Listen to what your fellow networkers have to say, either in response to your business or about what they do. It will come in handy.
  2. Be prepared. Anticipate what type of people you might meet and have some materials ready, maybe not full brochures but definitely business cards at least.
  3. Most of these events are formal, so make sure you follow the dress code. Don’t overdo it though, it’s much more important to be comfortable.
  4. Next day, reach out to the people you met. Call, email, connect on LinkedIn or even arrange a meeting if you feel that you need their services asap or they need yours.
  5. Build meaningful relationships. Don’t just reach out. Don’t be another ‘Hi, we met at the event yesterday, buy from me and I’ll give you a discount’. Show them that you can bring value to their business and they to yours.

All in all, networking really isn’t that much of a chore and it’s better to do it than not do it. Whether something profitable comes out of it is an added bonus.