Whether it be a small start-up or a multimillion-pound franchise, most businesses will require a degree of external support at some point in their venture.
Even Richard Branson, owner and founder of the Virgin group strongly believes that mentoring is “the missing link between a promising businessperson and successful businessperson”.
However, not just anybody can work alongside a business to ensure that they reach its full potential. A successful business consultant is someone with a wealthy understanding of what really makes a business tick: somebody with vast depths of experience in the business world and most importantly, somebody with the desire to ensure that a business prospers as an owner has envisioned.
Could you be a consultant?
What exactly is a business consultant? Broadly, a business consultant is a highly experienced professional employed by a company when needed to help them achieve their ambitions. A consultant’s services can be called upon for multiple reasons, depending on where a business currently finds itself and what it requires.
Consultants can support:
- Companies looking to expand
- Businesses looking to delve into new markets
- Organisations that want to bounce back after testing times and recover financially
Consultants often specialise in one specific area of a business, which will be explained soon…What does a business consultant do?
Do you need any qualifications to be a business consultant?
There isn’t a specific qualification to become a business consultant but this will depend on your specialism and the type of consultancy you will be providing.
At business doctors, we specifically support small to medium enterprises and the type of support we provide is very different. Whilst there are no professional qualifications required to become a Business Doctor having 20+ years of senior management experience is absolutely essential.
What does a business consultant do?
A business consultant’s role is to ultimately provide a company with expert analysis, advice, and the holy grail: a solution. The mentor will then work with the business to help implement these new changes into the company that will eventually lead to a business’s ambitions being met.
However, due to the variety of issues that companies face, consultants often specialise in one (or sometimes multiple) specific area/s of a business. This is traditionally their field of expertise from their time working within businesses prior to becoming a consultant.
Types of business consultants
There are three main types of business consulting:
- Business Coach – uses their own experience to support others
- Business Consultant – usually operates in larger corporations
- Business Mentor – helps individuals to develop and grow
Check out our post ‘Coach or consultant, what’s the difference anyway’ for a more detailed description.
Business Strategy & Management
A consultant that specialises in business strategy aids businesses in establishing their aims and from this, helps to develop strategic plans. These plans are created as detailed roadmaps and are implemented within a company with the aim of achieving its desired business goal. These goals usually include:
- Driving revenue
- Expanding markets
- Becoming a leader in their market
- Merging with other businesses
- Creating a more cost-effective business model
A business’s daily operations are what makes the company function. Consultants who are solely focused on business operations are hired to ensure that these processes are being done in the most effective way. An operations consultant can improve your business functions by analysing a company’s current operations model and look to:
- Reduce process costs whilst ensuring that the results are kept at a high standard
- Make these processes more cost-effective
- Look for new opportunities to make operations more efficient
- Reduce defects in operational functions
In 2021, a business can’t hope to reach the limits it’s capable of without a strong brand identity and marketing strategy. A marketing consultant can aid businesses in finding new customers, new markets, or re-positioning their brand. They can do this by working with a company to:
- Reimagine their social media strategy
- Research new marketing trends
- Develop a stronger brand identity
- Raise brand awareness
- Suggest ideas for new content
Knowing when to spend and when not to spend can be difficult for some businesses, especially if they’re an inexperienced start-up or a company feeling pressure to keep up with their competitors. A financial consultant, or advisor, can implement processes to save and make the most of a business’s expenditure – they can;
- Audit finances
- Assist in investment choices
- Discover the most efficient way for a company to handle their debts
- Provide support with financial planning
Technology has rapidly become an integral part of most business operations. New software, applications, and digital technology are shaping how companies are choosing to operate – COVID has only excelled the need for I.T consultants. These specialists assist businesses by:
- Analysing and organising company data
- Roadmaps for integrating new technology
- Help businesses to make new tech purchases
- Look for potential ways technology could help in achieving business goals
Procurement involves helping a company to achieve its targets by purchasing services and goods in a profitable and ethical way. Procurement consultants are hired by companies to assist in doing this. They are able to help by:
- Finding and building reliant supply chains
- Cost optimisation
- Reimagine current internal procurement operations
These roles are quite niche and are usually employed by companies who know exactly where their issues lie – If a business is hemorrhaging money through its daily operations, they know to turn specifically to an operations consultant.
Providing holistic business support
At Business Doctors, we take the view that in order to really help a business to grow, it is essential to look at the whole picture. This can be really beneficial when helping businesses that don’t really know where the issues lie.
We operate in the SME market and differentiate ourselves by offering hands-on support to our clients, hence our strapline “we don’t just coach, we get on the pitch”.
What skills does a good business consultant need?
Consultants are just like any other coach. They must be encouraging, engaging, organised, and most importantly – their client’s biggest supporter. It’s also vital that they carry the following skills:
Be an excellent communicator
A budding consultant could possess all the potential solutions to any problem a company may be facing. But this means very little if these ideas can’t be clearly conveyed to the people they’re supporting. Being a likeable people-person who’s always on hand to offer support and can bring an element of personality into any team goes a long way in this profession.
Be well organised
A huge part of a consultant’s job is to help reorganise a business so it can reach its set ambition. To do this, a successful mentor must be well organised themselves
Be able to give constructive criticism
It’s not always easy highlighting where a business is going wrong, however, this needs to be done to keep companies on the right track!
Be a mentor, not a commander
Businesses hire consultants to work with them, and advise and support them. Walking into a business telling them what to do doesn’t make for a good mentor!
A 2020 report by A 2020 report by The World Economic Forum highlights that the consulting profession is set to thrive due to the increased demands for skills such as analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility! All these skills contribute to a good consultant.
What experience does a good consultant need?
Experience is key when it comes to establishing credibility as a consultant. Spending multiple years working within businesses will always speak volumes about someone’s ability to produce effective business plans and strategy. How can a potential client ever deem somebody with next to no experience or credentials as a trustworthy mentor to support their venture? It simply won’t happen.
This is especially true with specialist consultants, i.e., marketing
If you’re considering joining a consultancy firm or franchise, each may have its own criteria when it comes to experience.
For example, some require little experience whereas to become a Business Doctor you must have at least 20 years experience in business.
Four consultancy options
There are multiple avenues to go down when considering your path to consultancy. Here are the main four:
Option 1: Join a consultancy firm
Becoming a consultant for an already established firm is a good place to start for those who may feel they need more experience in the field. Top consultancies in the enterprise sector for the UK:
- McKinsey & Company
These are only a top selection, and there may be smaller consultancies in your local area.
Positives of joining an established business:
- More job security
- Less of a risk than a start-up
- More client leads
- Set income
- Gain valuable experience and credentials
Points to consider:
- Less freedom due to company regulations
- Not a challenge for more seasoned businesspeople
- Set working hours
- Less of a choice in clientele
Option 2: Become a self-employed consultant
Some people desire to be free from the constraints of working for a firm and prefer to be their own boss. Becoming a self-employed mentor enables you to do this amongst other things:
- Set your own marketing budget
- Specialise in a more niche area of consultancy
- Adjust your own fees
- Work whenever is best for you!
However, there are some points for consideration:
- You will be solely responsible for you
- Have increased responsibilities
- Legalities must be fully researched
- Potentially unpredictable income
If you’re interested in becoming a self-employed consultant, this article by Simply Business offers a deep insight into the steps you’ll need to take…
Option 3: Start your own consultancy firm
Just like setting up as a self-employed consultant, you could even start your own firm. The positives of running your own consultancy business are similar:
- You can set your own costs
- Manage your own budget
- Gain more revenue
- Broaden your portfolio
However, there are some risks to consider:
- Bigger financial risk
- Work premises costs
- Marketing costs – establishing a new brand is expensive!
- Credibility – it may take time to gain recognition as a trusted company
- Employee costs
- HR investment
If you would like more guidance on how to start your own business and the legalities that are needed, take a look at the following article How to Start a Consulting Business in the UK
Option 4: Join a franchise
Investing in a consultancy franchise ultimately merges the benefits of self-employment with an already established business model and a recognisable brand identity. In terms of marketing, you simply can’t put a price on branding as it takes many years to establish a renowned and trusted presence in the market!
Business Doctor franchise
The Business Doctors franchise model allows its franchisees to deliver effective strategic plans to their clients, improve their organisational efficiency, involve their staff in organisational change, and master their supply chain.
The training provided teaches potential franchisees how to:
- Find clients
- Deliver strategy days and health checks
- Build up a portfolio
- Integrate new strategy software into businesses
By joining an established network of consultants, you receive both onboarding and ongoing support throughout your venture. This is provided by our Training and Support manager and the rest of the network.
The Business Doctors “business in a box” has a vast record of success and can be read about in more depth here:
Funding your new venture
The possibility of franchising may sound extremely appealing to you; running your own business without the hassle of building a brand identity is tempting. However, you may have some questions regarding financing a franchise.
Check out our blog – How to Fund Your Franchise, for further information!
Consulting is an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable profession for those who would like to be a part of a newly flourishing business. As well as the financial incentives, supporting those companies in need provides plenty of intrinsic rewards that money can’t buy.