biz ladies: hiring a business consultant


Today’s Biz Ladies post comes to us from Megan Auman, designer, maker, educator and previous Biz Ladies contributor (read her posts here). She is an entrepreneur who has built a multi-faceted business around her passion for great design and sustainable business, and her latest project includes a new group-coaching program, Wholesale Academy, which starts on September 12th. For this post, Megan discusses four reasons why hiring a business consultant could help in the overall process of setting up your new biz. Thanks, Megan, for this helpful advice! — Stephanie

*P.S.: One of our fantastic Biz Ladies experts, Amanda Aitken of Better Than Chocolate Web Design, is offering D*S readers a $100 discount on her new online course: The Girl’s Guide to Web Design. Her class was designed to help you ditch your fear of code, unleash your inner designer and get an awe-inspiring WordPress blog or site. If you’ve got an eye for design and an awesome idea for a blog/site, this is a great way to pick up the graphic/web/coding skills you need to turn your vision into reality. Just enter “DESIGNSPONGE” when you check out. Thanks, Amanda!

The full post continues after the jump . . .

When you’re starting a new business, the expenses can seem overwhelming. It can be tempting to try cutting as much from the budget as possible. But one thing you should consider ADDING to the budget is a business consultant.

Often thought of for the role they play in corporations, consultants are outside experts brought in for their insight, analysis or particular skill set. Some consultants specialize in a certain industry, whereas others may have expertise on a certain aspect of business (such as sales or branding).

Fortunately for us, the Internet has brought a new wave of consultants who not only cater to solopreneurs and emerging businesses, but also those with rates geared more toward indie businesses than mega-corporations.

Working with a business consultant can have a huge impact on your business. Here are four reasons you should consider hiring a consultant when you start your business:

1. Experience

When you’re starting a new business, what you don’t know can cost you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars while you try and figure out what works best for you. And while it’s easy to chalk up these financial faux pas as “learning experiences,” a consultant can help you avoid some of these mistakes in the first place.

When you work with a consultant, you get the value of their experience without the painful learning curve. Most consultants have either made, or seen someone else make, those major mistakes that can really hamper the growth of your business. Through the wisdom of experience, a consultant can help you avoid some of those costly mistakes.

When looking for a consultant, choose someone who has experience working in your industry. A good consultant will also tell you if your business is beyond the scope of their expertise and, ideally, recommend someone more suited to your business. When in doubt, send an email or request a preliminary consultation to ensure that you and the consultant are a good fit.

2. Perspective

Starting a business is like the early stages of dating someone. You have this idea that you’re obsessed with, and it can be difficult to see the potential flaws or pitfalls because you’re basking in the rosy glow of your potential new start up.

Which is why it’s important to get some outside perspective on your idea. This is where a consultant comes in.

A consultant’s job isn’t to crush your dream, but it is to help you look at your idea objectively. A consultant can take your idea and figure out if it has viable potential as a business. They can help you determine the best business models and markets to make your idea succeed.

Even if you’re past the idea stage, a consultant can still offer much-needed perspective on your business. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in the minutia of running our businesses that it’s impossible to see the big picture. As someone outside your business, a consultant can often help spot solutions that aren’t clear to you.

3. Resources

One of the biggest challenges for a new business owner can be sourcing. Whether it’s suppliers or manufacturers, a consultant can help you make the connections to run your business smoothly. Researching this type of information can be time consuming, and in some cases, difficult, and a consultant can save you hours of searching. A consultant can also help you even if you aren’t quite sure what you’re looking for. I often help clients who would like to get products manufactured but aren’t sure what types of manufacturers or processes they need.

A consultant can also help you make connections and recommendations, a must for any growing business. A consultant can give you referrals for web and graphic designers or recommendations for markets you could approach.

Consultants who specialize in a particular topic (such as social media) can also serve as resources themselves. Consultants with a wealth of knowledge can give you exactly the information you need, saving you from hours of research and reading.

4. Planning

Whether it’s a to-do list to get you through launch day or a marketing strategy to take you through your first three months, a consultant can help you create a plan for your business.

When you’re starting (or running) your business, your to-do list can seem daunting. A consultant can help you prioritize tasks and create a solid plan of attack. One of the main things I do with my clients is to help them figure out what the next step is. Often, I see people struck with paralysis — they have so much they should be doing that they can’t decide what to do first. A consultant can help you choose the most important tasks and help you layout a roadmap for the future.

And if you’re in need of a more formal business plan (because you’re seeking funding), there are consultants who can work with you to create that plan and even help you prepare your pitch.

Many small business owners and solopreneurs wait until they’ve been in business a few years before hiring a consultant. But waiting until you’re struggling before hiring a consultant can be a big mistake. Hiring someone at the start of your business, even just for a session, can save you time and money in the long run.

Sisi

Totally agree with the hiring a consultant part. I’ve run a exhausting wholeasale business, that constantly runs me to the ground, while feel there must be other answer. I thought doing wholesale in my line of work which is producing, selling, my own line of work is the only way to go. At one point my turnover was over $2m, I still was’nt making a profit! Since then, I’ve met and got introduced by a friend, with this business advisor/accountant, that through a few meeting, had clarify that I only need to run a small retail business, and instead of burning all our savings and resources, and did not know what to do. Now we actually understand our business, our customers a lot better. So anyone out there, go out and get yourself a cosultant, who is good with figures, and doesn’t need to cost the earth.
I got to say though, I find running a fashion business, is indeed a very lonely road. I often thinks there is only praises, no sympathy or support. One chain store owner told me once, he only loves winners. What he means by that he only love best selling brands. You need to be the top in order to make a living, that is my experience of wholesale in fashion business.You certainly do not get support from your retailers whom you wholesale to. When stock don’t sell, you can only get out. I wish I was told a lot sooner that small business is beautiful, and it’s okay to stay small as long as you understand your business.

Sara

Excellent. I’m opening my doors October 21st and there’s SO much I still need to do. I don’t have enough hands (or brain) to get to everything myself, AND know exactly what I’m doing. Do you have a list of Business Consultants for the creative field that you might recommend? I’m in NH and it’s rough up here!

Laura

As someone currently in the midst of developing a business plan for a retail store this article was timely and helpful, however, I am wondering the best way to go about finding a business consultant in my relative field. Of course a basic internest search is where I would most likely start, but any other suggestions would be helpful! Thanks!

Natalie | tag2u

Sorry if I’m being totally daft, but where do we sign up for Amanda’s web design course? Didn’t see anything on the Better than Chocolate site.

Julie

I would love to know how to go about finding a business consultant in my industry. Can you help?

Maryam in Marrakech

I’m with the commenters above. A consultant in my field would be very helpful but not sure how to find someone with the experience in my area that I need. I guess your post begs the question!

Lucy

Why can’t that woman’s web design course just be called “a guide to web design” without genderizing it? Looking over the course it doesn’t really seem to require a vagina…

BCA

Business consulting can indeed help many businesses get onto their feet. Just make sure you check out the consultant and don’t get someone who is just doing it to make a buck….

SISI

Hey gang,
I hope I can give a bit of suggestions here, the first thing to do is, read this book called Emyth by Michael Gerber. It’s amazing insight of what kind of frustrations, task, and challenge as a entrepreneurs has to face. What we all have to do, which is not ‘working in the business, but working out of the business’. I do recommend to look for an accountant that can offer you financial planning advice, it does not need to be expensive, which would be a usual accountancy fee. I had been with a family friend accountant for 7 years, paid top price and got no answers. You don’t just need to work out your numbers, they need to listen, feel, and understand your business.
Now I am actually with a financial advisor as well as an accountant, they offer me invaluable planning structure, something you don’t need pen and paper to write it down. Just a simple one liner, that you think okay, you need to make this much to pay for basic business etc. Then you can afford extra, like marketing, staff. The end of the day, you have to make sure you make at least your minimum living expenses before you can spend any money. So my suggestion is to find a business /financial advisor. But really really you don’t have to spend a lot of money.
In terms of personal financial advises, I pay £25 for a month for a financial advisor to come to my home to suggest what pension scheme, what saving structure, what debt busters plans to have. So really as you can see you don’t need to pay the earth.

Amanda

Hi Lucy,

Amanda here from The Girl’s Guide to Web Design. I decided to target women with the course because part of my mission is to bust through the stereotype that coding and “web development” is a men-only thing. I want to empower women to learn this stuff, too! That said, guys are welcome to join the course if they like! :)

Jill Simpson

Yes, I would really like some advice on how to find a good business consultant for a startup e-commerce business! Do you have any suggestions where to look and how to find the right person?

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