Every medium entrepreneur wants to scale, but at what expense? A miscalculated scaling approach may jeopardize your business.
Entering the mid-market level makes your venture more appealing to various interested parties. You may attract investors, customers, partners, or even external consultants.
While networking is desirable, be careful who you let into your business model. For example, external consulting firms may charm you into overhauling your venture.
Remember, these companies weren't there during your strategy implementation days. They may even overlook the internal team that helped you get out of the woods. Neglecting loyal employees could be costly for your business.
External parties may not be aware of the business strategies that work and those that don't. Adopting their proposals without weighing them could impact your bottom line. Your venture may have to downsize or go bankrupt in the worst cases.
How can you spot risky external consultants? Is it possible to avoid their "charm?"
Dive in to find out as you learn the traits of reputable and unreliable consultants.
How to Spot a "Charming" Consultant
Did you know that one in four businesses hire a consultant during the growth phase? Why are these external parties crucial to your venture?
External consultants can have a positive or negative impact on your bottom line. Most of them offer valuable expertise and direction for business growth. Some use their influence to "charm" you into making unwise decisions.
American consulting firms rake in over $2 billion annually. But why give out so much money without commensurate business growth?
Below are the common red flags to look for when an external consultant approaches you.
Over-Promising and Under-Delivering
A consultant who bites more than they can chew puts your business at serious risk. Making unrealistic claims or over-promising results can mislead your decision-making. Watch out if a consultant promises rapid growth without understanding your unique challenges.
False expectations can devastate you as a business leader and affect your focus. It's even worse when you extend your consultant's hyped promises to your customers. Failing to honor your word is like handing your customers freely to your competitors. It ruins your reputation.
Did your consultant thoroughly explore your operations? Do they understand your business model, culture, and unique needs? Can they demonstrate this knowledge without fumbling?
A consultant who doesn't understand the nuances of your firm may offer generic solutions. Every business model is unique, so one-size-fits-all recommendations don't always work. Proposals that don't align with your business needs translate to wasted resources.
Focusing Entirely on Cost-Cutting
Some consultants insist on cost-cutting measures to realize short-term financial goals. They do this at the expense of your company's long-term prospects.
Cutting costs may lower employee morale and decrease productivity. It may also hamper your ability to innovate and possibly erode your brand's competitive edge.
Instead, consider working with external consultants who prioritize:
- Employee engagement and development
- Sustainable business processes
- The power of innovation
Overlooking Crucial Stakeholders
Business stakeholders can make or break your venture, so ignore them at your peril. A consultant who doesn't engage with employees and managers is risky. Bypassing these team members creates some loopholes.
The consultant may miss out on insider insights or fail to predict resistance to change. Keeping your internal team outside value-addition efforts may not yield much.
Your human capital implements most of the proposed strategies, anyway. Offending them with outsiders isn't wise.
The business may become rigid, complacent, and resistant to change. It could fail to adapt to evolving market conditions, customer preferences, and technologies.
Ignoring Implementation Challenges
Business consulting should go beyond giving advice. Picture a doctor who administers medications without a prescription. The best you can do is guess your way through treatment. Similarly, a consultant who offers recommendations without a defined action plan fails.
A responsible consultant helps you implement proposals or at least oversee the process. Letting you figure things out yourself is reckless and unempathetic. What if your teams struggle to translate the recommendations into profitable action?
Pushing for More Business Debt
A trusted consultant should leave your business better than they found it. Pushing you to take on unreasonable debt to finance expansion initiatives is risky. What if the promised returns don't materialize? This pitfall can frustrate your company's bottom line.
Consultants who put you at risk of defaulting on loans are worth rethinking. Their insistence can damage your firm's credit rating. Borrowing money in the future becomes difficult. Prioritizing debt repayment may derail other crucial growth strategies.
Using Unpopular Tools and Methods
Does your consultant use unpopular tools or methods to implement business changes? Are their techniques well supported? Is their expertise fail-proof?
Using unpopular means could show that your consultant lacks knowledge. They may not be aligned with the latest industry trends and best practices. It might also be possible that they don't invest in their own brand development.
A consultant who doesn't respond to your queries might not be good for business. Transparent and timely communication is a sign of professionalism. Replying to emails or returning calls late shows a lack of commitment to your business goals.
Making you Dependent
Over-relying on a consultant rarely works in your favor. Firms that want you to depend on them may offer short-term contracts. You keep paying them to renew these contracts.
"Charming" consultancies may also convince you to buy their proprietary tools. They could push you to commit to numerous services and deposit a large sum in advance. This caging puts your business at risk. You keep relying on the consultant even if their results don't satisfy you.
Avoid all this trouble by choosing a consultant with flexible terms. Ensure their offerings prioritize your business goals while being transparent enough. Remember, you don't contract work to get locked in; you do it to add flexibility.
There's some truth in the proverbial phrase "cheap is expensive" as you hire consultants. You may be quick to go with the lowest bidder, but not without a significant risk. The cheapest consultancy on the block may bring on board an inexperienced team.
Working with unqualified hands is a ticking time bomb. You may have to redo substantial chunks of the project, ultimately costing you more.
Consider both budget and goal alignment in your selection. Before committing, request a cost breakdown of each service.
Your business consultant should be accountable for results, not just recommendations. They should own your vision or wear your shoes to feel where it pinches. A consultant with zero accountability doesn't have enough incentive to ensure success.
An accountable consultant collaborates with you to produce tangible results, not theoretical reports. They're serious enough to focus on what's achievable and have the best odds of making an impact. Being practical makes more business sense than being theoretically correct.
Consultants who resist feedback are rigid. They may limit your chances of growth through continuous learning. Can you stand the risk of business stagnation?
Your consultant should be willing to adapt their strategies to changing business demands. It becomes easier for you to correct the course of your operations midway.
A consultant without credible referrals doesn't give you many options. It becomes difficult to compare what works and what doesn't. It's like walking into a partnership blind. Where do you turn to in case of unethical practices?
How can you assess the consultancy's capabilities? Do they have a portfolio of past work or case studies of success? It might also help to check for specific qualifications and certifications.
How to Avoid the Snare of "Cute" Consultants
Partnering with a consultancy helps you address specific business challenges, but not always. Without proper safeguards, you may drive your business into an irreversible snare.
Do Thorough Due Diligence
Before hiring a business consultant, check if they're the best fit. Do they:
- Comply with regulatory and legal demands?
- Abide by ethics?
- Pose zero business risks?
Performing due diligence reduces potential risks. Minimizing pitfalls protects your company's assets, interests, and image. Gather information about the consultant's background, financial stability, and reputation.
Where do you get this information? Request your consultant for references. Call each contact and ask as many questions as needed to clear your doubts.
Go a step further and run an internet search. Explore both positive and negative customer reviews. Follow up with aggrieved parties where possible. Seek more information from your friends and other professionals to cover most bases.
Develop a Solid Internal Team
Create and maintain a knowledgeable and skilled internal team as your support system. These folks are an asset as they understand your company's operations and culture. They know what works best to bring your expectations to fruition.
Involve key employees in decision-making before hiring consultants. They've been "in the weeds" with you and possess enough experience to offer valuable insights. Their contribution can expose gaps in the consultancy's proposals.
Outline Clear Objectives
What are the goals and expected outcomes of your consulting engagements? Define your objectives before reaching out to a consultant. Don't forget to engage all stakeholders. They can help you set measurable targets and monitor progress.
Besides goal attainment, clear objectives ensure efficient resource allocation. They guide the consultant to take a targeted approach and cut unnecessary expenses. Defining the scope of work saves time and produces faster results.
Encourage a Collaborative Approach
Require consultants to collaborate with your internal teams to cover more ground. This synergy promotes open communication, knowledge transfer, and expertise sharing. Your employees become empowered with a mix of skills and perspectives.
Collaboration promotes brainstorming. It creates more latitude to explore creative problem-solving approaches. You get more leverage to address complex or isolated business challenges.
A collaborative approach enhances quality assurance efforts. Continuous monitoring and feedback keep the consultancy in check. You adjust processes as needed before they jeopardize your business integrity.
Apply Incremental Implementation
Don't buy into wholesale overhauls, no matter how persuasive a consultant is. Listen to their proposals and implement them incrementally as you test effectiveness.
Consider launching pilot projects to gauge the impact of recommended changes. Only roll the adjustments across the entire company if they prove effective. This gradual uptake mitigates the risk of large-scale business disruptions. You also incur minimal upfront costs.
Employees adapt better when changes happen in phases. You may experience less resistance and seamless transitions. Gradual implementation also promotes the sustainability of new business initiatives. It's easier to achieve long-term integration and success.
Develop a Solid Exit Strategy
Have a clear exit strategy on standby while engaging consultants. You should be able to part ways without significant disruptions when dissatisfied. Don't tolerate unmet promises or deviating project milestones. Your business needs take precedence over everything else.
Work With a Reliable Scaling Consultant
You've worked hard and tirelessly to grow your business from the ground up. Once you break into the mid-market league, your investment value shifts. Your venture attracts numerous stakeholders thanks to its perceived growth potential.
Professional consulting firms may also try to woo you. Most promise you rapid transformation, often without considering your existing strategies. You could end up in a snare called the "syndrome of growth consultant paralysis."
Sometimes, getting out of this maze is costly and daunting. You may have to downsize or declare the business bankrupt. After many years of laboring hard to build your brand, you deserve better.
Why not partner with a reliable team with proven expertise? At Innovation Park, we don't hijack your business model on a whim. We engage your internal teams, study progress, and collaborate on implementation. From there, we stay in touch to monitor growth and offer advice.
Sounds like a team you want to work with to scale your business? Contact Innovation Park today to discuss your unique needs.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.