Why hire a consultant?
Small businesses of all sizes can benefit from hiring a consultant, in large part because of the wealth of experience, industry knowledge, and problem-solving ability consultants bring to the table. Consultants, because they have often worked with dozens—if not hundreds—of similar brands, are a force multiplier for small businesses, allowing them to grow faster, make better decisions, and access expertise typically not found on staff or in any one person.
As a consultant with nearly 15 years of experience under my belt, I enjoy sharing my expertise from more than two decades of working in media, editorial, communication, product marketing and strategy, content marketing, content strategy, and branding. My clients hire me for help in at least one of those areas, but they end up getting a consultant who can—and often does—provide help in a broad set of areas. I’ve seen firsthand how struggling small businesses quickly scale up and grow their revenue thanks to having me as an objective outside advisor.
So it comes as no surprise that I was annoyed when a friend sent me the video of Shark Tank’s O’Leary misrepresenting the role (and true value) of consultants. In the video, O’Leary, speaking to what looks like a group of grad students, says consultants “never make any decisions of consequence” and “you will be irrelevant.”
He also assailed consultants’ inability to see their decisions through to completion. The client—a retired corporate exec who’s now building a successful career as a consultant—wondered what I thought of O’Leary’s words. He’s incorrectly framing a benefit as a detriment, I said.
The benefits of hiring a consultant
Consultants, typically hired for their deep domain expertise, are typically brought in to help brands in very specific areas. They are, in effect, coaches: They call the plays; they don’t run the plays or make the tackles, to use a football analogy. That is, once they share their hard earned advice, it’s up to stakeholders inside the company to make the decisions regarding implementation and execution.
So, yeah, we aren’t making the final decisions and we don’t typically deal with the day-to-day consequences of those decisions. However, because of our previous experience working with multiple brands struggling through manifold changes, when you hire a consultant, you enjoy several advantages that most small businesses often don’t have at their disposal:
1. Objectivity – The ability to approach decisions without being influenced by personnel,
2. Expertise – A depth of experience many companies lack in a single employee,
3. Flexibility – Their advice, coaching can be accessed as needed,
4. Impartiality – The ability to speak freely and honestly without entanglement in office political dynamics, and
5. Outsider’s perspective – They can better understand the customer’s point of view.
In every one of my client engagements, I can draw from all of these areas to help my clients find success. Hiring a consultant is an investment in a small business’s growth. Given time, the right consultant can help small business owners grow their revenue, better position their brand for long-term success, and remove any impediments keeping the brand from reaching their full potential.
I told my client to disregard O’Leary’s misplaced, ill-informed line of reasoning.
“O’Leary’s words and thoughts are of no consequence to you or any consultant. You aren’t being hired to live through your advice. You’re being hired as an expert voice they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. Obviously, that’s invaluable to the brands who hire you.”
If your brand is stuck in neutral, hire a consultant to get you on the right path. A little guidance and coaching might be all you need.