Published in HVACR Business Magazine October, 2018
Working with a consultant is not a sign of weakness. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. It does not mean that you don’t know what you’re doing or couldn’t figure things out for yourself. Hiring a consultant is a way to empower yourself to achieve your goals, whether they might be solving problems, growing your business, planning for retirement, or all of the above.
A consultant is not omniscient. You will always know your business better than they do (or you’re not in the right business) and they can’t wave a magic wand and fix all of your problems. But what they CAN do is provide you with scheduled, short, powerful stretches of time that allow you the freedom and motivation to fix your own business issues. The consultant facilitates and focuses your energy and creativity. They’ll help shift your focus out of the box it’s stuck in and help jar some new ideas out of that “stuck” brain of yours.
There are probably lots of folks out there who can do without a consultant. They schedule their own brain-storm or journaling sessions to “work ON their business instead of just IN their business.” They are probably the same folks in the front row of spin class, listening to TED talks while chugging a kale smoothie and reading Shakespeare. I am not one of these people. I need proper motivation. And let’s face it. If I’m putting money down on a consultant, I want return on my investment so I will force myself to stop what I’m doing and work on the business. If I don’t have the accountability of a consultant checking up on me, I might find another way to spend my afternoon. Not drinking kale smoothies.
So how do you know if you are the person or company who needs to hire a consultant? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you always too busy? It seems like when you’re at your busiest, it would be a terrible time to bring in a consultant to take up more of your time when you’re already stretched too thin. However, chances are, if you’re workday, week, month, year is unmanageably busy, you haven’t been focusing on your business as much as needed. Being too busy is a sign that you need to find ways to reorganize, prioritize or delegate to run your day-to-day and perhaps others in your company more efficiently and effectively. A consultant can help you find ways to do that.
- Is the Morale in your Company Low? Are Employees Leaving? If you start to experience higher-than-usual turnover in employees, or a general feeling of “bleh” in your business, it’s a sure sign that your leadership needs a tune-up. So often, we find ourselves focusing so much on the urgent matters of the day, that we lose sight of the role we should play in leading our company. People want to work in a company that stands for something. The mission and goals of the company we’re running are not just important to us, they’re important to each and every person who works there, and our customers. It’s easy to lose touch with employees and co-workers in the hustle and bustle and forget to show them how they fit into the big picture of the company. A small amount of appreciation or attention to building their skills can go a long way to bringing smiles back to your workplace. A consultant can help identify where these communication breakdowns have occurred and help fix them.
- Are Your Profits Lower than you Want? You might be thinking, “Aren’t they always?” But there’s a difference between, “Of course I want to make more money!” and truly lagging profits. Of course, it can be difficult to justify the cost of a consultant when you’re not in a happy place financially, but you also have to ask if you can afford to continue NOT fixing whatever is broken in your finances. There are a number of different ways a consultant can help with the financial health of a company, but the most important thing is to determine why profits aren’t where they should be in the first place. Is it slow collections? Lagging sales? Bad pricing? Poor accounting procedures leaving you open to errors or worse, theft? A consultant may take a wider, broader picture of your financial health than your accountant might do. But working together with both could help you to recover and grow in ways you hadn’t though of.
Though these three things are a sign that you need a consultant, anyone can benefit from the help of a consultant. Their job description is literally to help you with whatever it is YOU want to focus on. They’re like a coach, counselor, cheerleader and taskmaster all wrapped into one. All you need to do is decide to help yourself. Figure out what kinds of things you and your company need to focus on and reach out to a consultant who focuses on those areas. They will keep you accountable for the priorities that you set and you’ll get to watch yourself succeed. A consultant is not a magician, but sometimes it feels like they are.