No matter how dedicated you are, no matter how many hours you commit to your business, if you are intent on growing and thriving, at some point it’s likely you’re going to also need to grow your team.
The question most entrepreneurs find themselves facing at this crucial moment in their career is if you want to commit to recruiting and training someone in-house or hand over various aspects of your business to a consultant or consultants, to take on some of your responsibilities.
Making the decision to let go and hand over any part of your business can feel like a big step, particularly if you’ve been the one to grow your enterprise from absolutely nothing to the success it has become. In order to maintain and even build on that success growth is necessary and healthy and very much a part of your entrepreneurial spirit.
In this article we’re taking a look at consultants, what they do and how you can go about finding your perfect match.
Be Clear On Objectives
Before you start the recruitment process for a consultant, you’re going to need to work out very precisely what it is you want your hire to achieve. Go back to your business plan and take a look at the weaknesses in your business as it currently is. Perhaps you need help developing a successful and more up-to-date marketing plan, perhaps your business has just slightly changed direction and your branding just no longer matches it. Or you might need a revamp of your website and require the services of web developers to make yours fit for purpose once again.
You’ll want to produce a document with very clear, tangible objectives and a timescale of when you would like to see these objectives achieved. This document will form the basis of your initial discussions with consultants and eventually be worked up into a working plan for everyone to share.
The next step in your preparations is to consider your budget. It’s hard to pluck a figure out of nowhere so this is likely to be a moveable feast. However, you should have a top level figure in mind and know where the limits are before you commit to taking on a consultant.
If you receive quotes that are nowhere near what you’ve allocated then you will either have to be prepared to release more money or think about downscaling your project.
This next stage can be carried out in a number of ways, from advertising on your web pages or recruiting site to simply asking around for recommendations and possibly a bit of both. You might start by looking at agencies in your immediate vicinity and just going through their websites to see precisely what services they offer. Check too on any testimonials that they feature and the client list. Don’t be afraid to follow-up with a quick call to that client for a reference. You’ll be looking to see how easy they found their consultant to work with, level of communication and if the brief was filled as required. You might also want to check if they would consider working with them again, always a good sign if so.
Once you’ve narrowed down several agencies, you can start inviting them to pitch for your project. At first this might just involve an email exchange but further down the line you’ll be looking to invite them in for a discussion on a more formal footing.
Create a short list of agencies you want to take to the next level and invite an account holder in to make a formal pitch and talk through their working practice. You might want to hear from a variety of agencies, from the large-scale enterprise with access to a great many resources to the much smaller agency that specialises in your particular line of work.
In these interviews you are looking for several factors; the more tangible elements such as value for money, to the less tangible elements such as your personal connection towards the interviewee and how they interact with you.
You’ll want to double check that the agency has fully grasped exactly what it is that you are asking and how they propose to deliver your objectives. Beware of agencies who promise the earth but don’t have much in the way of evidence to back it up with. Instead look for a mix of the aspirational and the practical to get the balance just right.
Check too that the budget is accepted and deliverable. A good agency will have broken down your budget into deliverables and be able to demonstrate clearly how and where your money will be used to deliver your objectives.
If you’re happy with what the agency presents to you then you’re looking at the more personal elements. Did the interviewee engage with you well and listen to your ideas? Did you feel they were on board with what you were saying or did they try and override you with ideas of their own and not really listen to your points? This aspect of communication is important, especially moving forward when you will become more reliant on email or telephone calls to gain and impart information.
How does the agency propose keeping in touch? Perhaps they’ll propose updating you weekly or simply as and when an objective is achieved. Make it clear what you prefer as the budget holder.
Once you’ve reached a decision it will be time to draw up a contract of working that both sides will sign and get your project off the ground. With your careful research and in-depth interview you can rest assured you’ve made a great choice. Your consultant will take on that area of work you so desperately needed to get done and will give you exactly what you need to go forward. You will soon be well on your way to achieving that growth that’s going to launch your company into the stratosphere.