It’s just not possible to know everything or do everything. Think about it…even if you did manage to amass all there was to know about running your business, you would still have this issue of time.
You will need other people…accountants, insurance billers, web developers, designers. You will need their knowledge, their expertise, their support in order to build and grow your business.
These aren’t the kinds of services a small business hires full time…these are the people that most businesses bring in as consultants. The cool part is that many consultants are other business owners just like you…offering their expertise in ways are essential to your success.
Working with consultants gives you valuable insight to make wise decisions for your business. Outsourcing crucial elements of your business frees you up to focus on the parts of your business that need you the most. Even though it is absolutely essential, working with consultants is not always as easy as it seems.
Here are five steps to make sure that you get THE BEST results when working with consultants:
Educate yourself about what kinds of consultants do what kind of work. This will help tremendously when it comes to choosing the right consultant and developing a work plan that makes sense. Think about what you are trying to accomplish and what kind of skill set and expertise the consultant needs to have in order to make it happen. The perfect example is when building a website…so many people think that hiring a web developer to do some coding is the final answer for the entire project. But the recipe for success will include some graphic design, a little bit of copy writing and even some strategic thinking. You can’t skimp on the ingredients and expect to produce a masterpiece.
Choose wisely. Don’t just begin working with the first person you see. Do your homework. Research the work they have already done. Do you like it? This is not just a question of skill but also quality and style. Ask questions of them regarding how they will approach your work and what kinds of guidelines will help the two of your work successfully together.
Know what you want. There is nothing more frustrating for a consultant than trying to please a client that doesn’t know what they want. It makes customer satisfaction a moving target. Be willing to do the work ahead of time to get clear about what you are trying to accomplish. If even after some forethought, you find you are still not clear, be honest and transparent in communicating that to your consultant. Then be willing to the receive feedback that they offer. Their experience may help you gain the clarity you need to make working with them a success.
Be Prepared to do your part. Any project involving your business is going to need input from you in order for it to work well. Although you are bringing a consultant in, it is still your business and at the end of the day you have to take responsibility for the results. Let’s go back to the website project. The consultant is going to need a few things from you in order to get started…a meeting, some writing about your business, a professional photo. When those requests come, respond swiftly and completely and your project will skyrocket.
Communicate honestly and respectfully. There is a learning curve whenever you are working with a new consultant and it takes time to establish a trusting professional relationship. Remember that this consultant is a shared resource, yours is likely not the only project that they are working on. It is important for you to communicate and have reasonable and clearly stated expectations. Sometimes it is a matter of work style, pacing or just unclear communication that can ruin an otherwise productive partnership. Show that you are invested in working collaboratively for the best result. Likewise, if you feel at any point, like you are not being respected or heard…speak up.
At the end of anything you do…review. On my team we call that process “Plusses and Deltas”. It is an honest moment at the close of any event or project when we reflect on what worked well and what could have gone better. This is SO useful for growth. Give that feedback to the person you are working with and make notes for yourself too.
If you still have a question on how to successfully work with consultants…let me know. I am just an email away.