Today is arguably the fastest changing time for business.
Over the past fifteen years, all businesses have had to welcome new online and social marketing methods, decide whether to invest in new technologies, and move from local to global business operations — things that were only discussed within the boardrooms of large corporations.
The challenge now is that this acceleration has exposed that no one person is an expert in everything. Big business may have teams to support them, however SME owners themselves have to have multiple skills, being the salesperson, the marketeer, the digital expert and the finance director.
The speed of growth and demand for new processes bring some of the biggest challenges for businesses today that are best supported with qualified consultants. Bringing on a consultant helps entrepreneurs and business owners add the expertise and skills they need to address the specific challenges at the necessary times and are there to provide the best possible outcomes.
But what are the challenges that a business consultant can help a company with? Here are a few that we are discussing with our clients today:
Worrying about the lack of certainty about the futureNot being able to identify and forecast consumer trends is a real worry, as businesses need to be “ahead of the curve” now more than ever before. Having an understanding of what tomorrow’s customer will demand and aligning your product or service to that is vital to ensure a positive future.
Concerns over financial management
Many business owners are great creators, with huge ideas and an ability to deliver a great product or service. However the same group are also less good when looking at the commercials and finances of a business. Unfortunately sales can be great, but with both eyes on this and none on cash flow, profitability and expenditure, there are dangers. SMEs don’t have the ability to have finance directors, but they do need to have at least one strong hand on the financial tiller.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may be the lifeblood of big business, but it is vital that SMEs know their numbers, understand the levers that drive the greatest return and can measure their inputs and outputs. Ensuring you know what drives the best performance from your teams and your operation is a vital skill and by using simple scorecards, the management of a business’ performance is not the huge task it may appear to be.
Being compliant is more important than ever before. Whether it is rules and regulations over business processes, or the management of customer and supplier data (through GDPR) this now has a greater impact on the time and skills that a business now must have. Using an external consultant to ensure legal and operational compliance could be the biggest cost saving you invest in as a business.
High quality, long-lasting recruitment
Being able to source the best people is one thing – but ensuring their engagement and retention is simply a different process. A consultant can help the business to secure better candidates, optimise their on-boarding and build engagement strategies to ensure that they stay, add true value, and become the foundation of the business moving forward.
Implementing Technology and Utilising Data
Technology in business is changing by the second, and all companies need to understand how to engage with the processes that will save them time, increase their efficient and improve their bottom line. For large corporations with IT divisions, this is not a huge challenge, however for smaller companies, being able to know what is out there, the benefits and then deploying it is potentially one step too far. An external consultant will have a broad sweep of market knowledge and support you in making the best decision to improve your business processes.
Improving customer satisfaction
Customers now want to see something, get it and have instant gratification, all alongside perfect customer service and rightly so. Get this right and you will have a loyal fan. But get this wrong and they will turn to online review sites and share their experience, reducing the view of your product or service, with very little right to reply. Business consultants always have one eye on the customer and present solutions that ensure that any risks to a company’s reputation (on and offline) are minimised.
Investing – today or tomorrow?
Many company owners want to have the best product or service for their customers – today – no matter the cost. However this “short-termism” can lead to bigger problems in the future, be it from a financial position or from one of customer perception. It is important to review not only the direct impact of changes to an organisation but model how those changes will be maintained and delivered in the medium and long term. This planning is core to most consultants’ approach when supporting their customers.
It is a known fact that it isn’t profit that kills a business, it is cash flow, as without this, you cannot pay bills, or invest in things to continue operating. Therefore it is vital to ensure that your cash flow is as robust as possible.
Simply put, you need to have more money coming in before it goes out and therefore this means that your terms of business need to be robust.
For example, if your customer pay you on 30 day terms (i.e. you invoice them and then they pay 30 days later) this may work well unless the costs you have to pay to provide that service, to your suppliers, have to be paid before then.
Now after time, if you have built some cash reserves, you can afford to do this to a degree, providing that the difference is not too big, however while you are setting up it may be difficult to operate in this way.
It is important that you work out your average profit for your product or service (based on your customers average spend) and ensure that your customer is paying you before your suppliers demand payment from you.
This is a good general rule to work to, however it is also good to ensure that you credit check clients in advance of working with them, especially if the value is high, to ensure that they can afford to pay you – you don’t want to deliver the goods only to be faced with a customer who doesn’t or cannot pay. If you are concerned about this happening, it is a fair request to ask for some or all of the payment, up front, but be aware that some customers are unwilling to pay for a service without seeing at least the work begin.