What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? Each has been extraordinarily successful. And, each had a mentor. Whether you call them a Business Consultant, a Coach, or a Mentor, you need one. Running a business is difficult. You’re more likely to be successful if you have someone to rely on for advice.
What They Do
A Consultant advises you how to run your business. Since there are hundreds of things that demand your attention, you don’t have time to consider them all. When you want to know if your existing process is customer-friendly and efficient, for example, ask your Consultant.
Why You Need One
Your business may be the most important thing in the world to you, and you spend long hours every day staying on top of things. But you still miss important details. Did you know your Receptionist uses the office phone to make personal calls? Or that your website copy is difficult to understand?
A Consultant helps in lots of ways:
- Advice: Reading business books and taking business classes are fine, but they’re more helpful when you can ask questions of someone who knows your business.
- Cool Head: You’ve invested your entire savings into your business. It has to succeed. This stress, though, clouds judgment and often leads to you making unwise business decisions. Your Consultant isn’t stressed: they have nothing to lose.
- Encouragement: At times, you may wonder if starting your business was a good idea, but you don’t discuss it with your spouse. You don’t want to worry them. Your Consultant reminds you of what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve overcome. They won’t just say, “Things will be fine”: they’ll help you make things fine.
- Improve Skills: Unlike a book or a class, your Consultant knows you. They know what you do well, but more importantly, they know what you may not: what you don’t do well. They’ll help you strengthen weak areas, so you become a better employer and a better businessperson.
- New Ideas: You may be brilliant, and you may have excelled in Ivy League business school, but you don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Your Consultant, with their unique experiences and opinions, will think of things you hadn’t considered.
- NOT Like-Minded: Don’t limit yourself to finding a Consultant who thinks like you. You want a Consultant with a different background. In fact, having a Consultant who sees things exactly as you see them is a waste of time: what good is having two people who see things the same way?
- Perspective: You’re busy with tasks that need to be completed, so you miss important details. Your Consultant has a broader perspective, so they’ll see things you miss. In addition, they’ll see how your business looks to your customer.
- Venting: Sometimes you need to yell. And you should. But yell in front of your employees, and they may question your ability to lead. Or they may question your sanity. Yell in front of your spouse, and they may worry you don’t know what you’re doing. Your Consultant won’t have these concerns and, after you’ve calmed down, they’ll help you find solutions.
Your $300-per-hour Consultant, with their MBA from a Top Ten business school, does you no good if you’re not willing to listen to their recommendations. If you close your ears thinking “No one knows my business better than me,” you won’t be in business long.
I Listened … Now What?
You listened to your Consultant. Congratulations! You’re exactly halfway to the finish line. If you want your business to succeed and grow, you’ll take the all-important next step: doing what your Consultant recommends.
Whether in a formal presentation with your MBA Consultant or in the basement with your brother-in-law, regardless of who came up with the recommendations, if you don’t implement them, they mean absolutely nothing.
If hiring a Consultant is best for you and your business, that’s what you should do. They’re not cheap (fees start at $150-per-hour), but hire the right Consultant, and you’ll be glad you did.
You don’t have to hire a Consultant: you can get valuable input from a friend or relative. You can have one Consultant or several (like me), and you can get one before going into business or after you’ve been in business. There’s no bad time to get good advice.
All it costs to have a Consultant is a little consideration. Meet when and where it’s convenient for them: better that you drive across town than have them drive across town. Meet over lunch or dinner … and be sure to pick-up the tab!
Are They Credible?
If your Consultant doesn’t have a computer background, don’t ask them how to upgrade your business’s operating system to Microsoft Vista. In other words, if you need specialized advice, ask someone with specialized education and training.
If you’re a caterer, though, you don’t need specialized advice. Consultants are great at spotting resources we’re not using. They may suggest, rather than you delivering the food, you hire someone to deliver it. You’ll pay them less than your hourly wage, freeing you to cook more food. And operate more efficiently.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Have One?
Perhaps you think you can run your business without help. Actually, you can. But you’ll run it better—much better—with help. It’s no coincidence some of the smartest, most-successful business owners found mentors, and it’s not surprising the vast majority of business owners say having a mentor is one of the reasons their business has thrived. What is surprising, is that more business owners, with so much at stake, don’t have them. Why don’t you?