Remembering and honoring Martin Luther King this week has me thinking once again about being a voice.
It’s hard not to get inspired listening to the iconic words of the famous I Have a Dream speech (if you’ve never listened to the entire speech, it’s worth the listen — and it’s shorter than most people realize).
It makes me think about how being a business owner is about so much more than merely “running a business.” What we do has a real impact on real people. And we can wield that influence in intentional ways.
For many of us, we start with our teams. Without even trying, we impact their lives. (Quite literally because we give them a paycheck, but it goes beyond that). This impact can be for good or for ill, by the way.
But when we see our teams right, we get the opportunity to know them as people, not just as workers. We get to support them in their pursuits and help them come through difficulties. We get to help them succeed beyond the walls of our local area businesses.
This kind of care, letting them know how much you value them … well, I’m fairly certain that it goes a long way.
One really practical way you serve your staff and contractors is by getting out their W-2s or 1099s on time. You have a couple weeks until they must be issued. Do not wait for the last minute on this one.
If you need help, you know where to find us:
Now, speaking of your staff and maybe your 2023 business goals, perhaps you are needing to hire a consultant for some specialized areas in your business.
I have thoughts.
Hiring a Consultant for Your Business
“Advice is like castor oil: easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take.” – Josh Billings
HR or IT getting complex and time-consuming for you alone? Suddenly what seemed to be an advertising no-brainer looks complicated now? It’s only natural that as your company grows, functions that were once easy get too cumbersome for you to handle. Sooner or later, you wonder about hiring a consultant.
Finding the right one to help your company, though, is like finding any other answer in business: It takes work.
But you can handle it, and here’s how.
What they do and what you need
Consultants come in a lot of varieties and can help (or claim they can) in many areas of business from advertising and marketing to how to handle expanding growing human resources needs to advising on real estate purchases to protecting data as a company grows… among many others.
You can’t know what you need until you know what you need. Your first task when hiring a consultant is to resist flailing for help in all directions and pin down what problem you want to tackle. You need details and for those, you need homework and questions.
Rather than simply saying you want a consultant to help with your advertising, first, find out where you want to put the ads and for what products. You need tech help – but to install software, pick a server, or build a firewall? Do you need your consultant for one project or for semi-regular engagements over the long haul?
The more specific, the better.
What you can expect to pay
For all the above, your big determinants are your budget going in and projected ROI. Until you’ve tacked those down, don’t even Google “hiring a consultant …”
Pricing is where consultants really get varied. Understand that this can only be just an overview of their rates, but it should give you a snapshot to start budgeting.
Consultants can charge by the project or by a length of time, such as a day or an hour. Small-business consulting fees can range from the high two figures to more than a grand (sometimes much more, depending on the industry, the length of the project, and the consultant). That breaks down to the low three figures per hour. Generally, the more technical or senior-level the expertise needed, the more expensive it’ll be.
Makes sense – but how can you rein in costs yet still get the expertise you need?
Some screening questions are the same as with any vendor. Is this a one-time consulting need? You’re better off with a fixed fee. Is the project ongoing, with repeated fine-tuning down the road? That’ll get you a lower fee than a one-time project, but you will have to pay the fee more often, so can you negotiate a volume discount?
For figuring out a base price to start, check your biz network for experience with consultants’ fees – and, more importantly, for referrals.
Who they should be.
Unfortunately, hiring a consultant isn’t like hiring a tax preparer, plumber, doctor, or other professional who works under fixed and clear levels of certification. There are many certifications for consultants – but, for your purposes, those titles don’t mean as much as finding someone with smarts concerning your company and with whom you just click.
Common sense will tell you the qualities of a good consultant: ability to listen, learn, and analyze; calm, objective judgment and the skills to document completely; insight and experience (maybe even on the expert level, though again this can cost you) to think strategically; inductive reasoning; and the ability to clearly communicate findings and recommendations so you can act on them.
You might also need them to have a sharp eye for data or possess management or medication skills – sales ability doesn’t hurt either when it comes to convincing your staff of the sense of the consultant’s recommendations.
When you’re screening candidates, bounce your problem off them directly. You can also give them hypothetical problems and ask for their judgment in ways to respond (much like you’d do with a job candidate).
Ideally, you’re not the only one asking questions in the screening. A candidate should:
- Want to know specifics about what you want out of the consultant’s work;
- Want to know what deliverables and ROI you expect to see and when;
- Give you pricing options – barebones, mid-range, and extent and length levels of service.
Again, this is only an overview – your mileage may vary depending on what you want to accomplish.
No small business makes it on its own – a lot goes into improving your bottom line.
And I’m here for you and your small business in hiring a consultant and all initiatives. Think of me as your Consultant Number One.
On your team,
Emelia Mensa, CPA