ProfileTree is proud to have acquired the small business consulting company SourceForConsulting.com and integrated its expertise and specialisms into its own team. We are delighted to be able to offer a range of business consultancy from marketing strategy, websites consultancy to SEO consultancy and more. You will find the following summary of Small Business Consultation useful – it is full of videos and has some of the best resources online around management consultancy.
Business Leadership is challenging at any time, more business leaders are turning to small business consultation as an answer to everything from Management to Growth. There seems to have been a boom in business management consultancy in recent years from organisations such as Deloitte to Universities such as Cambridge through to business incubators and more retired business owners providing a guiding hand to fast growing or stuck companies.
In this article, we will define consultation; share some of the critical skills you need as a consultant; debate the pros and cons of being a consultant. Then, we will move on to the types of consultation which are most common today. Finally, we will close off with how to start your consulting business, if tempted and you have the experience. Our aim is to provide the best source for consulting advice, news and guidance.
What is Consulting?
Consultation, according to most dictionaries, is the process of discussing the topic at hand in a formal attitude with someone who knows best in the field in question. In other words, a consultant is someone who provides expert advice. Small Business Consulting means – helping a small business deal with specific or critical issues, where they do not have the expertise in house to solve their problem. It is a great way to quickly bring new talent into your organisation.
Still, what do consultants do? What makes them that big of a deal? A consultant is a guide to any professional who would seek in an area out of their expertise. A wise person should know when to seek a professional’s help.
A consultant’s job does not stop at or is limited to giving an expert’s advice. They also analyze and provide thoroughly studied recommendations to organizations or individuals. They play many roles and have too many qualities to count.
They are troubleshooters and problem solvers. Their problem-solving skills help them determine the core problem. Through analysis, they form strategies based on developing the organization or the individual further. Some of those strategies are for development, while others prevent problems altogether.
Basically speaking, a consultant is hired to share their knowledge and information with organizations and individuals likewise, to help the business in question to attain its set of goals and solve the problems at hand, giving the industry a high chance of success.
A consultant has many skills that they are expected to use interchangeably.
We will mention about 8 of those.
The Skills Any Consultant Needs
A consultant will not only provide their advice based on analysis. They will also need to discuss those recommendations with other members. They are usually part of a team. So, it’s a plus quality for them to be team players.
A team player understands their role within the team; they welcome collaboration by listening attentively to others’ opinions and staying respectful no matter if their idea is the one proceeded with or not or even if they are criticized;
They hold themselves accountable by taking responsibility for their mistakes, and in doing so, they understand how their actions affect the team.
So, they end up earning more respect from their team while they learn from their mistakes;
They tend to be flexible by looking at everything as an opportunity to learn, develop, and grow; this sort of relates to them mostly having a positive attitude, which they use to overcome stressful times and that, in turn, creates a good atmosphere; They are committed to their team by investing in the team and showing others they believe in the team, the process, and the team’s goals, which increases the overall morale and productivity of the group.
2. Communication is a Consultant’s Game
A Consultant is not only a team player but also a good communicator. They have to present their ideas. So, presentation skills are a must.
However, it is not only presentation skills that matter. The whole package of communication skills is taken into consideration.
Communication skills are what determine how appropriately professional your ideas are conveyed. It even facilitates the process of receiving information. Communication skills make communication a whole lot easier and more effective.
A consultant should know how to convey their ideas through written/oral communication and non-verbal and visual communication, in addition to employing active listening by restating what they heard in their own words to ensure the complete comprehension of all the information.
Active listening helps with handling and avoiding misunderstandings altogether, which tends to resolve conflicts quickly. It allows people to open up which eventually builds trust.
Apart from active listening, there is also contextual communication.
Consultants manage to communicate under different circumstances and tend to be put in varying communication contexts.
That involves but is not limited to cross-cultural, online, or crisis communication.
Every consultant should know the seven Cs of communication. The first of which is being Clear.
A consultant is clear about the goal or message they are trying to convey through the communication process. So, they tend to simply be to the point.
The second is being Concise. A consultant sticks to the point and is brief in communicating a message. The third of which is being Concrete. A consultant keeps the message solid and the details sufficient during the communication process.
The fourth of which is Correct.
Without being said, a small business consultant should only communicate correct information that fits their audience. Of course, for the communication to be considered valid, it has to be error-free.
That is why a consultant tends to pay attention to their choice of words.
They should remember to keep their audience in mind at all times, and that means choosing technical terms that fit the level of knowledge they are delivering the message to.
That is probably why they rarely make typos. They check their writing repeatedly to make sure it is error-free, as spell checkers don’t always catch everything. They need to double-check the titles and names twice as good to make sure they are spelt correctly.
The fifth of which is Coherent. A consultant tries their best to keep their communication coherent and logical. That is done by ensuring that all points are well connected and relatable to the main topic.
That includes their tone while speaking or even through their writing because even the flow of the text counts. That is why they make sure it is all well-put-together and consistent.
The sixth of which is Complete. A consultant should always make sure to keep their message complete and that they deliver everything that the audience might need to fully comprehend the message that is highlighted.
They should remember to include all the information that may be found relevant to the topic/message that they are trying to convey.
Finally, the seventh C is Courteous. A consultant tends to always keep a smile on their face. They pursue a friendly attitude all the way through. They do not use any hidden insults, sarcasm that is out of context, or any trace of passive-aggressive tones there could be.
A consultant always keeps the reader’s view in mind when writing, and they are empathetic to the reader’s needs, which helps in the overall process of communication. So, you see, communication can be quite the big deal.
3. Think Outside The Box!
The third skill any consultant should have is creativity. They need to be able to visualize and to create original ideas and come up with plans. Creativity is essential because it helps us to face our problems with an open mind and handle them innovatively.
That is probably why a consultant’s mind is always open to ideas. Creativity broadens their perspectives and helps them through stressful times. There are four ways in which a person can be creative, two main components of creativity, and eight creative personality types (this one is a bonus for fun).
The first of the four ways in which a consultant can be creative is deliberate and cognitive. It is a mental process that we are consciously aware of, depending on existing knowledge. The Prefrontal Cortex of the brain is the one behind it.
Types of Creativity – Built into Consultancy
Deliberate and Cognitive Creativity
A consultant who pursues this type of creativity knows their purpose.
They are knowledgeable of the particular subject they are consulted about and they combine their skills and knowledge to determine the best course of action that will lead to the achievement of their clear purpose.
This type of creativity shines through, especially when people work for a long time in a particular field.
Those who tend to use this type of creativity are resourceful and investigative. They experiment and implement their problem-solving skills.
Thomas Edison was actually one of this creative type in particular. That can only mean that this type requires dedication and lots and lots of knowledge.
The second of the four ways in which a consultant can be creative is deliberate and emotional.
Deliberate creativity is consciously sustained, whereas spontaneous creativity occurs unexpectedly and cannot be anticipated.
Deliberate and Emotional Creativity
Those kinds of consultants let their emotions influence their work. They tend to be very emotional and sensitive. They require a lot of time to themselves and tend to be quiet most of the time. You would probably find them keeping a diary.
However they may be, they are as equally logical in making decisions and their decisions are as rational. From what we can trace here, is that this type of creativity is like a mixture between logic and emotions. In other words, it is a balanced equation between deliberate emotional thinking and logical actions.
This type of creativity in particular can be found present in the amygdala and cingulate cortex parts. Those parts belong to the human brain.
The Amygdala part is the one responsible for human emotions. The cingulate cortex part helps out in the process of learning and information processing.
These kinds of creative people tend to have a lot of “a- ha!” moments. That is when a solution to a problem or a creative idea pops up in their heads. However, emotional creativity relies more on a person’s feelings, and the heart is its pilot.
The third of the four ways in which a consultant can be creative is spontaneous and cognitive. As we previously explained how each of the two types could be, we will do so with this one.
Spontaneous and Cognitive Creativity
A consultant sometimes has to face head-scratching difficult problems that are not only challenging but also seem impossible to solve at the time. That is when this type of creativity kicks in. Just like what happened with Newton, the infamous scientist who discovered the gravitational force.
He was sitting under a tree after conducting hours and hours of research, when the idea literally hit him on the head, with an apple. That was his “Eureka” moment. This type of creativity does require the person to have knowledge but also to sit back and relax.
In other words, it takes place when you stop using your conscious mind and let the subconscious mind have its moment. Usually the person who is knowledgeable just needs a spark of inspiration or a hint to guide him/her to the right answer/solution. Taking a break is what the person needs to let their subconscious mind take over the thought processing process.
That can happen by distracting yourself with other unrelated activities that will spark up your unconscious mind to connect and relate information puzzling the missing pieces together.
Sometimes a person can experience all the three types differently. It seems they tend to intertwine and create creativity in the process. The fourth of the four ways in which a consultant can be creative is by being spontaneous and emotional.
Spontaneous and Emotional Creativity
Spontaneous and emotional creativity is conducted in the “amygdala” part. That exists in the human brain. Amygdala is responsible for all the emotional-based types of thinking in our brains. It is where spontaneous ideas and creativity happen.
It is when the conscious and Prefrontal brain are resting. We can trace this type of creativity in great artists; musicians, painters, or writers. This type of creativity relates to the literary term “epiphanies”.
Epiphany usually means the sudden realization of something. It is when breakthroughs take place. It is when the brain somewhat allows the person to look at the problem or situation with a deeper observation level that is followed by a shift in their perspective of the situation.
This type of creativity is unique in its own way. It does not require knowledge of a particular field. It tends to be rare moments when it takes place. It cannot be practiced. It also mostly involves a skill.
Now that we discussed all four different types in which a consultant can or may be creative, let us move to our next phase. Second, are the two components of creativity.
The first is originality. The method, idea, or plan must be original. In other words, unique. It cannot be an extension of something existing but can be formulated by observing the already existing.
The second is functionality. How can an idea be implemented if it is not functional? A consultant’s plan must be executable for it to work, or else it will all be in vain. It should function and fulfill its purpose.
If indeed a consultant is creative, then which creative personality are they? There are eight types of creative personalities out there. The first is the Artist. The second is the Thinker. The third is the Adventurer.
The fourth is the Maker. The fifth is the Producer. The sixth is Dreamer. The seventh is the Innovator. The eighth is the Visionary. As evident by now, creativity is essential for a consultant’s work in many ways.
The Importance of Creativity
Creativity is essential to most fields, especially business consultation. Apart from being a mind engaging phenomenon/activity, creativity is also the mind’s freedom. We used the term freedom because it allows the mind to stretch out far beyond its assumed limits.
Not only is creativity freeing to the mind but it also makes the learning process overall a whole lot easier and efficient. It introduces alternative thinking patterns, helps with dealing and handling mind-blocking situations. In turn, introducing non-linear thought processing.
It breaks the same old patterns of learning by doing so. It makes room for empathy which connects us to ourselves. Introducing parts within ourselves we never knew existed. Creativity is one of the many aspects in which we are all unique. It is part of who we are.
In other words, it is part of our identity. Connecting us with who we are on a deeper level. It helps highlight what is already hidden away within. It happens by showing the hidden talents and unlimited potential we never knew existed within ourselves.
Creativity is a gift and a challenge; a gift for those aware of how to use it further; and a challenge to those who don’t know how to effectively implement it in their daily lives and work.
4- Problem-solving skills
Every consultant should know how to solve the problem at hand. That’s one of the skills every consultant is specialized at. Solving problems isn’t limited to being a consultant. We all have problems in our life.
We handle situations differently. We all face problems. However, we don’t always handle them similarly. Life will always throw problems at you. That’s just how life is. The key to handling them is by learning the main problem-solving skills that every human being needs.
That’s why every consultant should have at least the basic problem-solving skills at hand. They should know how to handle stressful situations and deal with times of crisis.
They should be able to overcome challenges as they are faced with them on a regular basis. However, we should at least state what problem-solving skills are as we keep saying that every consultant should have them.
Problem-solving skills enable you to pinpoint the problem and issue. Determining the problem or the issue will help you to begin the process of solving it efficiently. The better you become at problem-solving, the quicker and more effective your problem-solving skills will be.
The skill of problem-solving is considered by many people a soft skill, which is a personal strength, rather than a hard skill. A hard skill is a skill learned through practice, education and training.
Let’s face it; some people are born problem solvers. Others just learn it as they go by. Problem-solving skills all start with identifying where the problem lies.
After they identify where the problem lies, they begin to analyze and suggest a plan or a course of action where the core of the problem can be resolved.
Problem-Solving Steps – The Core of Consultancy
1. Determining the Contributing Factors
Problem-solving is more of a process rather than a set of skills. So just like any other process, it consists of steps. The first step to problem-solving is to analyze the factors that contributed to the problem. In other words, you should know the cause or roots from which the problem originated.
This step in particular is where you evaluate and gather while you research data. After that, you should isolate the different suspected or possible contributing circumstances or reasons that might have caused the problem.
Finally, you will pinpoint the best course of action. That will lead to the resolution and in turn handling of the problem. During this step, you will need four sets of skills. The first is data gathering.
The second is data analysis. The third is fact-finding. The fourth is historical analysis. Data gathering relies heavily on effectively collecting data for research purposes. This skill is required by many other fields as well other than the consultation field.
We even practice this skill in our daily lives without even knowing it. It’s the skills that every individual needs to collect data for their research purposes. Data gathering is like the process of problem-solving, it is more of a process rather than a skill or a set of skills.
There are six data collection methods that are known globally. The first is interviews. You can learn and collect data lot about a person by interviewing them. Just like police officers do. The second is questionnaires and surveys.
This step in particular is used by most companies and organizations to evaluate their quality services and look for the room for improvement. The third is observations. You collect data by observing.
The fourth is documents and records. I believe this one is obvious. The fifth is focus groups. This one is kind of similar to brainstorming. It’s a technique done in research. It is similar to a group interview that involves a small number of people that are similar.
They have common traits and their questions and evaluations are studied during the focus group. Number six is oral histories as the name implies, it is histories told by people. It is a method of conducting historical research.
That is done through recorded interviews between two people. One is the narrator who has a personal experience of a historically significant event. The other is a well-informed Interviewer whose exact goal is to add to the historical record.
The next skill that is needed to carry out the step of determining the contributing factors in the problem-solving process is data analysis. Now that you have the data you need, it’s time you analyze it.
The third step is fact-finding. This has to do with connecting the pieces together and this skill is essential when analyzing the contributing factors to solve the problem. Finally, the fourth skill which is used during the step of determining the contributing factors is historical analysis.
2. Brainstorm for Solutions
The second step in the process of problem-solving is once you have determined the core reason behind the problem, you need to brainstorm. Then, come up with a way to handle the situation or solve the problem. You don’t have to do it alone. You can do a group brainstorming session with two or more people because, as they say, two minds are better than one.
To add to that; one perspective of the situation will be a bit limited, in comparison to more than one perspective of the situation or the problem at hand. That introduces more than one strategy that can be obviously one of the possible routes adopted to solve the problem.
The brainstorming session introduces a set of alternatives. That can be adopted while solving or handling the problem at hand. It’s like a game of chess. You make sure that all your bases are covered; you reduce the risk of exposure as much as you can, and you come up with a strategy.
That strategy is the one you will implement throughout the game. This step involves many skills. The first of which is brainstorming, obviously. The second of which is creative thinking. We believe we already talked about creativity.
The third of which is prediction.
The fourth is forecasting. The fifth skill used to generate interventions during the process of solving the problem is project design. It also involves project planning. That is why problem-solving isn’t for everyone.
3. Evaluating the Solutions
Step number three in solving the problem is evaluating solutions. So now that you have done your research, collected your data and had enough information to brainstorm and come up with many alternatives that you can adopt to solve the problem, you should evaluate them.
You give priority to the ones that are best to be adopted in the situation at hand. However, it depends on the nature of the problem. That is what guides the chain of commands. Evaluating the solutions can be done by a team rather than one person because whoever makes the decision must evaluate the potential costs.
As well as the resources that are required. Also, the possible barriers that could face the successful solution process of implementation. This step of evaluating the solutions that the brainstorming team came up with takes seven skills that tend to intertwine during the process.
The first is analysis. The second is discussion. The third is teamwork. The fourth is cooperation. The fifth is test development. The sixth is meditation. The seventh is prioritizing. Step number four is implementing a plan or a course of action to be followed.
4. Plan Implementation
Now it’s time to make the decision. Can we take a moment to appreciate the hard work every consultant has to go through? Once the decision is made. It should be implemented accurately. The implementation of the plan involves project management.
As well as project implementation skills. In addition to the collaboration skills. It does also involve time management skills, without a doubt. Finally, benchmark development is an essential skill during this step.
5. Evaluate the Results
The fifth and final step in the problem-solving process is to assess the effectiveness of the solution that was implemented in the last step. This requires communication skills, as well as data analysis skills.
It also involves surveys, customer feedback, follow-throughs, and troubleshooting as well. However, make no mistake, problem-solving skills are not only for consultants, it’s an essential skill to have while we’re living life.
That is because we will always be faced with stressful situations where our limits are challenged. Problem-solving skills or the problem-solving process help you determine the issue and how to resolve it.
It’s one of the many key skills that every employer seeks in job applicants. Problem-solving starts with identifying the problem. Then, come up with solutions, implement those solutions, and finally, evaluate the effectiveness of those solutions.
Problem-solving skills are essential to every employer. Employers tend to put them first when they are evaluating a resume, cover letter, or during an interview. Problem-solving skills involve analytical, creative, critical thinking, a high level of attention to detail, which means an observant person, and many more qualities to include.
All of which contribute to the quickness of identifying the problem and coming up with a solution or an effective course of action that can be implemented and evaluated later on. Apart from the steps to solve a problem, there are skills that are considered essential to problem-solving.
The Problem-Solving Skills – Critical for Consultancy
We will mention about six of them.
The first is listening skills. The better listener you are, the quicker the problem is going to be solved. That is because the more you listen, the more information you gather.
The more information you gather, the easier it will get to determine the core problem. In turn, making it easier to come up with plans to handle the situation. It helps you see the full picture. So next time, make sure you listen.
Number two is analytical skills. Every consultant has an analytical mind. They are analytical thinkers. They determine the logical reasons that may have caused the problem. Then, they offer logical ways to handle the problem.
The third skill that is essential to problem-solving is creative thinking which we already elaborated on. The fourth is communication skills which were also elaborated on in the previous section.
The fifth is decision-making skills. Every consultant should have the courage to make the call. They should have the ability to make a decision and be confident about it. Not only that, but to also take responsibility if something goes wrong.
Number six is teamwork. That one was elaborated on as well. So, basically, a problem solver is an organized individual who knows how to handle their time and manage it accordingly. They plan prior to determining and executing the different courses of action and strategies needed to solve the stressful situations and challenges they come across.
They have the ability to think outside the box and be creative most of the time. They can work under pressure. They have the ability to address or anticipate a problem before it takes place.
5- A Consultant is a Planner at Heart
6- Analysis is a Must!
7- A Consultant is Flexible by Nature
8- Pressure, Stress, or Challenges?
9- Commercially Aware
10- An Understanding of the Business Environment
Pros and Cons of Being a Small Business Consultant
A consultant’s job is not all talk. It is as challenging as it is draining. However, the outcome is worth the pain. As everything in the universe, a consultant’s job has its pros and cons.
It only depends on which side of the cup you are looking at.
The Pros of Being a Consultant
- New jobs every day!
- Variety of work and challenges
- Working in new teams, with new people and different companies or industries
- A bigger network
- Opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge
- You get to choose your work
- More options in a tough economy
- Flexibility when you work
- Can avoid away from monotonous roles
The Cons of Being a Consultant
There are even different types of consultation. We will name a few that mainly have to do with starting your own small business and talk briefly about each of them separately.
At the same time, we will delve deeper into the consultation process’ numerous aspects and even tell you how to begin establishing your consulting business.
Types of Consultation
- The first type is SEO consultation. This one has many aspects to consider. Digital strategy consulting is one of them.
- The second type is strategy consultation. We will break this one down into many aspects. One of which is the brand strategy consultation aspect. Another aspect is digital strategy consulting. There is also the aspect of being a business strategy consultant.
- The third is marketing consultation. This one, in particular, will branch us out to digital marketing consultation—especially digital marketing consultation in Houston.
- The fourth is a business growth consultant or small business growth consultant.
- The fifth is small business consultation services.
- The sixth is educational consultation.
- The seventh is startup consulting.
- The eighth is management consulting.
- The ninth is IT consulting.
- The tenth is a sales consultant.
- The eleventh is a design consultant.
- The twelfth is a website development consultant.
- The thirteenth could be a content or production consultant who would help with all aspects of content creation from copywriting to video production.
Each type has many aspects to consider, which is what we will try to do in this article. From here on, we will talk about the first type on our list; SEO consultation.
Small Business Consulting Fees
Fees are always a tough thing to cover or discuss, but in general the more premium and specialist the consultant, the more expensive they will be – per hour or per day. An average consultancy fee in the UK, Ireland or USA would be £500, 600 Euro or $750 per day. Large firms will charge at least £1,000, 1,200 Euro or $1,500 per day. Some consultants will also work for a fixed fee to focus on 1 problem and this could be for example $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000. If the intervention solves a critical business problem – it will often be worth many times this investment.
What we see as popular Types of Small Business Consultants:
Business Growth Consultant
Small Business Consultation Services
Website Development Consultant
How to Establish your Consulting Business?
After learning what consultation means, the skills you need as a consultant, what the pros and cons of being a consultant are, and the types of consultation related to small business consultation, you are ready to learn how to start your own consulting business.
What does a Small Business Consultant Do?
Small Business Consultants work with a company owner or leadership team to solve some business critical issues and help the business deliver better results, growth or excel in a specific business area. Ideally they will have sector knowledge.
What is included in a Business Consultation?
Normally in a Business Consultation the business owner or leadership team will be provided with guidance, advice and help to overcome business challenges. You may get a report or research delivered as part of the service. Do ask in advance what will be provided and the key benefits.
How do I find a Small Business Consultant? Source a Consultant
Recommendations are always a great way to find a Small Business Consultant or by searching online and judging by what the consultant has achieved and possibly online reviews.
How can I become a Small Business Consultant?
The best way is to run your own business, learn from your own mistakes and work with many experts in different sectors overcoming day to day challenges and then go help other business owners.
What services can I expect from an Online Business Consultant?
Trust, honesty, openness and guidance are the basics you should expect from any Online Business Consultant as well a a solid expertise in their own discipline or area of specialism.
What do I need to look for when I choose a Business Consultant online?
We would suggest you ask for references and seek online reviews from many other business owners as well as examples or case studies where the Business Consultant has delivered within your sector.
We have been asked does a small business consultant need a certificate or do they need to be certified? In our experience, the best consultants will gain their expertise from doing and success in real business – not in a classroom. Hence we do not look for or consider small business consulting certification.
If so, we’d love to hear from you and know your thoughts. At ProfileTree we are aiming to be one of the top small business consulting firms serving clients from around the world. Hopefully you found this source for consultancy useful. Can we help you improve your business?