Consultants are paid heftily to come identify problems and offer solutions in businesses, they are paid because of their expertise, however, using the consulting process, you can diagnose your own company and find solutions that will improve performance while saving you money in the process.
Here are the phases of the consulting process that you can use; either for your own business or to consult for others.
If you are consulting for someone, this is the phase where you start working with the client, laying the foundation for everything that is to follow. Meet with the client and have a discussion on exactly what they would like to achieve with their business (this will determine the goals for the contract). Clarify what their role will be, negotiate terms of engagement, the fee, deliverables and sign a consulting contract.
If you are doing it for your own business, outline what change exactly you want to achieve with your business, identify the roles that you can play and what you will need to outsource, if you don’t have time to collect data, you can plan to hire someone for it.
This is the phase where you open up the business to identify the problem at hand and inefficiencies. This part requires cooperation and disclosure between the consultant and client, otherwise, if important details are left out, it could influence the entire process. Whether you are consulting for a client or doing it for your own business; clearly set out the goals to be achieved, asses the business’s’ current performance, needs and the resources available to the business. If you have collected data, group it into similar parts and analyse it to find inconsistencies that may give you an idea of what is going wrong.
The focus of this phase is in finding a solution to the problems identified, brainstorm possible solutions and analyse the implications of choosing each of the laid out alternatives. It is not unusual for the consultant to face resistance in this phase, especially if they don’t communicate well with the client when looking at solutions. Make sure you do it in a manner that shows respect for the clients’ input. If you are doing it for your own business, outline the biases that you have, which could potentially cloud your decision making. Then choose solutions with awareness of those biases.
Thereafter, craft an elaborate plan to implement the changes, with clear dates and milestones for each goal. Action planning requires creativity and out of the box thinking in order to find several alternative solutions.
If you are doing the consulting for your own business, realise that in this phase you might have to bring in outside help to help you carry out the plan in time. It is one of the most difficult phases of the consulting process, and things can sometimes unravel quite different from how they were planned.
Be prepared to encounter problems that were not foreseen: change in policy, a rise in global fuel prices etc. you will begin to discover assumptions you made that don’t hold water. Thus, the need for your implementation plan to be fluid, with provisions for change without rendering the whole thing useless.
The ability to act as a consultant for your own business is vital, especially for a young business that may not afford the charges of good consultants.