If you’re running a business you need to be an expert in everything: not just your particular industry, and the business you’ve built, but also your employees, to make sure they’re giving their best without risking burnout; your customers, so you can optimise what you have to offer to appeal to them; your rivals, to make sure you’re a step ahead of their new products, sales and publicity pushes; and more besides! Missing a technological development that lets you save money could be disastrous in the long term, failing to manage your team effectively could lead to the loss of the experts that drive your business forward, and failing to anticipate the next big change in your market could leave you unable to offer customers what they suddenly realise they need.
It’s a mammoth task, and you’ll quickly realise one that it’s impossible for any one person to stay on top of. Fortunately, there are plenty of consultants and specialists who are available to work with your business, and inject their own expertise to help free you up to do what leaders need to: make high level decisions.
Working with brand intelligence companies, marketing firms, interim managers or management consultants isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success: as with all the choices you make for your business, it’s well worth investing the time to ensure you’re getting the best result when you decide to invest resources in expert consultants.
The key ingredient, more important than any other, is specificity. When you’re bringing in external consultants make sure you have a very specific brief for them. If you don’t really know why you’re asking people into your business, they can’t give specific, focussed help that answers your needs and drives you forward to greater success.
It’s also a resource issue: if you can’t define the issue you’ve brought in consultants to work on, then it’s hard to conclusively say it has been addressed and draw a line under their involvement. A poorly defined brief could leave you paying more than you need to for months longer than planned, all the while benefiting less from your consultant’s involvement than you’d hoped.
To avoid this, it’s important to set boundaries, but you need to do so in a way that’s constructive and allows your consultants to do the work necessary to benefit your business. Imposing an arbitrary time limit simply means they’ll be cut off from your business when it’s elapsed, regardless of how well they’ve been performing.
You’ll get better results if you’re able to clearly define the results you need, with set success and failure criteria. This allows you to get what you need for your business, along with the flexibility to terminate your agreement if it’s not working for you!