Too many small businesses aren’t willing to ask for help when they need it or conversely don’t know how to be a good client.

Entrepreneurs by nature tend to be risk-takers with a gut feeling when a decision feels right, but nobody knows everything about growing and managing a business, especially when it comes to IT.

So, sometimes it makes sense to seek the advice and expertise of those outside of your company to make sure you don’t regret a rash decision, but who is right for you and your business to provide such insight? 

IT Consultants

The number one benefit that consultants can offer to a business is temporary expertise. Whether that be day-to-day IT work, supporting those functions that keep the business running, for example things like software, email and data storage. Or play a more strategic role to help your business leverage technology to enhance performance for the long term – not just provide a short term fix.

A business with limited internal IT resources may not be able to manage the continual IT demands that businesses face today. As a task being able to think strategically may often fall away with day-to-day IT activities diverting focus and consuming energy. 

A professional IT consultant can add value by providing a teaching role, a transfer of relevant skills and highlight what needs to be done to update systems and infrastructure, whilst implementing any necessary changes to the system.

When you go through the process of selecting a consultant there are some simple guidelines that you can follow to ensure you get the right “fit”:

Personality traits

Consultants should be a change catalyst and 100% professional, someone who avoids the trap of getting involved in the corporate culture, influenced by employee morale, or other issues that tend to distract an organisation when they are going through a transformation phase.

For example, the consultant must be willing to tell clients things that they may not want to hear, putting the interests of their client first, above their own interests.

Work experience

A good IT consultant should have experience with the challenges or opportunities you and your company are facing. They may not know your specific company or industry, but the consultant’s value is in bringing experience in addressing the same types of problems you are facing. With the expertise to integrate their efforts with what you are doing without having to disrupt your daily internal IT operations.

Creative problem solving skills

You will want the consultant you engage to be an effective problem solver. After all, you are hiring a consultant to help solve a problem. Often your employees can be too close to the details and internal workings of a project to be able to identify the problems or pain points, the value of applying an unbiased view.

A consultant provides objectivity, taking a fresh viewpoint without worrying about what has been done before so that they can challenge established thinking and develop alternative options that others would not consider.

An IT consultant can provide value by auditing your current infrastructure and identifying issues as an outsider seeing things from a whole new perspective. Bringing a wealth of information, knowledge, and expertise from their previous experience.

Outstanding communication skills

A good consultant should be articulate, an able communicator, both orally and in writing. And even more importantly they must have the ability to listen to get your point of view and the background to the situation.

No matter how smart a consultant is, they won’t be able to help you improve your business until they hear and fully understand the challenges you face. 

Getting things done

Selecting a consultant with whom you can develop a professional relationship based on trust and integrity is critical. If a consultant is going to be successful they need to have access to the intimate details of your business, and work closely with you.

How to be a great client

The right consultant can create tremendous value. The wrong consultant can destroy value and have a negative impact on those around them. And if you are going to ensure that you get the most value from your consultant there are a number of simple rules that you as the client can follow:

Always be available to your consultant

Whether your preferred mode of communication is via email, text message, phone or video calls, you need to let your consultant know in advance when you’ll be available, the format you prefer and your communication preferences.

Listen to your consultant

You hired them because you thoroughly researched their expertise or were recommended them from a positive reference. So, trust their instincts and experience and don’t immediately ignore input just because it is different or not how you would do it. 

Understand their fee structure and contract

You are paying this person to grow, help or promote your business, so when it comes to signing their contract or agreeing fees make sure to clarify exactly what this contract covers and what you get for the investment.

What is the length of the contract, what services will it cover, is part of the retainer refundable, what happens if things go wrong? Get everything in writing, and do not hesitate to take a legal review of the contract details.

Even though a consultant’s fees may generally be higher than a comparable employee’s salary, it is more cost effective. There are no social costs to add, a consultant can be short term and terminated at the end of the contract without fuss.

Plus, some of the tasks undertaken may not be suitable for your employees, such as reviewing costs or cutting staff numbers. A consultant can provide an impartial and outside perspective to handle difficult tasks considered unpleasant, and there is no political bias in how they carry out their job.

So why join the Brainping network?

Whether you’re just starting out as a consultant, or a small consulting business looking to bolster your resources, we’re here for you at every step of the way.

Let us know if you have any questions about Brainping, and how we can help and advise you to make the most of your consulting experience.

Why not send us an email, and say hello!

Image source: www.freepik.com