Finding the Right Consultant for SMEs-A Herculean Task

Small and Medium Enterprises are on the rise, especially in developing countries like India. They make up for most of the economy and are popular for the level of innovation, opportunities of employment, and social mobility they promise. They are quick in responding to new opportunities and hold the potential to grow rapidly.
However, data shows that SMEs hardly progress enough to develop into a large-scale business. One of the root causes of this problem can be traced back to the lack of expertise or consultancy services for SMEs. Though the market has consultants in aplenty, many prefer bigger businesses over SMEs which affect their potential. Finding the right consultant for your SME can be a challenging task. 

Here are some quick pointers to keep in mind,

1. Skill building

Any consultant no matter how experienced needs to constantly polish their skills, while at the same time picking up newer ones almost every day. Since consultants charge on the basis of their knowledge and experience, make sure that you are relentless in looking for skill-building aspects in your consultant.

2. Experience levels

Since most SMEs struggle to hold their feet in the market, it is beneficial to get consultants who come packed with a fair share of experience. Be it owning a business in the past or knowledge expertise in a particular topic, consultants (especially for SMEs) need to be at the top of their game. In general, an expert is defined as having 10,000 hours of experience with the topic they claim as their expertise. If you use a traditional 40-hour workweek as your ruler, that means your consultant would need at least 5 years’ full-time experience with your small business topic before coming on-board. 

3. Determine the Whys

This might seem cliched, but before getting a consultant on-board, it is good practice to sit down and figure out why do you want to get that particular consultant on your team and how exactly would he/she help your target audience. What is their motivation? Once you are confident about this, your road map would be much clearer and enable you to build a fruitful relationship with your consultant.

4. Closely look at the business plan the consultant offers

It is worth the effort to closely scrutinize the kind of steps the consultant takes to work on the business model. Look at the legal format they use, closely assess the vision and mission statements they come up with, what their offerings are, their price and profit models. Their ability to plan for the next 1, 3 and 5-year goals should tell you about how adept they’d be in guiding your SME in the long run.


5. Marketability:

There are several consultants out there. Ask yourself, what is it about your consultant that stands out? How will they connect with your target audience and build the necessary rapport? Their marketability can tell you a lot about how conventional or out of the box they are going to be in their working styles as well.

6. Coaching skills

How good a listener is a consultant? Does he/she ask meaningful questions? Are they able to provide clarity and focus? Look for their ability to hold you accountable for implementing a plan of action and deal with difficult clients. Since they are consultants, they should rank high in coaching skills as it is one of the primary desired characteristics of a consultant.

7. Check for focus 

Do you require a consultant with expertise on a particular matter or do you need one who can act as a jack of all trades? Does the nature of your SME require the consultant to have a license/certification? (finance/legal etc) Do you need a consultant who has experience working with local clients or national/international ones? Checking for these patterns in your consultant should help you to understand what their trajectory and focus have been and should help you make a more informed decision when it comes to zeroing down on a consultant.

8. Adviser or worker

Some SMEs require consultants who function primarily as an advisor and mentor and work on strategising, while other require consultants who offer specific service like that of a sub-contractor to increase the staff. Knowing the nature of consultancy your SME will benefit the most from is a good start to getting a consultant.
Getting the right consultant for an SME can indeed be a mammoth task. Thus, it is not only beneficial but rather essential to be cautious in order to get the right consultant in place.
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