We get it; growing can be difficult. Building a business from the ground up is no easy task, and when things seem to stagnate it can take the wind right out of your sails. This is usually when entrepreneurs start to look for help to get past the wall. Finding help; however, can be a challenge in and of itself. Without a starting point, it can be hard to determine which company is best suited to help you reach your goals.
So, what questions should you be asking? Who should you be taking advice from? Do you have to pay huge amounts of money to get you where you want to go? The criteria may seem endless, but we can simplify things for you.
Here are some areas you should evaluate when selecting a consulting company.
What are their goals?
Right out the gate, you’ll want to define what your goals are. Beginning your search with these goals in mind will help you to narrow down your search. Do the results that the consulting company are promising align with your goals?
What is their track record?
If you wanted to learn how to make the best noodles in the world, who would you want to teach you? Would you want a person who has watched several noodle-making tutorials, has read all about the perfect noodle-making techniques, maybe even attended a noodle-making ted talk or two? Or would you place your trust in the person who had been making noodles for years? The person with firsthand experience, taught by the masters, and who has mastered the same techniques through trial and error, discipline, and tangible practice?
If you’re going to invest the time to learn from someone, it’s best to learn from those who have actually been in the thick of it; who have been exactly where you are, and have overcome the same obstacles. Another very important thing to consider is not only the track records of a company’s clients but also the track records of the people who are actually doing the consulting.
It is also important to take into account the size of the consulting company and the size of companies that they work with. Did they grow a 20 million dollar company or a 2 million dollar company? Is there a minimum amount of revenue your company needs to make before they’ll take you on as a client? Make sure that you do your research on their claims as well, as there is a possibility that they may exaggerate their success.
How long have they been in the industry?
Again, experience is the father of wisdom. You want to be sure that any company that you are considering has been around long enough to have survived fluctuating markets, advances in technology, and Millenials.
That being said, another question to consider in tandem with this one is “how long has it been since they were active in the industry?” There are some consultants that haven’t run a business for 15 years and may still recommend newspaper advertising and yellow book ads as “the best lead source”.
Who is doing the consulting?
Who are you going to be interacting with within the company? Often the principal of the company (the noodle master) isn’t consulting at all. Ensure that the person that is guiding and walking alongside you is the one you should be learning from.
What is their approach to growth?
When it comes to growing your business listening to hours of podcasts, reading books, and attending seminars may seem like the way to go. The truth is knowledge is not always power (remember our sad, no experience noodle-maker?). Knowledge is great, but without proper application, it’s about as useful as the ‘g’ in lasagna. A company that will actually help you grow is a company that walks with you, step by step, in order to help you get from point A to point B and accomplish all of your companies goals. Ask yourself, “Is this information actionable? Are they actually plotting out where to go next?” If it’s not actionable, it’s not helpful. Strategies are helpful, knowledge is useful, but with consulting you need assurance that it will create ROI on the investment
Do they specialize in particular business areas?
You’ll want to assess the types of clients the company you are vetting works with. Do they specialize in implementation or information? Are they mostly working with startups, tech companies, or contractors? Each company will have a different client base and range of businesses they assist. A company that has a very broad range of business types may not be able to address the specific challenges your business is trying to overcome and the advice they give may be difficult to retrofit to your particular needs. For example, the solutions, software, or tools they recommend, such as certain CRM’s, accounting software, or business structures, may be ill-fitted for the work you are doing. Again, some companies may only work with businesses whose revenue is upwards of or below a certain amount. Keep your specific needs and challenges in mind when approaching the question of with whom you’ll work.
Do they offer Exclusivity?
Will the company you are considering work with your competitors as well if you decide to use them? It goes without saying that you wouldn’t want your competitors receiving the same strategies, direction, and tips that you are. Look for a company that doesn’t
Number and Quality of Reviews
This point speaks for itself, but we’d be doing you a disservice not to mention it. Learn from others who have gone before you. It’d be a bummer to discover you were in bed with a serpent only after you’d climbed under the sheets (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
Do they have Case Studies?
As much as I’ve harped on learning from those who have been there and done that, you also want to make sure that the people they’re helping are seeing the results that you’re looking for. Ask the company for case studies that show clearly that they’ve helped others get over their slumps and reach their goals. If they can’t show you clear examples, don’t waste your time.
Do they have any guarantees?
Choosing to work with a consulting company means an investment of time, energy, manpower, and of course, money. You want to be certain that such a commitment comes with a guaranteed ROI. Ask if the company you are considering has a guarantee that you will see growth and what the timeframe for that growth is. This leads us to our next question.
What happens if it doesn’t work out?
Many consulting companies will lock you into a ridiculously expensive and long contract. We have even heard of companies who force their clients to leverage personal assets and on occasion have foreclosed on personal houses rather than allowing the client to cancel. Be sure that you know to what level you are committing and that there is a way for you to protect yourself and your company.
Accountability and Interaction
Lastly, gauge the kind of interactions you’re likely to have with the company in the future. If you need to get your questions answered or discover new challenges while you work to implement their ideas, what are they going to do to take care of you? What processes are you going to have to go through should the occasion arise that you need to speak to someone? It’s also worth asking if there is any level of accountability. Follow-up is a part of follow-through. It’s not worth working with a company if you wind up feeling like you’re in it alone.
Do I like spending time with this guy?
Or lady? Either way, you will ultimately be working together hand in hand (or at least you should be.) If you don’t have fun and enjoy the experience, you will struggle to implement and grow. Pay attention to the kind of interactions you’re having with the people you’re working with. If you dread jumping on a call with them, you should find a company that is a more natural fit for you.
With a few basic questions, you’ll much more readily be able to choose a company that will work for you. But as always, if it isn’t insanely simple then we aren’t doing our jobs. To help make your evaluation foolproof, we want to provide you with a great tool to compare the companies you may be considering. Below is a table where you can jot down the answers to the questions you’ll no doubt be asking.
We’ve already filled in the details about our own company. Go ahead and compare.
We dare you.