Beverley Hamilton

Article Summary:

Running a successful consultancy means business consultants need support and systems.

Business Consultancy: The Importance of Support and Systems

I work with people who have left the corporate world and have established or want to establish themselves as Independent Business Consultants (IBC) in their area of expertise, whether that be HR, Marketing, IT or sales.

One of the most common assumptions many of them make is that they don't need any help and they become a "lone ranger". This is often based on a set of beliefs such as

* "I can do everything myself"

* "I can't trust anyone else to help me in my business"

* "I can't afford to pay anyone to help me"

* "I'll get someone when I'm more established"

However, leading and managing a successful consultancy is about more than just delivering the consultancy services. A consultancy business is an entity made up of systems, processes and infrastructure as well as what you actually deliver - your products and services. As the delivery person of your services you may be 100% capable. However, that is not all that's involved in running your consultancy and making it an ongoing success.

There are many other functions and roles that have to be fulfilled in order for your consultancy to be successful. Functions such as finance, sales, marketing operations and administration to name a few; Roles such as bookkeeper, invoice writer, PR person, researcher, sales person and client manager etc. All of these important roles and functions need to be performed whether you are a global corporation or a 1 person consultancy. None of these functions can be ignored and you may not have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform each of the roles to a good enough standard. Equally if one of the main reasons you established your own business in the first place was to DO what you love doing, then in reality do you really want to be doing all the other "stuff" as well?

Some people just get busy doing a bit of sales a bit of marketing and a bit of admin, which usually just means answering emails. And for a short time that may work.

However, over time you forget who you've sent which invoices to or if you've even sent them at all; your VAT and tax affairs get dumped in a shoebox "to be sorted out when I'm less busy" and you stop going to new events and arranging meetings because you are "busy" delivering for your biggest (read only) client. Very soon though that client project is complete, the pipeline of new prospects is empty and the taxman has knocked at your door.

If only you had got some help!

In establishing your consultancy you need to decide at the blueprint stage what you want to do and are skilled enough to do and what you're not. Then you need to decide what support you can get, from whom and to help you with what. Yes it may cost you but what will it cost you to not get help?

The issue of cost is often the reason (excuse!) for not hiring someone to help with those functions or tasks that you are good at or do not want to do.

But imagine for a moment you are a first time house buyer with 3 children both you and your partner work and the most DIY you have ever done is change a light bulb. After a few months in the house you decide that you would like to redecorate, convert the loft into a bedroom with an ensuite bathroom and sauna, install a new kitchen and completely landscape the garden.

Do you consider doing it all your self? Well maybe but unless you are a bathroom fitter, landscape gardener, carpenter and farm out the children for a few weeks the answer is probably a sensible no. So what would you do?

You might

* Decide on your budget +/- 10%

* Prioritise the order you want to or need to get things done

* Research local companies who offer these services

* Get some quotes and references

* Draw up some blueprints

* Plan the timescales for completion and how everything needs to integrate

Now if having done all the research and planning your costs exceeded your budget what could you do well for example you could arrange a barter situation where,

* you baby sit for the gardener's children in exchange for hours on the garden

* you offer consultancy to the plumber's partner in exchange for the new bathroom to be installed

The point is there are many ways to achieve the goal of getting the right help for your business at the right time. But struggling with everything yourself is not a great solution. We all need help in certain areas and assuming we don't will catch us out at some point.

And as the saying goes if you don't invest time and money to get it right the first time when will you have time and money to rectify it second or third time.

So don't be a lone ranger, ask yourself:

* What functions do I want to perform and are skilled enough to perform within my consultancy?

* What support do I need to ensure that I have a successful consultancy from now on?

* Who do I know that can help me?

Beverley Hamilton of One Step Further is a business coach to business consultants. She is the author of "Take Control of Your Time: 7 Straight Shooter Strategies for Success". For more information read Beverley's full bio at www.onestepfurther.co.uk.

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