7 Things to Consider When Engaging Small Business Consultants

Many small businesses are experts in their field and know their own business inside and out. However lots of small business owners lack the time or expertise required to implement certain projects. That’s where a small business consultant can step in and help.

In order to achieve a successful project it’s important to be clear about what you want your consultant to be able to do for you. Just as important is selecting a consultant with the right skills for the job, but how do you make sure you don’t get off on the wrong foot?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Are you looking for a research/diagnostic approach or do you need help with implementation?

Firstly are you looking for someone to take a diagnostic approach to a business problem you are facing? For instance, which market segment should you enter? Or what product line should you sell? Or is your business need about implementation? For instance, you’ve identified that you need to be on Social Media and need a marketing consultant with the expertise to make this happen.

The two needs are different and some consultants are better in one area than the other. To find out whether your prospective consultant prefers to work on implementation projects or research projects ask them. Don’t be afraid to ask them for specific examples of projects they have worked on and how they have tackled projects similar to yours in the past.

2. Ask prospective consultants how their clients are better off after they leave.

What sort of outcomes were they able to achieve for their clients? Look out for wishy-washy answers. Look for specific examples and outcomes. Does this fit with the sorts of outcomes that you would like for your business? Where they able to increase website traffic by a certain percentage, reduce staff turnover by a certain amount or generate more business for the client?

Picking the wrong person for the job might end up feeling like you are pushing water up a hill with a rake. Not only will the results be less than optimal but it may end up being a costly and stressful experience also.

3. Be careful of wanting champagne on a beer budget.

Do you want fast, cheap or talented? You must pick two out of the three. There is a triangle trade off here. You can get premium talent, faster results or a cheaper cost but Taylor Swift won’t teach your team how to sing tomorrow for free if you see what I mean.

Often a small business owner will set a budget and then begin the search for the best talent and/or fastest result within that budget. From my experience a budget-driven approach can often compromise results. Your best approach is to establish your desired outcome, then judge each potential candidate by how likely they are to be able to achieve that outcome.

4. Look for a solid “About Us” page.

Ask consultants about their qualifications and their approach. With so many so-called ‘experts’ out there it’s really important to identify who is qualified and able to do the job for you. Ask prospective consultants questions about their skills and experience to determine whether they are fit for the job. Are they methodical in their approach? Do have a history of achieving quality results for clients? This will help you to avoid being mislead by organisations with few processes, a glossy website and no real qualifications or experience.

5. Ask yourself whether you think you will be comfortable working with the consultant.

Do you think they are going to be the right fit for your business? Can you see yourself and your team working well with them? Sometimes it’s less about the exact industry experience they have had and more about their ability to get results.

6. Think about goals and outcomes first.

Don’t pick a technical specialist to do a job when you really need someone who can deliver a sales outcome. Think about your goal first, what are you trying to achieve? For instance, if it’s conversions and leads from your website then perhaps what you really need is a marketing consultant to advise on the layout of the website rather than just a technical person to do the build. A technical person can definitely build the website for you, it will function beautifully, but will it achieve your goal of converting traffic to sales?

7. Be wary of small business consultants who are all things to all people.

A good consultant will be honest about what their speciality is and will not simply be a ‘yes’ man or woman. They will push back on projects, ideas and suggestions that they don’t think are right for your business or are beyond their area of expertise. Look for a consultant with backbone not someone who lets you steer the project without alerting you to the danger that lies ahead because they are too afraid to question your judgement or afraid they will upset you. I’d rather have an expert question me and make suggestions than sit back and watch me sink the ship!

So whether it is a marketing consultant or a small business consultant you are looking for, many of the same rules apply. Identify what you need and look at it from an outcomes perspective, work out who has the expertise to help you achieve your goals and whether or not you are comfortable working with them. Look for someone who is genuinely interested in working with you and passionate about what they do.

International School Algarve

In 2002, Vale Verde International School opened its large modern premises in Burgau, Luz (on the outskirts of Lagos), fully complying with all the newly-implemented European Community regulations. The school provides parents in the Western Algarve with the opportunity to give their child a secondary education, based on the British National Curriculum with international adaptations.

Since its opening, the school has achieved a 100% pass rate for all students in all subjects undertaken in the final IGCSE examinations each year. This remarkable feat has been made possible by the school’s well-qualified, dedicated and experienced staff of whom we are justly proud.

Vale Verde International School has some of the most modern schooling facilities in the country and is almost daily broadening the range of educational opportunity we can offer.

The school employs a fully qualified staff of specialists, recognised by the Portuguese authorities, with a rich diversity of backgrounds, experience and nationalities. Our aim is to ensure that our growing number of pupils will receive a high quality education experience in a healthy environment.

The Vale Verde International School offers a wide and balanced curriculum based on the English National Curriculum for Key Stages 3 and 4 and leading to internationally recognised qualifications – the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Certificate of Education (ICE) – administered by the Cambridge University International Exams.

Pupils in Years 6 and 7 follow a common curriculum of English, Maths, General Science, French, Portuguese, Geography, History, I.C.T., Art, Drama and Physical Education. As from September 2006 Chemistry will be offered.

In Year 9 individual Sciences are introduced (presently Physics and Biology) and Business Studies is also added to the time table. Pupils are offered the option of English Literature as an IGCSE course as from Year 10.

In Years 10 and 11 a limited but expanding option system is put into operation allowing pupils to “play to their strengths” while ensuring that they continue with priority subjects. Eventually all students will study 12 subjects throughout these two years leading to IGCSE’s in 8 or 9 of these. As from September 2006, Chemistry and Food and Nutrition Technology will be introduced.

Increasingly throughout the school I.C.T. is assuming the role of a means to learn and exercise other subjects as well as an independent discipline in its own right.

You can find out more information by visiting the VVIS website on http://www.vvis.org or e-mailing admissions on [email protected]

A Critical Mistake 99% of New Home-Based Business Owners Make Before They Sign Up

There are many reasons why people either succeed or fail with a home-based business opportunity. However, there is one critical mistake that most people make before they sign up that will have a major impact on success or failure.

If you are involved in a home-based business you have experienced the recruitment process. You are invited to check out a home business through one of many ways including a hotel or home meeting, business presentation CD, phone presentation, or a one-on-one presentation.

The presentation, generally, is about the business and what it does to make life better for everyone using their products or services. A good presenter will show you how the business makes sense and the exciting opportunity that lies before you. By the time the presentation is over the opportunity sounds so good you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t join and become a millionaire.

Hopefully, you have done your due diligence. You have checked out the company and its products to make sure they are what they say they are. You have experienced the products and services, believe in them and feel in time that you could develop a passion for them. And, finally, you feel confident you can go out and build a business with this company.

But wait! There’s something that is missing and it is the one critical step that must take place to make sure you have the best chance for success. You have to find out how qualified your potential sponsor is in leading, training and coaching you. How they answer your questions should be key to whether you join their team or not.

Here are critical questions you should ask:

· What kind of business building experience and training do you have?
· Tell me about the team you have built and how you did it
· Specifically, how do you build your business?
· What you do to teach your new business partners to do to ensure their success?
· How much time do you traditionally spend teaching and mentoring your new partners?
· Can I call and talk to several of your business partners to get a feel for your organization and how your work with them?
· How easy are you to contact? Will you be available when I need you?
· IMPORTANT: If your potential sponsor is new to the business, you need to ask these questions to his sponsor before signing up

Most people hardly ever ask these questions. They end up signing with inexperienced and non-mentoring business partners. The result, in most cases, is frustration and failure.

Having a sponsor with strong leadership and training experience mentor you through your first years in a home-based business is critical. Here’s why:

· Most people signing up for the home-based business opportunity have little or no business building experience
· Starting a business is tough work and a strong leader needs to be there to mentor the new business partner through the highs and lows
· You will need to develop a new set of skills: presentation, closing, training, mentoring, etc. including a proven step-by-step business building process or system
· To avoid many of the pitfalls many inexperienced associates fall into
· Help develop the right mindset to succeed

Unfortunately, most prospects are told this is an easy business to build. Anyone can do it! So, the new business partner comes in with false expectations. Only to learn, the hard way, that success comes with the price of hard work, education and commitment. For most, starting a home-based business is a huge challenge.

A sponsor must be honest. A recruit has to understand the benefits of being involved in the business, but counseled that there is much to learn and a long-term commitment to the business is required for success. The sponsor may ask for a one-year commitment with a minimum number of hours a week to work the business before signup takes place. The prospect needs to understand this is a serious business and to make serious money will require constant plugging in and participating over several years.

New partners may never have been involved in sales or recruitment, so, this is foreign territory. The sponsor must have the knowledge and experience to teach the basics and get the new business partner off to a solid beginning teaching a success system that is in place and being used by other business partners.

A leader will work directly with his new recruit to understand the business inside and out. He will teach solid fundamentals that will be the foundation the new partner will fall back to for the rest of his career. And, in turn, teach this system to his recruits, too.

Signing up with a proven experienced leader is a critical part of building a successful business. He will be your mentor, coach and trainer for you through thick and thin and lead you to success.

So, the next time you investigate a home-based business opportunity ask the critical questions that 99% of potential business partners never ask about leadership and training. It could make the difference between success and failure.