Far too many business owners baulk at the perceived costs of engaging external advisors to assist them to improve the performance of their businesses.
In the long run, this reluctance to invest in external advice generally proves detrimental, to the profitability and sustainability, of their businesses.
As a questionable but understandable cost saving measure, many owners of established businesses tend to rely on web-based information sites or Government Small Business sites in preference to engaging external advisors.
Whilst accessing free advice from reputable online sites is a step in the right direction, the main problem with this approach is that often, the key link between the advice offered and the skills available in the relevant business to successfully apply the advice, is missing.
Sometimes, less experienced business owners, access information from sites where the business information on offer is not only of poor quality but is often wrong, and acting upon such advice, can create additional problems.
The other aspect which limits the value of free online advice is the assumptions made by the business owners or their managers, as to the actual problem that they are seeking information to help them to resolve.
It is often the case, that a symptom of a problem is being addressed, where a more complete, focussed and analytical investigation by an experienced external advisor, would establish the real underlying problem, one that must be resolved before the business can move forward.
Aligned to the perceived cost of external advisors being a barrier to greater engagement between businesses and external advisors, is a poor understanding by many businesses of the benefits that external advisors bring to any assignment, and the real return on investment that building a short term or ongoing relationship with an external advisor, can provide.
The real benefits that external advisors bring to any business which has the foresight to engage them include;
1) Fresh and different perspectives
External advisors are usually very experienced, well qualified, and through interacting with numerous businesses in a variety of industries over many years, they can look at your business from multiple perspectives, as distinct from your own limited perspective.
2) Unbiased viewpoint
An external advisor is independent, unaligned to prevailing points of view within a business, and can call it exactly as they see it, usually without fear or favour. They are able to resist filtering information via the cultural bias of the prevailing culture, and as such, can readily spot the obvious.
3) Greater and often more up to date expertise
Good external advisors generally hold relevant business related tertiary qualifications, are usually continuous learners, and generally hold memberships of relevant professional bodies that assist them to stay up to date with current business thinking, and relevant technological advances.
4) Broader experience base
External advisors in general, work from a base of extensive experience, often across many industries, and most have held senior positions in listed and unlisted companies, as well as private companies, before becoming business advisors. They also come with an extensive base of contacts that they can draw upon depending on the situations they encounter.
5) Time management
Your time is vital, and the more of it you can spend on areas which utilise your strengths, the better off your business will be for this focus. An external advisor, by focussing on what they do best, will complete assignments much faster that you can, and the results they deliver will usually be time effective in implementation, thereby saving you even more valuable time.
6) Level of analytical skills
To survive in the business world, analytical skills of a high order are a pre-requisite for any professional business advisor. The skill to ask the right questions, of the right people, and analyse the information provided, before making recommendations or assisting to rectify a problem, is a skill not easily, or quickly, attained.
7) Add more weight to management change initiatives
Any management team attempting to introduce change initiatives, will find that support for the changes in the form of well justified recommendations coming from an external advisor, will assist greatly in selling those changes into the rest of the business.
8) Transference of skills and methodologies
External advisors undertaking assignments in any business will interact with key employees, who will observe both the skills displayed by the external advisor, and the methodologies they utilise as they proceed.
9) Stakeholder evidence of your mindset
All businesses have stakeholders and whether they are shareholders, vendors, suppliers, customers, clients or employees, they will notice the engagement of external advisors. The mindset of a business owner or manager who is willing to engage external advisors, is different than that of someone unwilling to do so, and engaging external advisors is a clear and positive mindset indication.
10) Profitability enhancement
To build a successful reputation, leading to future engagements, an external advisor is very conscious of the need to deliver tangible and measurable outcomes. As a consequence, the usual outcome of the involvement of an external advisor, are changes which once bedded down, positively impact on bottom line performance.
Clearly understanding the range of benefits that an external advisor can bring to a business, allows a business owner to conduct a more balanced assessment of the potential return on investment available, from engaging a suitable external advisor.
In most cases, a balanced assessment will establish that the returns on offer will fully justify a business owner’s decision, to advance down the path of engaging an external advisor.