Is your business stuck in a rut? Are you falling behind your competition? Are you trying to make big decisions that could impact the future of your business? Is it finally time to take that big leap into another market? Business advisors and consultants provide professional guidance and expertise based on years of experience and a deep understanding of the specific business industry they belong to. They understand the struggles businesses face and understand that a single right or wrong decision could determine the future longevity of a company.
So, how do you know if it’s time to hire this type of help? Do you need an advisor or a consultant? In this post, we’ll talk about the differences between business advisors and consultants, how to know if you need one, and how to choose the right type of advisor or consultant based on your business needs.
Business Advisor vs. Business Consultant
While business advisors and business consultants offer essentially the same services, there’s an important distinction to be made between the roles. Both roles require deep expertise of the industry and exceptional problem solving skills, but the way they go about performing their service is different.
A business advisor is a long-term position within a company, with advisors often serving in a leadership capacity of some kind. Think of a King or Queen’s advisor. It’s a position of leadership and respect. A business advisor is proactive—they seek to address problems before they become problems, and they’re invested in the long-term success and growth of the company.
A business consultant is a short-term position. A company brings in a consultant to help with a specific situation on an issue-by-issue basis. Once the situation or underlying issue is resolved, the consultant is no longer required. A business consultant is generally brought on to help solve a problem after that problem has already occurred.
How to Know if You Need a Business Consultant or Advisor
Hiring a business advisor or consultant is expensive, and the more training and experience they have, the more expensive they will be. Business consultant rates vary considerably and are often based on how many years of experience they have and their success rates over training alone.
A business consultant certification can help someone get started in the industry, but the strength of a consultant or advisor is often based on their past successes and the vastness of their experience. Depending on the type of advice you need and the experience and reputation of the person you are hiring, rates can be anywhere from $50-$500/hour. Some may charge a flat fee for services in the hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started.
With these rates in mind, how do you know if this is a service your business would benefit from? There’s a large amount of overlap between the services provided by consultants and advisors. Choosing which is best for you often comes down to your budget (how long you can hire them) and how long it will take to solve your unique business concerns.
Your business might need a business consultant if:
- You feel stagnant in your industry
- You lack in-house expertise
- You aren’t sure what type of hires would best serve your business
- You’re trying to tap into another industry or marketplace
- You need a second opinion about big choices
- You want or need to restructure your company
- You are falling behind your competition
- You need to make quick and smart decisions about how to cut back
- You need help making educated financial decisions
Your business might need a business advisor if:
- You want guidance on the direction to take your business long-term
- You want help solving problems and making decisions as you grow your business
- You don’t feel prepared for the future or the unexpected
- You want to significantly grow your business
- You want an ongoing second opinion about business choices
- You want to stay ahead of your competition with continued expert guidance
- You want long-term financial advice
- You want ongoing tools and supports as a business leader
- You want a sounding board to help you navigate a range of good, great, or terrible ideas
In either case, look for someone who has many years of experience in your specific industry. Ask for references and previous success stories. When it comes to advisors, who you may work with long-term, it’s especially important to build rapport and develop a comfortable, trusting relationship. You must be able to trust they have your best interests in mind, even when they are shutting down your (seemingly) good ideas.
Before making any hiring decisions, it’s vital that you ensure your priorities and long-term vision for the company align. They may not have the same ideas as you about how to get there, but you should have the same general sense about where you are trying to go. Ask them a lot of questions early on, and look for someone who asks you a lot of questions in return. You want someone who will dig deeper than surface-level problem solving and who will inspire you to find the best solutions to the problems your business faces.
Types of Business Consultants and Advisors
Small Business Consultant or Advisor
Both a certified small business consultant and a small business advisor specialize in understanding the pains of small businesses. They understand the restraints and limitations of small businesses compared to larger companies, and they offer flexible, agile strategies that can expand or retract depending on your specific needs and budget.
Small business consulting should be considered if you’re only looking for assistance with a specific issue but would rather keep your own counsel on most of the other functions of your business. A small business advisor will take a broader look at your small business as a whole and offer advice on a regular basis. An advisor is likely the more expensive option, but they’re in it for the long haul. The overall success of your business directly benefits both their reputation and bottom line; if your business fails for any reason, it’s not a good look for them.
Startup Business Consultant or Advisor
Only startups need to seek help from a startup consultant or advisor. You may need this type of help to make smart, guided decisions for your startup. The early stages of a startup are incredibly important, and if the right decisions aren’t made, the company will never get far.
A startup business consultant would be brought on to solve specific, short-term problems, such as providing insider marketing and sales advice or guidance on important funding decisions. A business startup advisor works with a startup in a larger capacity, continually guiding the business throughout the startup process and potentially profiting from the startup’s long-term success.
Financial Business Consultant or Advisor
If you lack a CFO or your business is facing serious financial concerns, seek out a financial business consultant or advisor.
A financial business consultant can solve individual financial issues or guide your business on specific financial decisions. For example, if you experience a quick downturn in profits and are unsure what to do, a consultant can help you get out of that rut with guided advice on how and where to cut back. A financial advisor lives and grows with your business, helping you make educated financial decisions in a long-term capacity.
Business Growth Consultant or Advisor
If your business becomes stagnant or you want to grow a new business fast, a business growth consultant or advisor can help. Both will work with you to understand your business goals and key challenges, optimize your revenue streams, and enhance your internal processes, but in a slightly different manner.
Bring on a business growth consultant if you want expert advice about specific areas of growth. They can also provide a growth plan based on your needs that you can continue to execute without their direct guidance. A growth advisor, on the other hand, will help you execute that plan on an ongoing basis. They understand the inner workings of your business because they work alongside you year after year, so they can help make critical decisions about the growth of your business based on their own intimate knowledge of your company.
Business Marketing Consultant or Advisor
You might hire a marketing consultant/advisor if you need specific advice on marking and selling your offering. They will fill in any gaps you have and help you make smart decisions based on industry trends, your ideal niche, and customer behavior.
A consultant can be brought on to fill short-term gaps or to guide your business in times of change, such as marketing a brand new product or trying to push ahead of your competition. An advisor plays a long-term role, guiding all of your sales and marketing decisions.
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International Business Consultant or Advisor
International business consultants and advisors provide an international perspective, help businesses make global connections, and advise on how to operate in different global markets. Simply put: if you want to do business with other countries, an international consultant or advisor will help you do just that.
A consultant can be brought on to help you make decisions about which countries your business should pursue and whether or not it’s the right time for your business to make these leaps. An advisor would help in a long-term capacity as you build connections globally and secure business in other countries.
Other Types of Business Consultants/Advisors
- Business process consultant/advisor
- Business planning consultant/advisor
- Business sales consultant/advisor
- IT consultant/advisor
- Legal consultant/advisor
- Tax consultant/advisor
- Business management consultant/advisor
- Recruitment consultant/advisor
- Digital transformation consultant/advisor
- Business PR consultant/advisor
Business operations consultant/advisor
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