The wonder of small business lies in its agility and responsiveness to the slightest turn of the wheel. (Obviously, it is harder to turn a big ship around.) It’s that agility and responsiveness of a small business, though, that makes it necessary to make sure your consultant’s values reflect your own.
Big business has the time and money for big picture thinking, resources to support the installation, and the population to involve. Strategic planning at a large company involves complex and time-consuming implementation. There are pre-strategy sessions, executive leadership strategic meetings, management participation, employee training, and customer surveys. Such commitments often scare small business owners.
As a small business strategist, I allay these fears with personal contact. Availability and accessibility go a long way towards reducing natural concerns about too much outside instruction and/or too little timely input. I don’t think small business strategy is just large business strategy on a smaller scale. If you feel your small business is getting the mini-version, you aren’t getting what you need.
Similarly, I do not believe in overbearing structures, molds you have to squeeze your business into. I’d rather see what you value and align a strategy to your strengths and needs. That’s where value lies. If strategy is a vision extending experience, your business strategy consultant should make you comfortable in your relationship. For instance, once a big corporation signs the deal for strategic advice, they are not likely to see the dealmakers for a long time. Generally, the corporate consultant touches base with the corporate decision maker only in response to some benchmarks along the way. Small business owners should look for some closer contact.
Without being needy, the small business owner wants to build trust with the consultant. The entrepreneur wants this money to be well spent and values personal contact – scheduled and un-scheduled, phone, email, WebEx, Skype, and in-person. For the money spent, the small business wants to be the center of the consultant’s universe, at least, for the time being.
When selecting a small business strategist, keep your values in mind. Of course, you want education and experience, but you want personal interest and immediacy, too.
By Steven Schlagel