We live in rapidly changing times, especially for businesses. Consider that, in a single generation, businesses have had to adapt to entirely new marketing channels (web and social), decide how to invest in and utilize new technologies, and compete on a global stage — things that were barely imaginable to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
One side effect of these rapid changes and growth is that no single CEO — or any employee, for that matter — can be an expert in everything. This was, perhaps, always true, but it has never been more apparent.
This is why some of the biggest challenges businesses face today are best met and addressed with qualified consultants. Bringing on a consultant helps CEOs add the expertise and skills they need to address particular problems at particular times and can provide the best possible outcomes.
Just a few of the challenges I see businesses facing that are best addressed with the help of a consultant include:
Uncertainty about the future
Being able to predict customer trends, market trends etc. is vital to a changing economic climate, but not every CEO has Warren Buffett-like predictive powers. Bringing in a consultant trained in reading and predicting those all-important trends could be the difference between a bright future and a murky one.
Many CEOs I know are ideas people; that means they’re great at the big picture and disruptive thinking, but less good with things like cash flow, profit margins, reducing costs, financing, etc. Small and medium businesses may not require a full-time CFO but would do better to employ a financial consultant who can step into the role as needed.
Using a meaningful set of rounded performance indicators that provide the business with insights about how well it is performing is key. Most business people I know are not experts in how to develop KPIs, how to avoid the key pitfalls and how to best communicate metrics so that they inform decision-making. In most cases, companies rely on overly simple finance indicators that just clog up the corporate reporting channels.
Regulation and compliance
As markets and technologies shift, so do rules and regulations. Depending on your industry, it can make much more sense to bring in a consultant to help with these areas rather than trying to understand the complexities yourself — and risk fines or worse for non-compliance.
Competencies and recruiting the right talent
Again, a small or medium-sized business might not need full-time human resources or recruiting staff, but during peak growth periods, finding the right people and developing the right skills and competencies is the key to a sustainable future. Bringing in a consultant with the expertise to find exactly the workers you need would be a wise investment.
As technologies change practically at the speed of light, it’s vital for companies to innovate or be left behind — but many CEOs started their careers and businesses before many of these technologies even existed! Consultants can be vital for integrating new technologies, in particular mobile, app development, and cloud computing.
Grandpa’s generation certainly didn’t have to deal with terabytes of data or worry about what to do with it. 90% of the world’s data was created in the past two years and managing, keeping safe and extracting insights from the ever-increasing amounts of data your company produces needs to be in the hands of a qualified professional who can help you get the most return from that data.
In a world of instant gratification, customers expect instant customer service — and can take to the web to share their displeasure at less than satisfactory service just as quickly. Consultants can find ways to improve customer service and bring it into the 21st century.
In a similar vein, because customers can voice any displeasure so much more publicly and loudly than ever before, businesses have to monitor and maintain their online reputations. And while it’s an important task, it’s one best suited to a third party who can monitor and mediate with a certain amount of distance.
Knowing when to embrace change
Early adopter or late to the game? Consultants can help CEOs determine when to embrace change and when to stay the course. Not everything new is better; yet eschewing every change runs the risk of becoming obsolete. A professional outside opinion can make all the difference in these decisions.
We are living in an era of constant change for the foreseeable future: change is the new normal. Preparing for and embracing that change by investing in the right kind of advice is the best way to meet these challenges head on.