Every consultant should build a company

Pirate Storms House (of cards)

It doesn’t matter how well you know your trade, if you are a marketing, public relations or IT consultant, or any other for that matter, you should build a business to know what your clients are going through.

This thought has stuck in my mind ever since Photowalke.rs got off the ground and we had to deal with a world of financial complexity.

You need a business model, a business plan, an accountant that knows what he’s doing (and can communicate it), you need to invest your own money from the get-go, and you need to let go of the fear that it won’t work. Right now, you haven’t even begun to do actual work.

But let’s skip ahead and imagine you have finally jumped those hurdles and can finally run at your own pace, working up a strategy to grow, setting a plan and counting how much you will need to put that plan in practice. You come to realise that you have very little margin for error.

And now this guy shows up. He’s a consultant and works for a marketing agency or some general business consultancy and tells you of a world of marvellous plans and amazing strategies that may grow your business 10 fold ! You agree on a fee, after you’ve stretched your investment budget beyond its limits and he starts off with a digital campaign of seo, cpm, cpa, cpc, remarketing, social media, crm and the kitchen sink.

In the end you get a bunch of powerpoint slides with reports and figures, great results and amazing KPI’s from each of the digital campaigns he was running. Yet your business grew by 2 or 5%, at most. At this point you may get a speech about how much you both learned from the experience and how you can improve for next time.

This is a common pitfall in some consultancy models and one that many small businesses may fall into because they work on a tighter budget.

I have always been a firm believer that a consultancy is a relationship that grows in unison (as I’m sure most agree) and complain regularly about not getting any feedback about business KPI’s. Did the campaign lead to any sales? Are customers making repeat purchases?

But even if everything goes according to plan, there is still the problem of the manager thinking he is all knowing and powerful. Rarely do I hear stories of managers listening to feedback the consultant got from his research or observation of reactions to a campaign. Those in charge of management and operations tend to look at consultants and agencies as mere executors of a plan and disregard the valuable role they can have in bringing community insight to the organisation’s strategy.

Photo by furlined @ flickr.

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