In my last article, I outlined the nine types of business advisors to avoid, from consultants without a track record to coaches without a satisfied clientele.
Now it’s time to find a fantastic match among the many game-changing consultants and coaches out there.
Partnering with the right advisor can take your business to the next level through insight, strategy, and clarity. The best consultants will be the first to admit that they aren’t the right match for every client; a great connection is a combination of experience, approach, and personality.
First, let’s pregame by getting clear on these three points:
- Know What Type of Guidance You Need. Get clear on the challenge you are looking to solve, and then educate yourself on the types of advisors that are qualified to fix it. For example, if you need a cash infusion for your business, you may assume you need someone to perfect your VC pitch, but your first stop may actually need to be weighing all the funding options that are available to a business at your stage.
- Set Realistic Expectations. Real, lasting change is often incremental and the result of hard work. If you’re looking for an overnight solution at a bargain-basement price, it’s doubtful that you’ll get meaningful results. Try to find someone who’s been through the process and can share their experience.
- Stay in the CEO Role. You are hiring someone to work for you, so ultimately, you call the shots. You don’t have to agree with everything an advisor says in order to have a successful engagement. In fact, you shouldn’t. Trust your instincts and proactively discuss any reservations.
Questions to Ask Your Potential Advisor
Are you a specialist or a generalist? Find out if he or she uses the same process with each client, or tailors the experience based on a broad range of experience. Both are valid; it just depends on the approach that is appropriate for your needs.
How have you helped people like me? This is important: I don’t believe that a consultant needs to have worked with a business exactly like yours. In fact, it can be an advantage to work with someone who has advised complementary businesses; it will bring a fresh perspective.
Who are some of your past clients, and how did you help solve their challenges? Don’t judge a case study on the surface; evaluate a portfiolio based on whether the client’s problem was solved in a way that improved their business.
What kind of results should I expect, and when? Identify milestones to evaluate progress. If the potential advisor pushes back and says that it depends on you, find out what is expected of you in order to maximize results.
How would we handle it if the engagement isn’t going as expected? Most contracts have a clause that explains the responsibilities of both the advisor and the client, including timelines, payment, and deliverables.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Am I interviewing several potential advisors? Don’t choose someone based on panic or desperation. Comparison shop so you can find out what is available to you and make an informed decision.
Am I making a decision based on price or value? When it comes to your business, value must come first. Engaging an advisor is a financial investment, but it’s also an investment of your time and money. It’s better to hire the right person who can help you get ROI than have to start over due to lackluster results.
Do I trust this person with full information about my business? If you find yourself reluctant to disclose, that’s a sign that you may not full trust the advisor or that you may have some more work to do before starting the relationship.
Do they have more than one success story? While it sounds cool that a PR firm worked with That One Really Big Client, if you have a small business with limited resources, they may not be able to scale that magic.
Am I making a decision based on grounded optimism or fear? Fear chooses the overnight transformation, the magic bullet. Grounded optimism chooses the best person for the job who brings the most value.