Small businesses, especially non-profits, make an extraordinary amount of progress with very little consulting budget. Only a small handful of small businesses seek and qualify for external funding so for most, it boils down to bootstrapping through the lean times until revenue supports more a more comfortable financial position.
The third party services line of a small business budget isn’t often the place where a lot of money is invested, but smart small businesses understand they can more easily afford a short term resource during crunch time then trying to hire all skills right off the bat. We see this all the time and the ideas around what we are hired for range from getting the (boring) business foundations set to executing a project from start to finish just to get it done and off the To Do list, enabling efficient growth in the future.
The small businesses we find have the most success with taking advantage of their consulting budget do these things:
They maintain responsibility for the outcome of the engagement: they understand that while we are there to help and will drive the project forward it is ultimately they who are responsible for the final result.
They keep the lines of communication WIDE open at all times: they talk with us about progress, update us on internal meetings and let us know when they want us to adjust our course.
They establish clear and concise project goals that truly reflect their objectives: they care less about how we will get there and care more about where we are actually going and why.
They provide accurate information in an organized and timely fashion: they realize we don’t understand the nuances of their business so they structure the information they give us so there is no room for interpretation and they aren’t flooding our inboxes with small bits of information we then have to make sense of. They also vet the information they are giving us internally before passing it off.
They trust us: this is the hardest part, but often the most critical piece to a successful engagement. We bring expertise to the table and need to be able to deliver it in order to meet project goals. When we aren’t meeting project goals, they need to trust they can provide that feedback and we will adjust accordingly without losing momentum.
These steps seem simple but are often overlooked when small business owners decide they need help. There is a real temptation to hire a third party and then wipe your hands of everything to do with that project- this is a mistake. Third party services are best leveraged in a collaborative partnership built on trust.
We help our clients learn these budget lessons at the very start of our engagements so we can be sure we are delivering the most value for them. Don’t waste precious and hard-earned money without first aligning on how best to work with who you’ve hired to help.