As anyone who has worked for a large business knows, it’s common to engage outside consultants to advise on business processes and operations. Running a business entails a lot of factors on which expert advice can help the business to flourish. These include management of assets, formulation of business strategies, manpower requirements, implementation of technology, raising working capital, and negotiating business loans.
However, for small businesses seeking to improve their operations, the cost of such consultants can be prohibitive. Thankfully, there are many service providers that provide free consultancy advice to small business owners as part of their marketing and business acquisition activities.
For example, finance companies like Beyond Merchant Capital can help small businesses to review their working capital requirements and assist them to find the best type of small business loan to suit their goals and needs.
Of course, these companies are going to recommend their own products in return for providing such advice, but that doesn’t stop businesses from shopping around to ensure they are getting the best deal.
Most service providers who provide free consultancy services – whether they be finance companies, insurance brokers, equipment suppliers, or providers of support products such as accounting and payment processing services – do so knowing that not every client contact will result in an ongoing business, but it’s still a very cost-effective means of marketing their services to small business owners.
The key to getting good advice when consultancy services are offered for free is to firstly ensure that there is no obligation in agreeing to receive the consultancy services, and secondly ensuring that the company offering the services have advisors that are experienced and skilled in the business processes for which you are seeking advice.
Auditing and fine-tuning the business
Some service providers may go as far as offering full process audits of a small business if the owner feels it may be underperforming. This will involve a lot more work than is normally offered with free consultancy services, but often service providers will be prepared to go to this next step if the business owner is prepared to make a minimal commitment to the products or services of the company providing the consultancy service.
Such service providers consider it worthwhile doing the extra work once they have a ‘foot in the door’ because if they can help a small business to improve their business processes, that business may in time become a more profitable client for the service provider.
For the business owner, such consultancy services can be very valuable because business performance can often be improved in ways that a business owner may not be able to see, but can be obvious to an outside consultant who has come across many similar situations in other businesses.
In the case of underperforming businesses, a proper audit of resources is usually the best way to start. Then identifying bottlenecks in business processes and determining whether there are redundant tasks or resources that can be weeded out is the next step. Once identified, many business owners may be surprised with findings that they would likely overlook because they appear to be part of a normal routine in daily business operations.
Adopting new technology
In this day and age, passing up the help that new technology can bring would be foolish.
Cloud computing, cloud accounting and virtual meetings have changed the traditional business landscape, and there are many advancements in technology that can help organizations to streamline their operations.
Many business processes can be managed through phone apps – something that most business managers would not have thought possible five years ago. Even applying for business loans can be done online now with processing times taking only a day or two, instead of weeks or months as used to be the case when business owners had only their local bank as a source of finance.
From phone apps to cloud-based technological solutions, there are many processes that can be improved utilizing new technology to enhance business efficiency and thus profitability. Keeping up with what is new and what works for a particular business is where outside consultants can help.
In any evaluation of business processes, there are issues that non-affiliated company personnel can more easily spot, and for some of these processes getting them right may be the difference between making losses or profits.
So when opportunities arise to utilize the free services of consultants or advisors offered by service providers, use them when you can because potentially they can offer good advice for little or no cost.