small business consulting

How to Become a Leading Small Business Consultant

Alan Melton

How do you start or upgrade your small business consultancy practice to become a leading small business consultant? In this article, we will explore what it means to be a small business consultant, what it takes to be one and some tips and ideas to help you become a leading consultant for small businesses.

So, let’s get started!

Who’s a business consultant anyway?

It’s a no brainer, really! As the term may imply, a business consultant is one who “consults” with mostly small businesses to provide tactical support, advice and strategy to help elevate the business to a greater dimension. We provide advice and an outsider perspective, essential for a thriving business.

What does a business consultant for small businesses do?

A business consultant works with business owners to develop business plans, identify marketing needs, develop marketing strategies and impart certain skills to business owners for better management and efficiency in maximizing profits for the business. We are thus, key players in the growth of small businesses.

How does Covid-19 impact consultants for small businesses?

We will also look at the pandemic and it’s unique challenge (and opportunities) for small businesses and consultants. This is an exciting time for us to help small business owners to pivot and reinvent their companies!

consultants for small businesses collaborating

During the time providing coaching and consulting over the last 18 years, we have created 36 business development modules that our team uses to take businesses from the startup stage to the business freedom stage.

But to narrow the list, business consultants for small businesses are often associated with the following responsibilities:

–          We are quick to draw attention to current marketing needs associated with the business they are consulting with.

–          We develop strategies to increase publicity and awareness of the goods and services offered by the business they are consulting with and consequently increase the customer base. They devise ways to spread the word on the existence of the brand.

–       We help their self- employed clients develop an organizational structure and a systems of team meetings to keep the organization moving forward.

–        We draw attention to new funding schemes and suitable loan options to finance the business.

–       We implement process documentation, process measurement and process improvement.

–        We develop tactical/strategic business plans to foster growth with clearly stipulated long-term and short-term goals and objectives to measure the realization of set goals.

–        We explore and educate business owners on technological outlets and resources, as well as existing business regulations and exploitable opportunities.

–        We implement time management studies and improve productivity for their clients and their employees.

–        We develop employee acquisition and retention plans and explore possible hiring options for qualified personnel.

–        We identify training opportunities and programs for existing staff and provide training for the organization.

–         We review the budgeting and accounting processes of the business and present suitable recommendations for improvements.

What does it take to become a small business consultant?

  • Certification

Unlike other more formal administrative roles in business, certification isn’t always a prerequisite to becoming a small business consultant. That said, it is worthy of note that certification can really set you apart from the crowd, and paint an impressive picture of you, which equates to increased clientele.

However, even without certification to back the vocation, an aspiring business consultant for small businesses must possess a significant degree of understanding of concepts pertaining to the field like defining small businesses, growing and expanding small businesses, problem identification and solving, increasing customer base, marketing strategies. Also, having working experience in successfully consulting small businesses will prove useful in this consultancy niche. Certainly having experience with running their own successful business in the past is an important and helpful background.

  •         Skills

small business consultant planning

By virtue of the role played by consultants for small businesses, it follows that certain skills are primordial for successful consultancy:

–          Leadership: The duties and responsibilities of a consultant for small businesses demand good leadership skills from the consultant. He/she stands to lead the business in the path of progress and must earn the loyalty of other team members to achieve this. The small business consultant also stands as a visionary, providing direction for the organization to achieve its set goals.

–          Teamwork: Together with leadership skills, the consultant must be able to “play well” with others, as the role of consultancy exposes the consultant to work with teams, large or small. This may include working with the business owner(s), the executive administrative team, departmental managers or even staff, and good teamwork skills will enhance the chances of success by a significant proportion.

–          Communication: Being a consultant means stepping up to offer advice, initiative and recommendations towards business growth, and communication skills are key to achieving this. The small business consultant must have strong verbal and nonverbal communication abilities, being able to pass down ideas to the best possible understanding of the concerned.

–          Problem-solving: Consultants for small businesses serve largely to bail business owners out of challenges with new strategies and innovations. As such, consultants must possess strong problem-solving skills, being apt to identify sources of the problem and deduce unique and feasible solutions to such problems.

–          Creativity and innovation: The role of the business consultant is to offer a neutral perspective to the existing business structure and plan. Being creative and original with ideas will heighten client satisfaction in the consultant’s ability to offer a fresh perspective and ideas to augment existing structures and overcome business challenges.

–          Analytical Assessment: being involved with all aspects of the business, consultants for small businesses should be able to critically analyze sectors of the business such as budgeting and business models to draw conclusions for further innovation. Strong analytical skills will prove indispensable in the career path of a small business consultant.

  •         Training

To be an expert in any field usually requires a significantly long amount of time invested in training and practicing the said skill. Likewise, to become a small business consultant often requires a significant length of time invested in field training, be it in the form of functioning in another close domain like a business analyst position or another type of business professional, or learning from other coaches in the same field, the latter being less time consuming and significantly enriching.

That said, we offer coaching training for independent business coaches and consultants, with tools, templates, ideas and strategies from more than 18 years of successful business consulting/coaching experience. Find out more here.

How much does a Small Business Consultant Make?

On average, small business consultants’ salaries in the US range from about 60,000 to 100,000 per year. That equates to about $1,200 per week, on average. But the top consultants make much more than that.

Also, it is quite interesting that business consultancy is listed among the trending jobs of 2020. So, what can you do to up your game in the field of business consultancy? Here are some ideas to become a leading business consultant in 2020.

consulting for a small business onwer

Steps to becoming a leading small business consultant – 20-point exhaustive checklist 2020

  1.     Advance your skills

With an ever-increasing population engaging in the field of small business consultancy, what will set you apart is the depth of knowledge and skill you possess. In fact, the degree of knowledge and competence has great sway on the client base you can attract and can even significantly influence your paycheck; so be sure to invest to advance your skills. Seek to further your education in small business consultancy. Whatever opportunity you find to build your skills, jump on it, be it online coaching or training avenues.

  1.     Increase your experience

How much experience do you have in small business consultancy? The amount of background experience you possess has the potential to inspire faith and confidence in your clients towards you. Note that no business owner will readily entrust their business to a small business consultant who has zero experience in consultancy or who has never owned and successfully managed a business before. So, seek to increase your level of experience, to become an expert in the field. This may require you to start your own business, take up internships or even sign up for voluntary services, just so that you have some room to practice and exercise your skills and abilities. In so doing, you’ll add some more figures to your experience chart and quickly rise to the top of your field.

  1.     Establish your Why (Intrinsic Motivation)

So, why do want to be a leading consultant for small businesses? What drives you? What do you hope to achieve? Knowing this will build momentum, resilience and enable you to forge resistance through the hoops and hurdles on your way to the top.

Without properly defining your why and what you stand for, you may never really take things as seriously as you ought, or possibly even give up when the storms rage.

This will also play into just how much you’re willing to invest – in your time, energy, and money, in what you do.

  1.     Keep your eye on the prize

You must set standards you wish to attain and stay focused on attaining them. Distractions will surely come but your resistance will be determined by how focused you are on achieving the landmarks you’ve set yourself to achieve. You must persevere and keep your eyes on the prize.

business consultant making a presentation
Small Business Consultants Help Businesses Grow
  1.     Define what success means for you, and strive towards it

To reach the top, you must first identify and visualize what the top looks like and work towards that. Carefully map out the definition of success for you, personally; set the standards of success and strive towards it, and when you get there, you’ll know you’ve made it. Such standards differ from person to person; so, find what works for you and work hard for it.

  1.     Practice makes perfect

Don’t wait to be employed to practice what you know or think you know. Practice certain aspects of consultancy on yourself or business. For example, practice drawing a business plan, rehearse the steps and processes you’ll go through with a client and establish your working consultancy model. Practice writing goals for various types of businesses for varying timelines, long-term and short-term. Remember, practice makes perfect and what you do regularly, you’ll quickly master.

  1.     Decide the scope of your consulting practice

Delimit the reaches of your skill. In your work, will you pay keen attention to micro areas in business like publicity and advertising strategies, or will your work encompass a wider range of domains in the client’s business? What size of businesses will you consider as your limit to work with? Will you be more of a localized small business consultant working with local clients and local businesses’, or will you be an international consultant? Establish the confines of your work and be known for it.

  1.     Determine your mode of operation with businesses

As a consultant, will you assume more of a counselor/coach/mentor position, or will you actively carry on the work for the company? This will enable you to set your limits of functioning and establish lines you won’t cross when it comes to consulting. Also, being specific as such informs the clients ahead of time of your modus operandi and almost assures of customer satisfaction when they do approach you.

  1.     Identify your marketing techniques

What marketing techniques do you prefer and teach? The marketing techniques you use frequently will go to edify your personality as a small business consultant and set you apart from the crowd. So, identify the techniques you like and catalogue them in your “playbook”. In this, you’re building an arsenal of ideas you can fall back to, as default, and expect results.

In choosing your default marketing techniques, be sure to pick out what you know works for you, what you consider “tried and true”.

20 Point small business consultant checklist

  1. Don’t be stereotyped

Be open to new ideas, strategies and techniques. Sometimes, challenges may require you to think outside the box and apply new strategies you may never have used before. Remember, insanity is doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results. You can’t do it as you’ve always done and expect to progress. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Also, don’t get carried away by trends. Remember, your goal is to stand out from the crowd, and not get lost in it. Trending ideas or marketing techniques, for example, may be of help to you, but don’t get carried away into looking out for trending techniques to use all the time. Be creative and let your unique personality and skills shine.

  1. Develop important consulting skills

In the world of small business consultancy, there are key skills that easily set you on the platform of recognition among the best: skills like problem-solving, teamwork, leadership and communication, among others.

Working as a consultant for small businesses, you’ll most definitely be interacting with others, either showing the way (as a leader), working with other team members to get the job done (teamwork), facing and solving new challenges (problem-solving), communicating ideas and strategies to bolster the growth of the business (communication) and so much more. Therefore, having exceptional skills as such will easily set apart from the rest as the best.

business consultant teaching
Small Business Coach Associates
  1. Identify common problems and synthesize solutions

Identify problems common to small business owners, challenges most will face, and formulate solutions to them. You will by this, be better prepared for when you do get hired and will help you to be proactive to such problems when you do encounter them in the field, thus making you significantly efficient.

  1. Know your limits

Be honest to identify what you can and can’t (or shouldn’t) do as a small business consultant. Certain responsibilities do not fall to you as a small business consultant, and you should be quick to identify and delegate them, when in your power, to the appropriate people. Outsource tasks that aren’t in your skill set to other more competent experts and save yourself the embarrassment from when you try to do it yourself and fail. Get help when you need it and be open to working with others. In so doing, your clients will perceive you as honest and passionate about their business and will most certainly esteem you among other consultants, and that’s what you’re shooting for.

  1. Let go of ego

Being a consultant should exude your passion and be meaningful to you as an individual. But be cautious – it’s not about you, it’s about your clients. While it is your job to render advice on a certain course of action, it is not your action to take or decision to make, and you must respect the opinions and decisions of your clients, no matter how wrong they may seem to you. And if they fail at it, don’t rub it in their face. And when they score a win because they acted on your counsel, be professional and deflect the credit to others. Don’t try to claim the praise to yourself. Remember, it’s not about you, but about your clients and their satisfaction with you.

  1. Know your weaknesses and manage them

Being human means there is room to err, and you must acknowledge your weaknesses as an individual and keep them in check. Be it anger, fear, anxiety, trauma, or personal life challenges you may be facing, don’t let it spill over to your clients. Develop strategies/ mechanisms to manage it, cope with it or overcome, if you can. Don’t let your weaknesses and personal challenges ruin the reputation you desire – being a leading small business consultant.

  1. Learn from the best (The Masters)

Look to those who’ve succeeded and mastered what you aspire to master. Learn from them – their successes, failures, shortcuts and working principles. Identify what methods, strategies, techniques and modus operandi they use and why they use them, as well as the category of clients they work with. You’ll most certainly learn a thing or two, that you can apply to your work and make it better. Also, don’t be afraid to use the results of other professionals to set standards for yourself and work towards achieving and surpassing them.

consulting for small businesses
Consulting With Small Businesses
  1. Use marketing to your advantage

Spread the word about your work, using guerilla marketing strategies. Perhaps, you may want to put out flyers, send out business cards, send out press releases, use radio/tv announcements (if you can afford it), or make use of social media and spread the word of who you are and what you do. By so doing, you’ll connect to clients in need of your services, whom you can satisfy and have them spread the word about you to others. As more people get to know you as a small business consultant, more people will reach out to hire you, get satisfied and join you to spread the word of just how competent you are. That surely brings you closer to your goal of becoming a leading consultant for small businesses.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals

This is a greatly overlooked, yet functional way to gain new clients and announce yourself. Make it a habit: whenever you’re done satisfying a client (and the client is so impressed that he/she hails your work continually), be bold to ask for a referral. Inquire of any friends, family member or colleague who they know could be in need of your services and reach out. Even ask them, if they can, to mention you and your consultancy services in their blogs, social media posts or associates’ gatherings. You’ll be amazed how far your reputation would go by this, without a lot of effort.

  1. Pursue certification

Seek to become certified. While this may not always be a requirement to function, it can definitely set you apart from the rest. So, when you get the opportunity to get certified, don’t pass it up. Get legally recognized at what you do.

Also, check out associations for small business consultants and get affiliated. Such connections will add to your profile and would quickly and easily impart confidence in potential clients about your work.

  1. Consider a CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System is a system that synchronizes different prospects, clients, departments, their notes, activities and metrics onto one platform. This means easy access to client data and enhanced coordination between departments. Such a tool will facilitate your job of consultancy and instill significant efficiency and productivity in the functioning of the business. So be sure to advise the incorporation of a CRM system to your clients. Also, try it out for your own business and be the testimony to its results.

Strategic Planning
Small Business Coach Associates
  1. Take it to the next level

Are you looking to take your small business consultancy gig to the next level? Then check out our small business coaching training program with small business coach associates. Get imparted with dynamic strategies to build your small business advisory services and set you as a leading small business consultant.

Covid-19 and the Consultant for Small Businesses

Needless to say, many businesses have experienced a negative impact from the pandemic. As a result business coaches and consultants who were serving those businesses have suffered a loss of income. The sectors most impacted from Covid-19 include restaurants, hotels, meeting facilities, and transportation providers.

At the same time, opportunities have been created for businesses and consultants who are willing to pivot and transition to new business models. Online commerce has increased dramatically: 55% through July 2020. Helping your clients to make this transition will help you to secure job security!  We have helped all of our clients to position themselves in a way that has helped them to thrive during these challenging times. Some examples include helping an ice cream shop transition to an ice cream manufacturer, helping a dance studio transition to online training, and helping several of our clients to dominate their competitors through local seo and other guerilla marketing strategies. Business owners need great small business coaches and consultants more than ever before.

Summary

So, there you have it! With these tips, you’re sure to dominate the playing field and stand out as a leading business coach/consultant.