by Joel Freimuth, CEO of Blue Pearl Consulting
While businesses in every industry have their own particular set of issues, every business suffers from some combination of a lack of time, lack of resources or lack of available talent. Moreover, the to-do list grows exponentially over time and many executives do not have the bandwidth to address significant responsibilities. Attention is constantly consumed with putting out fires, navigating bureaucracies and responding to additional responsibilities being assigned to them from whatever meeting they just left.
Each company will be unique in the ways that they need to improve their operations and overall approach. Outside experts lend credibility to the search for discovering areas for growth and improvement within a business. Many in business, as in all walks of life, are afraid to hear the hard truth, but that is where the source of great opportunity rests.
Every business needs a consultant. Even consulting firms are in need of help from external sources. No company is perfect and gaining access to not only an expert opinion but also the assets that consultants have at their disposal can be invaluable to the improvement of a company’s internal processes.
Here’s what each business needs that can be tough to effectively do without an expert’s take:
The first step is having an honest look at the internal operations of the company. Being so deeply invested in a company can make this a difficult endeavor for management. For this to be effective, most, if not all information and processes need to be offered up for closer examination. It is natural to attempt to showcase one’s business in the most positive light, but in this sense that will only serve to hinder improvement.
A value stream mapping process can clearly elucidate where bottlenecks occur and whether those clogs are worthy of greater attention. While this exercise can be performed internally, it requires extensive resources, time and honest communication across divisions to map a company effectively. Because of this, companies generally end up pulling the plug on such projects or leave them unfinished. Bringing in external resources can be a cost-and-time efficient way to complete a value stream map and put a company in a powerful position to move forward forcefully.
The cost of doing business is increasing, and companies need to look for ways to responsibly minimize those costs. Consultants can serve as an outsourcing agent in two different ways: human capital and processes. As a complement to one’s team, consultants remove the risk of hiring a single employee for a particular assignment. Instead there is now a team at management’s disposal until the service is no longer needed.
Furthermore, sophisticated clients use the consultant engagement as a prolonged interview and can work out an arrangement with the consulting firm to hire away a team member, if that becomes the best course of action for the company.
Oftentimes, only a particular area of the business is in need of a reboot. In this way, hiring consultants can buffer inefficient processes without restructuring the entire organization. For example, if one’s operations are very sophisticated but the logistics are less so, then cleaning up the logistics without hindering operations will be extremely beneficial.
Even consultants benefit from outsourcing. A firm that does not have the expertise to take on a project can still serve a client by bringing in outside resources for the project. A large consulting firm may hire a smaller, vetted consulting firm to execute smaller projects for a large client that they otherwise could not complete at a profit.
I know a partner at a manufacturing firm that thinks he ought to be able to do everything he asks his people to do. But in the age of globalization and specialization, I find that mentality to be a huge hindrance. You need to get your product or service to market as fast as possible at the highest possible quality. To do that consistently, you need to know your weaknesses, and engage outside assistance to overcome your firm’s deficiencies.
Eliminate Waste/Refine the Model.
Businesses, for so many reasons, become stuck. Priorities change, focus shifts to a new market, acquisitions occur, communication falters, etc. For any number of reasons, companies that once were firing on all cylinders, begin to look like the ‘before’ picture of a car repair commercial. Solving a problem in a particular way becomes a mantra, rather than a discussion. Throwing technology at a situation can be as bad as simply hiring additional staff. The more the problem lies in a “non-mission-critical” area, the more likely the problem is to not be examined, but to get a new software package or shift thrown at it.
An outside voice is sometimes all that is needed to explain the value of solving the problem differently or approaching the issue differently That outside voice can free up significant resources by eliminating waste or refining a company’s model. This can provide senior management with additional capacity to better accomplish growth and other mission-centric goals.
Change Processes/Grow Business.
Grow or die is a familiar, and all-too-true, adage in business. In fact, even when growing, it seems death is never far off. Change is scary and it is a natural inclination to avoid anything scary. Consultants can push companies forward.
Think of CEO peer groups, such as Vistage or Emanuel-Neuman. In such a group, ideas and challenges are discussed openly and honestly and new ideas and solutions are suggested. The leader of the group often provides additional one-on-one counseling. CEOs can take solace that they are not alone and can examine ideas from experts in similar positions. Change will still be scary, but the right outside voice can mute the fear and be a partner to the forward push.
Joel Freimuth is the President of Blue Pearl Consulting Firm, founded in 2011. Freimuth has years of experience and expertise in management consulting, financial analytics, business development and strategic planning. Blue Pearl is located in Chicago, IL, and specializes in creating, implementing and maintaining strategies to assist its clients in reaching their stated goals.