I recently caught up with a friend of mine who is working as a management consultant with a prominent firm in London. We had a chat about his work and issues he has to deal with on his clients’ behalf.
“There are basically three problems we get asked to solve,” he said.
For me, it provided some insight into where business owners most commonly get stuck and turn to external advice for help.
Hopefully, by sharing these points, business owners will become better at recognising bottlenecks in their businesses and identifying the right sources of advice to seek, if required, to overcome the hurdles.
What do we do to fix the problem?
It’s no secret that when you keep your nose to the grindstone, you can find yourself so immersed in a problem that you fail to see the solutions.
This is where external advice can be invaluable. A professional consultant or business coach has probably seen and dealt with similar issues a hundred times before, and will be able to explore your options, and their likely consequences, with you in detail.
However, you do not always need to pay for that kind of advice. Business peers, family and friends or key suppliers can be a free source of advice and opinions that may be just what you need to see your problem through different eyes.
Of course, do not forget the people potentially closest to the problem at hand – your employees and your customers. If it affects them, their feedback will be invaluable.
How do we implement the required changes?
This, says my consultant friend, is the most common reason his services are required. Having identified exactly what needs to be done to resolve an issue, businesses can struggle with implementing these changes.
Problems of implementation can be fairly broad. It could be problems of limited budget or resources. It could be a lack of specialist skills. It could even be a struggle to get employees to fully embrace the changes.
The right solution to a problem may not fix the problem if it is not implemented correctly, which makes this step in the rectification process so important. This leads to our management consultant’s third point.
Why are the changes we have implemented not working as effectively as we hoped?
The problem was identified, a solution devised and implemented, but the desired outcomes have not materialised.
There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. Perhaps the solution taken was incorrect. Or it could be that there were multiple problems acting in unison and your solution only addressed one of them.
You should also consider your measurement tools. Are you accurately measuring the results and were your expectations realistic for your solution?
If it is a solution that requires the co-operation of some or all of your employees, consider whether poor uptake and engagement with your solution is to blame. Sometimes, people can feel uncomfortable admitting to their employer that they do not agree with or understand something.
Or, it could simply be impatience on your part and the desired results will eventuate in time.
For all these reasons, having some form of external advice is invaluable for everyone in business. Whether this advice takes the form of a paid consultant or a friend, having someone look at your problem from a different perspective may open up possibilities you had never considered.