Few business owners these days have the resources or expertise to manage all of their business functions in-house. Here, Brett Coulston of Expense Reduction Analysts explains how you can get more Professional Services bang for your buck.
SME business owners depend on a range of outsourced professional advisers and service providers to maintain vital business processes, especially those which underpin the operational, IT and the legal personalities of their business.
An open and honest relationship is critical to obtaining value for money from your professional advisers and a fatalistic approach to professional fees can only hinder the relationship between client and adviser and result in your business over paying for professional services rendered.
The following are some useful tips on how to get better value from your external professional advisers.
1. Set the goalposts clearly
A successful client-adviser relationship depends on both parties sharing a common goal. The client needs to have a clear view of the outcomes they want to see and be able to communicate that effectively to their adviser so that there is an absolute shared understanding before the project commences.
2. Agree who does what – and when
The very reason for commissioning external advice is to supplement and enhance the expertise within your business itself. Any client therefore needs to be happy that their adviser is only spending time on matters that are:
(i) Necessary to achieving the agreed outcome; and
(ii) Not within the client’s own competence or resources.
Your adviser should be expected to provide a formal agreement of terms and conditions and a project plan that specifies key dates and outcomes, as well as clearly outlining the roles and responsibilities of both parties.
3. Keep talking…
Don’t run the risk of frustration building up and eventually exploding into a breakdown of the relationship because you have failed to tackle perceived poor value or performance during a project. Avoid this by insisting on a clear and proper fee estimate up front (where fees are to be billed on a time basis), followed by transparent reporting on costs and timely warning of changes in expectations. Don’t shrink from asking your adviser to explain in whatever level of detail you require why the time and/or the rates charged are reasonable.
4. Compare the market
Ultimately, if you do not think your adviser’s account is reasonable, test it in the market. This is a positive for both sides as, without a flourishing market, it is not possible to establish market rates that work and satisfy all concerned that costs are reasonable.
Brett Coulston is General Manager at Expense Reduction Analysts.
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