7 Tips for Choosing a Business Advisor
Now that you understand the value business advisors bring to their clients, you can learn how to choose an advisor to help. Many of these steps involve inquiring into your company more than into your prospective advisors. However, you will need a balance of both to evaluate their fit.
While it’s good to know what you want out of a business advisor, you have to understand what they expect from you as well. Most of the initial thinking you’ll do is finding out what you DON’T know about your business and its priorities. Write these down and review the list with your prospective advisors. This planning helps you prepare to find the right person for your team.
Here are seven things to keep in mind when choosing a business advisor.
1. Know your business
The most crucial part of finding a business advisor is that they fit with your company. So how can you make sure they’re the right pick? This insight comes from taking a good look at your company culture, values, and priorities. Though you may not understand every part of where your company is right now, awareness of what you don’t know is just as valuable.
Ultimately, you’re the one who will do the goal-setting in your company. The advisor can help you reach those goals, but you have to know what you want to get it. Do you want to acquire another company? Take on more clients? Provide a new piece of software to your users? These are the kinds of questions that will help clarify your goals. Once you’ve got your priorities in order, you can find an advisor who shares them.
Most mismatches between businesses and their advisors come down to their values. If your focus is on providing a better experience to your staff and customers, you’d have better luck with an advisor driven by the same values. Look for a history of helping their clients reach similar goals.
2. Look for experience in your industry
Business advisors are available for every industry, so you’ll want to choose one who works in your niche. Don’t be afraid to be particular. Taking an overly general approach when looking for a consultant carries more of a risk than being overly specific. Before you reach out to a consultant, understand what you need from their experience.
For example, if you have a transportation app, you would want a consultant with experience both in transportation and software. If you’re a startup, find one with a track record of helping clients grow from an early stage. You will want someone who knows the limits of your current stage and how to overcome them.
Outline the essential features of your business before looking for an advisor to match. Make a note of your industry, your customers, financial situation, and current growth stage. Once you plan what’s most important to you when looking at your advisor’s experience, you can confidently go ahead while ensuring that your company’s needs are met.
3. Get referrals
There’s no shortage of available business advisors. A good website with well-written content shows that they’re a talented marketer, but this information may not show the complete picture of their capabilities. The most accurate indicator of their talent is their prior track record with other businesses. Reaching out to their past clients is a reliable way of understanding what it’s like to work with them.
If you already have your eye on a particular business advisor, check their case study section on their website to see which companies they worked within the past. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the companies and ask what it was like working with them. Ask what they liked about the interaction and what they would’ve wanted to improve and if they have any other names of advisers they recommend.
Another approach you can take is to go directly to forums where other businesses in your industry communicate and ask them for references. Word of mouth travels quickly, and those that had a good experience will be quick to tell you about it.
4. Check their interest in your company
Once you have a list of a few advisers, make a note of the overall tone of the conversation when you talk to them. Do they sound interested in your company? Their passion for helping you is what will make the most significant difference in the quality of your results. Make sure they understand what gets you passionate about your company and see if you share the same interests.
Part of the section is on you as well. It’s your job to show the best aspects of your company to your prospective consultants. If you can’t get them interested, how do you expect to get your customers interested? Think of this stage as marketing your company to the advisor, so they invest in its growth.
5. Discuss your values
All of the research efforts that you’ve done now will not matter if you don’t communicate them to your advisor. Make sure that you have frank conversations about what you’re looking for, what kind of industries you’d like them to know, and any other specifications that are important to you. Ultimately, you want a business advisor who helps you reach your idea of success. Being selective now can save you the trouble of starting over later.
It’s challenging to discuss values on paper. If your consultant has excellent writing skills, they may describe their priorities on their website, but the best gauge of what’s vital to your consultant will come through one-on-one conversations with them. Make sure that your questions get answered, but most importantly, make sure to ask them.
6. Be ready to change
Even the best advice in the world is useless if you don’t apply it. When you consult with a business advisor, you have to be open to change. If you’re not, you will never see the benefits you seek. This means that you may have to reconsider some parts of your business and prioritize what is necessary for your end goals.
Advisors are here to help you learn. If you don’t understand why they picked a particular method of achieving one of your goals, ask. The more you know the purpose of their plans, the farther their advice will take you. When you understand their reasoning and have settled on a plan, act.
Healthy resistance is good in the context of the relationship between you and your business advisor. Just remember that your conversation should be productive and leave you feeling confident that you’re on the right path. If you picked an advisor with the same values and experience you need, their advice will point you in the right direction.
7. Involve your team
At the end of the day, you will not be the only one working with your advisor. Make sure you keep your team in the loop about changes coming up and the purpose behind them. Ensure that you have done a thorough job explaining it to them to understand the underlying meaning of how this will help achieve your goals.
Your staff has unique insights into parts of the company that you may not see every day. For example, sales, which deals with customers every day, will have more insight into what problems customers face and their questions during the decision-making process. Then, you can take this information back and discuss it with your advisor to adapt to their changing needs.
Customer service can tell you more about how your product is received from those who already have it. They can give you feedback about the overall experience and if that users are facing any widespread issues. They may even have tips on what kind of changes would help provide a better user experience.
The most successful businesses don’t go at it alone.
Understanding what you need, the basics of their industry, and how to use your network for recommendations will help you find the right advisor.
What Can You Get From a Business Advisor?
Business advisors bring expertise to all parts of your company’s operations. For example, there are advisors for human resources, marketing, business planning. Your business advisor helps you strategically plan your company’s advances and take a detailed look at where you are now and where you need to be. This way, they can steer your current efforts towards your long-term goals.
If you’re not sure of where you want your business to be in five or ten years, your business advisor can help you plan out your goals. Once you have your goals set, they can help you find meaningful KPIs to measure your success and make sure you’re still on track. Their as-needed availability means that you have a low financial commitment and can use their services as often or infrequently as you want.
Let’s say you have a small team and are preparing to take on more marketing clients. A business advisor could tell you if it’s better to invest in more employees or software to handle the increase in business. Or, if you took on new clients and are struggling to keep up with the new demands, they can revise your current approach and create better procedures for your team.
When Do You Call a Business Advisor?
There is no wrong time to call a business advisor. However, some situations offer unique growth opportunities. These situations include:
- When you experience a significant drop in revenue
- When you’re writing your business plan
- When you plan to expand your team
- When you’re setting new priorities
- When your industry is facing challenges
Ideally, the time to find a business advisor is before you start experiencing problems. They can come in at any stage in your business’s growth to revise your current approach. Prevention is the only cure for some issues.
Whatever you invest after carefully selecting your business advisor is guaranteed to be less than the amount spent to fix an issue that could have been avoided.
Your Trusted Friend for Advice
By taking steps to prepare for finding a business advisor, you’ve invested in your business’s future. Now, don’t hesitate in your search if you’ve got your goals and motivations outline. Acting before challenges appear prevents struggles later on. Remember that you have a common goal, and together, you can reach it.