Looking for high quality independent business advice can be an infuriating process. The market is flooded with consultants who propose blanket approaches and ignore the importance of your individual business needs.
As a business coach myself, I get very frustrated by the approach of some management consultants because their advice has often proved to be of poor value, or at worst they have caused more harm than good.
The type of consultants and business coaches that I am referring to are people who offer generic business advice, they tend to make sweeping generalisations and try to put your company into a neat little box so that they can apply their advice based on a simplistic approach.
There are many advantages to be gained from seeking independent external perspectives, for example uncovering ideas which you would never have thought of yourself. But the potential pitfalls can be dangerous, especially if the new perspectives can't be backed up with appropriate evidence or data.
It’s important for business leaders to make the right choice because if you’ve brought on a poor consultant and the advice doesn't work, they can simply walk away with your money and blame your poor implementation as the problem!
Frustrating isn’t it?
So how can business leaders seeking external advice gain the advantages and avoid the main pitfalls?
Here are four key things to consider:
- Really Interrogate the Expert Advice that is Given
You should interrogate the basis for any advice or suggestions provided by your consultant or coach. Probe for generalisations and assertions; challenge these where necessary and seek evidence, specifics, real examples and testimonials.
- Every Business is Unique
Just as every person is different, each business is made up of a unique set of circumstances, goals and objectives etc. If your consultant tries to put your business issues into a neat box for their own convenience, it’s likely that they have not sufficiently tried to understand your individual business requirements.
- Trust Your Gut
It's your business. If the way forward proposed by the 'consultant' feels wrong, then it could well be that your instincts are right! Explain your concerns and if the consultant can't allay them, then the advice is probably not right for you.
- Don’t Rely on One Voice
Avoid relying exclusively on the advice of an individual business consultant or executive coach. Ideally you should seek a wider range of views. One reason why peer advisory groups work so well is that they provide a spectrum of valuable views, ideas and suggestions from people who are agenda-free, independent and experienced. (Don't rely on my assertion here - ask some peer group members!)
In summary, independent advice can be extremely valuable - but beware of those who offer only 'off the peg' advice. An excellent advisor is one who really drills down to uncover what makes you and your business work and how it is different from every other business.
More from Vistage: