Starting a Business

The Value of Acquiring and Retaining a Business Consultant

"The reality and value of a GOOD business consultant is that they don’t get caught up in the “Forest for the Trees” mindset."

Ron O'Herron - Pikes Peak SBDC Consultant Tweet

A business professor once stated to his class that the definition of a consultant was “a person who rides down from the top of the hill after the battle is over and shoots all the wounded.”

Another definition that has circulated in the business community is, “A person who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is and then charges you for it.”

Although opinions and mindsets will vary, the truth and fact of the matter is that a good business consultant can and will add significant value to the overall operation and growth of a business!

A strange but true story and example of a value-added Business Consultant relates to a serious problem that existed at a nuclear power plant. Their trouble was detected in one of the reactor transmission lines, which was becoming very costly and creating a possible safety issue.  A consultant was called in and after studying the problem for several days and meeting with numerous operations engineers, he provided a solution. On a diagram of the reactor and transmission lines in question, he drew a symbol for a strategically located special type of monitoring/relief valve.  The device was obtained and installed as suggested by the consultant. Immediately the problem went away, cost savings were realized, and the safety threat was eliminated. Upon receiving the consultant’s $75,000 invoice for work performed, the Chief Engineer was shocked and questioned the consultant. The explanation was quick, factual and simple…$25,000 was for the specialty valve and the balance was for knowing where to locate it!

The reality and value of a GOOD Business Consultant is that they don’t get caught up in the “Forest for the Trees” mindset…they don’t bring any industry specific “paradigms” to the table.  What they do bring, however, is an ability to listen, ask questions, think outside the box, analyze and provide value-added solutions to the desired growth direction of a business, its owners, and its employees.

The Business Consulting World has an array of consultants and consulting firms.  Some are generalists, while others specialize in a given field.  The vast majority of these consultants aspire to a “one-stop shopping” process, in that the process and methodology that they use, will work for any business. However, once again, the reality is that every business has its own personality…the personality of its owners, managers, employees, products and services offered, market or industry and equally important, their customers and clients.  Without a good understanding of all these operational areas and how they affect the business, a consultant’s suggestions and advice is “wishful thinking” at best!

So with all that said, making the decision “to use or not to use” a business consultant rests on the shoulders of the owner of the business.  A GOOD Business Consultant has “been there and done that” and their methodology and number one objective is helping you and your employees grow the business and be successful, by analyzing the past, dealing with the present and planning for the future!

3 Risk Levels to Becoming a Business Owner

"Starting a business from scratch is by far the riskiest way to become a business owner."

Steve Imke - Pikes Peak SBDC Consultant Tweet

Most of the clients I see want to start their business from scratch, but there are 2 other options to becoming a business owner. The first option is to buy an existing business and the second is to buy a franchise. Clients often tell me that these two options simply cost too much. They argue that they are choosing to start from scratch because it is the cheaper path.

At that point in the conversation, I often remind them that starting a business from scratch is by far the riskiest way to become a business owner. In fact, statistics from the US Department of Commerce say that 65% to 90% of start-up business are likely to fail within the first five years. In other words, only 10% to 35% will have a chance of success. The principle reason for this high failure rate is that most businesses take on too many fixed expenses early on. On top of that, their revenue ramps up slower than planned and the business simply runs out of money before breaking even and turning a profit.

One client who had previously been a pilot in the US Air Force summed it up when he said,

“I guess they had too much payload and not enough runway.”

Entrepreneurs that buy an existing business have a 90% to 95% chance of still being in business after 5 years. The principle reason for this higher success rate is that when you buy an existing business, you already have revenue from customers and have a predictable level of expenses. You know these expenses are less than the amount of revenue, which leaves the business some profit and cash flow to work with. Moreover, existing businesses often have employees that already know their jobs, are well trained, and the business has proven processes to capture customer value.

Entrepreneurs that buy into a franchise concept have a 90% chance of still being in business after 5 years. Although franchises need new customers to generate revenue, the entrepreneur is often buying brand awareness and a proven system. Moreover, most new franchises are able to reduce the cost of goods sold by taking advantage of the economies of scale established by the franchiser since they have franchise-wide buying power.

When you buy a franchise or another person’s business, you also have access to someone who knows both the business and financial model as well as someone who has a vested interest in your success. Obviously this is not the case with start-ups. Let’s not forget that the primary goal of business ownership is to make money for the owner.

Existing businesses make money on day one. A successful franchise will earn the owner income not too long after starting up. However, a start-up, even one that survives, may take months or years to begin to pay the owner a salary for working in the business.

When it comes to business ownership, have you considered buying vs. starting from scratch?

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