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A Small Business Consultant Can Help in Many Ways... But One Thing He Can't Provide
A consultant must remember that the business belongs to the client. There is always a danger that the consultant will take a dominant position to the detriment of both of them.
Let me tell you a story of when this was forgotten?
It's not often a small business consultant will admit to a failure in a small business but my first adventure into small business consulting was a failure. I closed the business within two years.
In 1980 I had planned to offer Mom-and-Pop sized businesses cheap but effective small business help. I saw many who badly needed something to pull their businesses out of the doldrums. But consultants were asking minimum fees of $3,000 which they could not afford.
My thinking was that if I computerized and systemized my services I could offer a low-cost service which would rejuvenated their enterprises. They, of course, would be so thrilled that they would retain my firm to do their general tax and accounting work.
Like the curate's egg I was partly right. Kelvyn Peters CPA and Associates still retain clients from that era who still think I'm wonderful (but expensive). My small success blinded me for a while to where my plan was doomed to fail.
The first trap was that the 'oomph' for the business had to be supplied by the client. It did no matter how passionate and excited I was in improving a sick business if the client had no excitement. The punch and the drive to run a business have to come from the owner. The consultant can only steer that drive in the right direction.
The second pitfall was in not realizing that small businesses are sometimes run by 'small' people. Nice people; generous and kind people who you'd be glad to have as friends?but people with low horizons who are comfortable where they are. They know they should be concerned about their business. Everybody tells them so.
But in their hearts they are not.
When these people engaged my services it was because they felt they had to. The bank or a creditor had advised it. Sometimes a well-meaning son or daughter had said, "Pop you've gotta get some help! You're killing yourself here!"
However, what had to be done made them so uncomfortable that they just did not do anything and fell by the wayside. (probably blaming the consultant).
If they retained our services they became high-maintenance clients phoning us (no e-mails then) before they made almost every new decision. Sending out a mailbox drop? Please design and produce it for me. A monthly newsletter? Could you do it for me because you are so good at it.
This normally would have been great except in this case they could not pay for the service and felt it should be included in the initial fee. We lost heaps of money providing these extra services without charge.
My staff said I was too good-hearted. I do not agree. Here were people really needed our service and they couldn't pay for it. How could we let them sink alone.
We could not continue and had to close the service?and the world continued. 'Mom-and-Pop' businesses still need help but now we know how to interact with them so that neither of us is burned.
The third problem is one I discovered only yesterday from a book called Success Engineering by Phil Gosling.
In the book he tells of clients who on the face of it believe in what he tells them. They seem eager to follow his suggestions. and seem eager to do what he tells them. They attempt to do every thing he suggests, but things just don't work for them. They work for everyone else but not for them. I experienced the same thing.
I felt that they were psychologically sabotaging themselves because of their fear of the unknown. Phil has a completely different explanation which he explains in his book.
So now our number one criteria for accepting a new client is that they should have the passion and persistence to see it through. An ailing business shows signs of improvement week by week but sometimes it will be two years before vigilance can be relaxed. Those two years are too hard to deal with for some people. They would rather surrender.
Previously, I have said that to me accounting wasn't boring or dull. I am passionate about being an accountant. I have an excitement about helping people because I can make a difference to their lives.
If my experience and knowledge is added to the excitement and drive of a business owner we, together, can really make things happen. Dreams really will come true.
Keep the dream alive.
About The Author
Kelvyn served on many charitable boards including St Aubyns Hospital, Alzheimer's Association and Older Peoples Advocacy Service. As a young man he won the Outstanding Jaycee Award three times. He is a compassionate, generous man who loves people. That's why he is so skilled at helping people in trouble.
Kelvyn Peters was Mayor of Kingaroy Shire Council from 1982 to 1987 and campaigned as the 'Young Man of Action". ver 20 years later he still regards himself as a 'Young Man of Action'. He is a director of Restaurant Catering Qld Inc the peak employer representative in Queensland, and has advised the hospitality industry for many years.
His specialty is moving in to rescue a sick business. Kelvyn has spent over 20 years experimenting and researching methods to help small business in ways that are affordable. He has perfected it with local clients now he are going global and he is only an email away.
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