Do SMBs need advice today and if so who can deliver it?
Not since the industrial revolution has so much technological change affected small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in such a relatively short period of time. Not just in the UK, but across the world. SMBs have to adapt to a constantly changing field of new technological advances. This is the case in almost every area encapsulated within business management tools. From the latest book keeping packages, business plan design techniques, marketing tools through to customer study. Not to mention the updated rules and regulations that go with them. Almost every field of effective business management is affected by this rapid growth in technology. SMBs need advice.
SMBs and consultants
Larger corporations, especially within the US will have expert consultants who have become embedded almost on a permanent basis within their own organisations. So as to keep the various boards updated on these ever changing developments on an almost constant basis. However, amongst the SMB market, not just in the UK and Europe, but also across the emerging markets such as Brazil, India, China, South America there is not the wherewithal either financially or time wise to have consultants on the payroll on a permanent basis.
It is worth remembering that across the developed/ developing world there are now a large number of corporate consultative bodies. There is a view that there are not enough or large enough corporate clients to sustain this number. And that a resulting consequence would be that particular market reducing. SMBs are aware that they need to learn and adapt. This requires expert help, not on a permanent basis, but on a now and then, short term delivery basis. Preferably, from a consultative practice of a similar size.
Effective consulting for SMBs
It is worth remembering that effective consulting is based on experience, which is invaluable and in most cases non transferable. Its Unique Selling Point (USP) is the very fact that those experience levels are delivered by a person, not a programmed machine. Somebody who has set up and managed their own business effectively, from the proverbial kitchen table and grown it through. From sole trader through to partnership and then Limited Company (or equivalent outside the UK).
Effective consulting is also based on the knowledge that to survive in today’s markets, an ever increasing number of SMBs have to adapt and learn. And who better to learn these new skills from than an effective consultant team, which like these businesses is from the SMB market. There is a view held by some that business competition can become efficiency versus innovation. But it is worth remembering that they can and often do work together to the benefit of both the client and the consultant.
Some consultant organisations are large, unwieldy, and slow to respond. Analysis should take a matter of days at most not months. But that obviously depends on the client size. Within the SMB market though, a good consultative practice will have recruited experts in these new fields anyway. Who will also have expert knowledge in the business basics, by the very nature of their own experience. (For example, sales improvement, tax and VAT matters, book keeping systems, marketing techniques etc.) And who will be able to deliver concise technology based advice over a short period of time. SMBs need advice which is effective both strategically and financially.
Even against the backdrop of this rapid change, there will be a demand for simple to understand advice which is therefore easier to implement effectively.