It's nearly impossible to be a true expert in every aspect of your natural business. Consultants are a great way to fill in the gaps and add value. A business consultant is any advisor who provides advice and support, including brokers and distributors.
Why hire a consultant?
In an ever-changing economy, consultants can identify hidden opportunities that you may have overlooked or didn't know about. Consultants can provide you with a competitive advantage while reducing costs and streamlining processes, and help provide a gateway to targeted retailers. A talented consultant can be worth his or her weight in gold.
"But," you say, "my broker and distributor provide all the services I need."
Brokers and distributors provide a valuable service to the natural industry. Without them, many natural and mainstream brands would not find their way to store shelves. Brokers and distributors wear many hats including retail and administrative support.
The challenge is that they typically represent multiple clients at retail and have limited resources that need to be spread between those clients. Unfortunately, they can't be experts in everything.
Sometimes a specialist is needed to help differentiate your brand and help you take a leadership role in the category. An analogy might be the difference between a general physician verses a neurosurgeon. It’s sometime wise to use both a generalist and a specialist, as they both provide value but in different areas.
How do you maximize your broker/consultant ROI?
A professional consultant can become a critical and invaluable part of your team by providing you with:
- Sustainable business-building plans
- Actionable insights, accountability and measurable results
- Objectivity and an unbiased big picture view
- Assistance in setting, measuring and re-evaluating goals
- Advanced interpretation of the data and developing actionable insights
- Innovative ideas and strategic solutions to grow your natural business
- Measurable value for their support
When considering a business consultant, make sure he or she meets the requirements of this checklist.
- Subscribes to a code of ethics and confidentiality
- Has years of experience and specialized training
- Educates you on what you don't know and what you need to know
- Identifies hidden opportunities
- Has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of both the natural and mainstream industry, competitive threats and the market
- Provides necessary resources and credibility to leverage your position in the category
- Has access to additional resources (software, relationships with key retailers, manpower, etc.)
- Provides a measurable commitment in time and resources devoted specifically to your company's needs
- Is fully capable and willing to freely justify the value of their services with their costs
Bottom line? If you want a competitive advantage, to be the captain of your own ship, and have more control over your destiny, talk with a professional consultant about your needs and what they can do for you.
What do you look for when hiring a consultant? Share in the comments.
Daniel Lohman is the owner of Category Management Solutions (CMS) which provides innovative strategic solutions for natural and organic CPG companies interested in gaining a significant competitive advantage.