Could you, should your own business development consultant

Ed Marsh | Aug 27, 2012

An extravagant and unnecessary expense

Entrepreneurs as a group have some really admirable qualities.  Sure we are each individuals with foibles and idiosyncrasies, but those are almost always offset with fierce determination and stubborn persistence.

But there's a continuum of sorts between stubborn persistence and self destructive ignorance...and the challenge for entrepreneurs is to understand where they stand on that continuum, and how it impacts their business performance.

Early in a companies evolution money is always tight, staffing is limited, expertise is homegrown and reality dictates that the founder, owner, president, telephone operator, fork truck driver and toilet plunger ultimately has to cover a lot of critical functions.  And being a determined character, and normally pretty intelligent and creative, (s)he does so - mastering (from their perspective) or at least developing rudimentary skills in various business areas.  In fact, aside from legal and accounting, most start-ups undertake everything else on their own simply out of necessity.

But then comes a big problem...the business grows

Most businesses grow - at least to some modest initial plateau.  And that growth confirms for the owner several abiding presumptions:
  1. the growth is due primarily to their stewardship
  2. their performance in tangential areas (e.g. marketing) is obviously adequate if not actually quite good 
  3. they understand the detail and uniqueness of their business better than anyone else could, and therefore can't afford to relinquish control to others
And almost invariably the growth stalls as the owner, now spread so thin with too many un-delegated responsibilities, and out of their depth in areas which aren't their core competencies, begins to flounder.

Often they sense this.  Oscilalating between a desire to grow the business and subordiante their ego to the company's well being, and fits of grandiosity or feared impecuniousness, they alternate between acceptance and rejection of engaging a business development consultant.

In the end they normally compromise, subconsciously, by hiring one of mediocre quality to avoid too threatening a challenge to themselves.

Set up to fail

And you know what happens next.  A mediocre effort is undertaken half-heartedly and it predictably flounders.  With perverse self-satisfaction the founder dismisses the consultant and seizes control of the effort.  And now with inadequate time, expertise and outside perspective the owner flogs their homegrown plan harder...and the deterioration continues.

Now I know you're not like that.  Seriously.  You're more introspective and forward looking.  But admit it, you sometimes have some of those emotions, don't you.

And here's where it hurts your business.  You can spend time researching topics and stumbling through simple implementations.  You'll take yourself away from your core competency and dilute your effort.  You'll create a 50-60% effective solution and you'll learn enough to think your knowledge approximates that of a real expert - and you'll probably be contemptuous of their assertions to the contrary.  Just honest.

Business Development for SMBs

But traditional methods of new customer acquisition no longer work adequately to fuel company growth.  So you have to identify real opportunities with ongoing potential and execute on them. Maybe you'll stumble into inbound marketing (although you'll probably find some flavor of SEO, social media or content and think you've got it licked) and may accidentally start to go global. You may even adopt an international methodology of sorts.

But what's the opportunity cost of mediocre execution and missed opportunity?  incalculable, but not irrelevant.  The real question, therefore, isn't whether you can get along functioning as your in-house business development consultant and staff, but rather whether you should.

And I can tell you the answer is emphatically "No, you should not."

The opportunities for SMBs to be captured through a marketing evolution (intelligently applied holistic inbound marketing) and market expansion (properly executed international diversification) are enormous.  But the risks are large and the sheer number of charlatans contending expertise in these areas is astounding.

But do yourself a favor.  Find the right business development consultant; empower them and take their suggestions; concentrate on your core competencies; and enjoy the ride.

You can, but you shouldn't.  Use a business development consultant to help you achieve the breakout growth your SMB deserves.

Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors to explore whether we might be the right one for your business.

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