Business Advisors assist their clients by delivering the expert knowledge and experience their clients need. Businesses on the other hand either lack time, knowledge or resources. The term is not protected so sorting the wheat from the chaff may not be easy as anyone can call themselves a Business Advisor – this is why Business-Advisor.org.uk exists, to help you find the right expert for your situation.
Expert Knowledge and Experience:
Frequently, owners and managers of businesses receive no formal business training or education. Depending on where they are in their professional evolution they will lack appropriate skills or experience.
Some business issues happen infrequently or require extremely specialist skills so it is important to differentiate between the generalist Business Advisor and the specialist Business Advisor:
A Generalist Business Advisor is a bit of a jack of all trades. Typically, these are the ‘been there, done that’ business people who have a successful track record, typically in roles such as Managing Director or CEO where they have a good grasp of all the key functions critical to business success.
A Specialist Business Advisor will have expert knowledge and experience in a particular subject, take for example tax planning. The Generalist Business Advisor could be retained by a company to advise and support the Managing Director or CEO in relation to preparing a company for sale or restructuring. Tax Planning is an extremely complex and specialist niche area of the accountancy and financial function so typically a taxation expert would be engaged for a one off piece of consultancy to provide expert advice to ‘the board’.
If a business has the funding and need for full time expertise they will recruit suitably qualified personnel. If the business does not need the services of a full time expert or they cannot afford or justify the expense, a Business Advisor is likely to be a good investment.
Business Advisors are frequently the lowest cost, lowest risk way for a business to secure the expertise they need.
Time is also a factor. There are only so many hours in each day and priorities dictate how resources, (in this instance people), use their time. If a project is important and the company has the expertise in-house but lacks capacity, external help in the form of a Business Advisor is frequently the answer.
Matching the Business Needs to the Type of Advisor:
There are many terms used, many of them interchangeably to describe the experts who help and advise businesses; Coach, Mentor, Consultant, Facilitator, Trainer and many more. On some occasions businesses need ‘knowledge transfer’, i.e. they want to ‘up-skill’ existing staff and develop the internal expertise. On other occasions the business simply needs an external party to help them complete a particular project or task but they don’t need the expertise ‘in-house’.
The definitions given below are for guidance only as the terms themselves are open to interpretation:
A Consultant (from Latin: consultare "to discuss") is a professional who provides expert advice in a particular area. An external consultant is someone who provides their expertise on a temporary basis, usually for a fee. This type of consultant generally engages with multiple and changing clients over time.
A Coach is a person who supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. The learner is sometimes called a coachee. Occasionally, coaching may mean an informal relationship between two people, where one has more experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the latter learns.
Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. Mentoring is a learning and development partnership between someone with relevant experience and someone who wants to learn.
A facilitator is someone who helps a group of people understand their common objectives and assists them to plan how to achieve these objectives; in doing so, the facilitator remains "neutral" meaning he/she does not take a particular position.
Training is teaching, helping others develop skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. Training sets out to improve capability, capacity, productivity and performance.
Depending on the specific circumstances a good Business Advisor will inevitably take the role of consultant, coach, mentor and they may also need to provide training and facilitation.
Does your business need the help of a Business Advisor? Here are 9 situations where the answer is probably ‘yes’:
- We need a “short-cut” to know-how, knowledge and information that does not exist in our business.
- We need a professional service that does not exist in our business and is needed for a specified period of time.
- We need solutions to specific challenges and situations.
- We need to validate ideas that have already been created in the business.
- We need analysis, diagnostic reasoning or to provide constructive criticism.
- We need to facilitate the search for ideas and solutions with existing team members.
- We need to facilitate, create and implement methodologies and systems that enhance efficiency and organisation.
- We need to bring in an experienced “outsiders” evaluation and point of view
- We need to present, teach or implement “new” business ideas and procedures