1. Due Diligence. Do your homework and conduct some due diligence on the prospective small business consultant. They may not be able to share the name of the company, but they can provide other details around the type of company, nature of engagement, agreed deliverables vs. delivered results. Also feel free to ask the consultant for references and if you can speak with a few of their clients to get feedback.
2. Define the Deliverables. Have a well-defined set of consulting engagement deliverables and plan. You want the consultant to use their time wisely and fully understand the engagement and work that you desire. Be very specific about the delivered outcomes that you desire. It is better to be very explicit about your business needs and issues, and exactly what you are looking for the consultant to do.
3. Understand the fees. Small business consulting firms can offer a wide array of services such as: Business planning, marketing, strategic planning, project management, sourcing qualified leads or brokering equity or debt capital. It is important to get the financial payment arrangements clear and accepted by both parties. Some small business consultants charge a flat fee while others bill on a percentage basis. Still others charge by the hour. Make sure the payment arrangements for each piece of the project are in writing.
4. Don't expect magic. Let's face it. Entrepreneurship is not easy! Every story of entrepreneurial successes such as Facebook, Google, Apple, etc., has chapters of deep dark dungeon days when a business owner may have considered aborting their mission. Developing a viable and sustainable value proposition which then turns into a viable and sustainable business takes time – a lot of time. Be honest with yourself in terms of the challenges that you know you face with your business and be realistic in your expectations from your consultant.
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