Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

May 17

What Does a Business Consultant Do?

Uncategorized

There’s one question I hear all the time – what does a business consultant do? This can be a loaded question and also is entirely subjective. While I’ve never surveyed to hear what people think, I am confident I would get a wide range of answers.

Over the years, I’ve received almost every response imaginable when I tell someone I am a small business consultant. Some people are curious and want to know more about the consulting I do. Other people have a preconceived notion about what consultants do – some of those responses carry a negative connotation.

I choose to focus on the positive and answer the real question: What does a consultant do?

What does a consultant do?

The term consultant is a broad term. There are a wide variety of focuses or areas of practice. Some of those include:

  • Management Consulting
  • Business Growth Consulting
  • Strategic Planning Consulting
  • Exit Strategy and Transition Consulting
  • Business Start-Up Consulting
  • Financial Management Consulting
  • Operational Consulting
  • HR Consulting

While this is not an exhaustive list, it gives an idea of all the different areas where a business consultant may focus. The next time someone says they are a business consultant, feel free to ask what kind of consulting they focus on.

Even though every business consultant has their niche or area of expertise, I believe they all have a common thread. Business consultants are problem solvers. We work with businesses and help them overcome a challenge, so their business runs smoother.

How do I know if my business needs a consultant?

You may be thinking that your business is already running pretty smoothly and that you don’t need a consultant to come in and help. Well, that may be the case, but many times, the business owner may not even see the challenge.

Or if they know there is a hurdle, the owner may not know what their specific problem is, or it could be a completely different challenge than they think. This can make a business consultant’s job difficult.

How do I find the right business consultant?

When looking for a consultant, you will want to find a good consultant who knows what questions to ask. It’s just as important that they then take the time to listen to the business owner describe the “pain” they are dealing with and what outcome they are destined for if they are unable to resolve the issue.

Consultants will vary in their approach to solving problems. Some have a strategic or patented process that they take clients through, while others choose an approach that focuses on treating the specific symptoms on a case-by-case basis.

I don’t necessarily believe there is a right or wrong approach. In my experience, numerous factors determine whether or not a business consultant is the right fit for your situation. Consider these questions:

  • Does their area of expertise fit your situation?
  • Do they have the ability to work on your timeline and within your budget?
  • Is their flavor (style, personality, etc.) the right fit for you?
  • Do they have similar goals or ideals that will mesh well with yours?

While it’s common to jump on any opportunity that may come along, I believe the very best consultants will tell you if they aren’t the right fit for your need. It isn’t always easy to say no to a money-making opportunity, but I believe when you put the customer or client’s needs first, it will work in everyone’s favor in the long run.

If you are searching for help to solve a business problem and would like to speak with a consultant, I’d love to talk to you and see if I am the right fit for you. You can reach me at kent@kentgustafson.com.

Aug 01

Are you on track with your mission?

Uncategorized

I work with many clients who come to me because they are really struggling in their business. Sometimes it’s a matter of their sales numbers not being where they need to be. Other times they are dealing with workflow and/or product/service delivery issues. In some cases the business is doing well overall, but the business owner simply isn’t happy.

When a client engages me to advise in such a situation, I typically start with a simple question: Are you on track with your mission? Usually the answer is NO.

While the consequences often differ from situation to situation, more often than not the root cause is the same. Far too often business owners get sidetracked and lose sight of their mission. It’s never intentional, but without question the resulting effects can be catastrophic.

While you may think this topic is geared more for someone who has been in business for a while, I actually think there is equal benefit to those who may be just starting their business.

When starting a business, it is really important to know what your mission is. When I started out more than 15 years ago, my mission was pretty simple. I wanted to:

  1. Live life by my own clock
  2. Provide a good living for my family
  3. Accomplish both of these things by helping as many people as I possibly could

I can honestly say that after 15+ years, I am on track with my mission. That does not mean that there haven’t been modifications in how I do what I do (adapt or die right?), but my mission has never changed. Because I have stayed focused on my mission, I am achieving it to the fullest.

HOW DID I GET OFF TRACK?

So how do we lose sight of our mission and get off track?

It isn’t ever just one thing, and it typically occurs over time. Sometimes it is a revenue generating opportunity that pulls us in a new direction or perhaps we are simply responding to alternative consumer demands. Whatever the cause, it’s usually disguised very well and seems like a really good idea at the time.

While there are times where this actually works out for the best, those instances are usually the exception and not the rule.

WHY?

So why is it a bad thing to get off track with our mission? Well, if we have gone through the process of determining what our values are and we’ve built our mission from those core values, then our mission is the essence of what we are all about as a person. It comes from deep within us and is a part of our character.

Spoiler Alert: I will be focusing on values in my next blog.

HOW DO I GET BACK ON TRACK WITH MY MISSION?

When I am working with a client and we have identified that the root cause of their struggles is related to them having gotten off track with their mission, they often feel defeated. While this is natural, it’s also unnecessary.

In my opinion, not being able to identify the problem is a much greater dilemma. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can move on to the problem solving stage and in this particular case I think the solution is simple.

STOP DOING WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING & START DOING WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING

If you read my recent blog post on HOW TO SAY NO, this is the perfect time to practice that concept in your business.

  • If opportunity comes knocking at your door and that opportunity pulls you further away from your mission, JUST SAY NO.
  • If a client asks you to offer a product or service that pulls you further away from your mission, JUST SAY NO.
  • If you are engaging in certain business practices that pull you further away from your mission, STOP DOING IT.

I know this probably sounds a bit too simplistic, but it isn’t. When you learn to say NO to the things that separate you from your mission and choose to focus all of your time and attention on accomplishing your mission every single day, you will be amazed at how quickly some of the challenges you have been facing begin to fade away. More importantly, you will find that you are much happier and feel fulfilled in your business.

When we are on track with our mission, we function better. We are happier knowing we are on a clear path that we fully believe in, and our business becomes fun again rather than feel like we are working a job. We have passion and purpose and flows from our pores.

I trust you will find this helpful as you build your business. If you have questions or simply want to dig deeper, I’d love to speak with you. You can reach me at kent@kentgustafson.com.



Sep 09

ARE YOU ALIGNED WITH YOUR VALUES?

Uncategorized

Regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we do, we all have values. Usually where we come from and how we were raised heavily influence those values.

I grew up on a farm in a small Midwestern town. My parents are conservative people from modest beginnings. Obviously, those factors played a huge role in shaping my own values.

When I started my entrepreneurial journey, I spent a lot of time examining my values and making sure that they were at the center of my business plan.

While I wanted to make certain that I would build my business on honesty and integrity, I knew there was more to it than that. I realized that if I was to be successful, it was essential that my core values were clearly evident in every aspect of my business.

SO HOW DO I DO THAT?

While the process may be a bit different for everyone, I believe it always starts with putting your values down on paper in a clear and concise manner. For example, my core values are:

CHARACTER: I want to be remembered as a man of integrity and strong character. Someone who is honest, trustworthy, and truly cares about other people.

FAITH: My faith in God is the most important thing in my life.

FAMILY: Only my Christian faith comes ahead of my wife and children. They are my everything.

FREEDOM: I value time and the freedom to have full control of it. I want to live life by my clock, not someone else’s.

WORK ETHIC: I believe there is no substitute for hard work and doing things the right way.

When you write them down, maybe even share them with others, there is real ownership and accountability to live them out in all you do.

BUT HOW DO I MAKE CERTAIN I AM ALIGNING WITH THEM?

I think this is a fair question. It’s one thing to write them down, but living them out is an entirely different animal. It requires effort, diligence, and accountability.

Putting your core values in writing is important, but if you are truly going to emulate them day in and day out you must reflect on them often and be honest when you look in the mirror.

Personally, I spend a lot of time reflecting on business meetings and interactions with clients and other business professionals. Typically, I ask myself these questions:

Did I engage in a manner that demonstrated I care about the client and their needs?

Did I model strong character, honesty, and integrity?

Did I demonstrate that my faith, my family, and my freedom of time are important?

Did I do anything that would compromise, or contradict my core values in the eyes of others?

Because often what we do speaks more loudly than what we say. So we must reflect on these things often and analyze our behavior so that we can grow as a person.

When we are honest with ourselves and willing to make changes based on our self-evaluation, the more we develop into the business owner we are all striving to be.

IS THAT IT?

It’s a big part of it, but I think it’s important to take it a step further.

There are other factors that indicate whether or not we are aligning with our values than just how we act or speak in our interactions with others.

What about our priorities? If my faith and my family are the highest of my core values, do my priorities reflect that in terms of how much time and attention they receive?

Honestly? Not all the time, which is why it is a constant area of focus for me and one I strive to improve upon every day.

What about the work that we do? Are we doing good work for others that we enjoy and are good at? Or are we just taking the opportunities that come?

I think one of the biggest areas of growth for me, and a true reflection of aligning with my core values, was when I started saying NO to things I didn’t really want to do or wasn’t particularly good at. If I truly believe in freedom of my time, then I should be focused on doing what I love and doing it well.

Life is too short to spend your time doing things that make you miserable. In the end, you will put it off too long and miss a deadline or the quality of your work will be poor, and you will fail your client.

There is certainly more to all of this, but I will leave that for another day. For now, I trust you will find this helpful as you build your business. If you have questions or simply want to dig deeper, I’d love to speak with you. You can reach me at kent@kentgustafson.com.