Column: Redefining ‘consultant’ for the middle market

 

By MARK RITTMANIC

Every day we help mid-market business owners tackle the challenges standing in their way.

On the journey to get from where they are to where they have the potential to be, there are more than a few hurdles.

rittmanic markOne of the first challenges we face is that of how mid-market owners perceive “consultants.” Despite the immense value that modern management consultant firms can bring to companies of all sizes, “consultant” has managed to become somewhat of a dirty word in the business world. As a result, mid-market companies struggling to realize their potential are often reluctant to engage in a meaningful dialogue with any consultant to assess whether this is an investment worth making.

That reluctance — and general skepticism around “consultants” — didn’t happen overnight but is the product of years and years of the wrong kind of “consultants” delivering less than they promised to entrepreneurs and executives.

Perhaps your business has worked with one of the many inexperienced MBA graduates who entered the consulting world straight out of a post-graduate program, excelling in the classroom but not in the trenches of real life business. Others hear “consultant” and assume the “product” will be endless recommendations that look good on paper but cannot be implemented realistically. This perception may be accurate for consulting firms who employ people who do not have the experience to make, or implement, sound recommendations. But it would be shortsighted to assume that these negative perceptions apply to all consulting firms.

There is another variety of consultant who can bring tremendous value to mid-market business owners. These individuals have chosen a career of helping business owners after successfully starting, running, and growing their own businesses. They understand the importance of culture and the many issues that business owners face as their firms grow and change.

Our own roster of experienced operating executives — veteran leaders and proven implementers — demonstrate a number of truths every day.

1. With the right consulting firm at your side, you really can realize your full business potential.

2. Bringing in emotionally intelligent experts who have already succeeded in your industry has real value.

3. The surest way to continue to underperform when you encounter tough issues is to avoid a conversation with anyone considered a consultant because of a misperception that has gone unchallenged.
Some of the highest performing middle market business owners realize that “consultant” isn’t always a dirty word, and the right management consultants deliver great value and are essential in building a high performing business.

In today’s complex business world, it is simply impossible to have experts on staff for every tough issue you encounter as you grow, and consultants with the right experience can be the difference between problems that never get solved and continuous profitable growth.

Mark Rittmanic, shown above, is founder and chief executive officer of FortéONE, a Chicago-based consultant group.

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