Micro-Businesses need Micro-Consultants

In the good old days of consulting (the nineties) consultants wore expensive suits, made PowerPoint presentations, and billed at rates from $50 to $200 an hour depending on the client. They spent lots of time in meetings with management, a little time working with client personnel, and the rest of the time writing reports and preparing their next presentation.

Some of those consultants are still around, but I’ll wager that the herd has been thinned out somewhat because of outsourcing, downsizing and the proliferation of small and micro-businesses.

Have no fear, however, that the consulting business is going away. I think it is transforming  and scaling down to suit the needs of small and micro-businesses.

As has been noted earlier in this series of posts, a micro-business owner calls all of the shots and has to be fantastically versatile and tough to make a success of his micro-enterprise. Most of them admit they don’t know all of the answers and need the help of an experienced consultant from time to time. Since their budgets rarely include money for consultants, they have to get very creative and usually get their information from buddies or from the internet.

There are times, however, when one needs more than online help to resolve a knotty business problem. This is where the new breed of consultant comes in. They wear casual clothes, roll up their sleeves and pitch in with the owner to brainstorm and execute the actions necessary to turn a situation around. They often look like employees to customers and vendors because they participate in sales and purchasing activities as well as in finance, marketing and public relations activities.

Billing practices are quite varied and imaginative in order to work with the owner of a micro-business with a micro-budget. This is possible I think because this micro-business consultant is generally self-employed, works out of his home and operates with far fewer expenses than he did as a consultant to corporate royalty.

The micro-consultants I know have even functioned as a hired partner for the micro-businessman, taking part in every significant decision that is made.

A lot of this is possible because there are tens of thousands of experienced executives out on their own as a result of massive downsizing efforts in the last five years. Few of these people can afford to retire although some may be old enough to receive Social Security.

They realize that they can no longer command the fabulous billing rates of yesteryear, but they know that their services are still needed when they see  businesses struggling with problems that they know how to solve.

Eventually they realize, as I did, that almost no business owner considers that he needs "business consulting". What he wants is more customers, or less turnover, or better control of his costs. A good consultant calls himself whatever the business owner needs. He comes in as a contractor, however, and not as an employee. He takes whatever title he needs to get the job done and inserts himself or herself into the micro-business and becomes an integral part of the operation.

If this sounds all too down and dirty for you, then I suggest that you have not been spending enough time with small business people. They are generally bright, appreciate help, and are very resourceful. They also can find money for someone who is making money for them.

This is where the micro-consultant can differentiate herself or himself from the Anderson Consulting crowd. If he concentrates on helping the micro-businessman make money rather than providing elegant solutions, he will have a satisfied client who will recommend him to others. There are no layers of middle management to work through. The business owner either see results and is happy or he doesn’t and isn’t.

I think there will be a growing number of micro-business consultants, whatever they call themselves, and they will become increasing influential in the growth of this entire micro-business phenomenon.

What do you think?

This entry was posted in Doing What You Love, Micro-Business. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Micro-Businesses need Micro-Consultants

  1. Penny says:

    I agree! I have felt for a couple of years the next frontier for consulting would be small businesses. They are going to need technical help to get their e-commerce sites up and running as well as other technical help and advice.

  2. Avi Solomon says:

    Though I now work as an employee in a micro-business, my main impact has been as a catalyst for change for the better in the strategic and tactical business practices of the owner. I’m helping him to really learn and apply stuff like the Pareto principle and Team-building through individual development(Andrew Grove’s ‘High Output Management’ is still the best guide on this).

  3. David says:

    Often, I feel the consultant function is understood only by the micro-business consultant. The micro-business owner may feel he or she is just hiring experienced help.

    If you know you are being a consultant and you know that your services are valuable, it doesn’t matter in the short run whether the business owner calls you a consultant.

    He does have to recognize that you are advising him in some capacity and not just being an extra pair of hands.

  4. Doug says:

    You hit the nail on the head of my business.

    One day I walked into a micro business as a customer. They did a great job and I was happy to offer some input into their advertising.

    What started out as new business card and a flyer later turned into a web site and now an ecommerce store is under development.

    Just over 1 year later that local family business has a professional image and serves customers nation wide. The have great service and a lot more happy customers.

    I also do some PR where I can.

    If you ever bend, break or scratch one of the wheels on your car, you don’t have to pay out the rear for a dealer replacement. You can repair it. In my case, I bent 1 wheel that was discontinued which meant that I’d have to replace all 4 wheels if I wanted them to match. Fortunately I found WRS. Visit The Wheel Repair Specialists for more info.

    As for micro-consulting. It’s clearly the way of my future.

    – Doug

  5. Leila says:

    I totally agree. We recently re-focused our business to provide technology, writing, and coaching services to Micro-Businesses. We found that we enjoyed working with them more.

    Personally, I’ve never liked all the prep work involved when working with larger companies. You often have to give lengthy presentations and wait for weeks to get a contract approved. Working with smaller businesses means faster turnaround for all parties involved.

    We may not command the very high end fees. But we can still make a really good living.

    TITLE: Micro-Consultants for Micro-Businesses
    URL: http://www.business-opportunities.biz/archives/2004/06/18/5756.php
    BLOG NAME: Business Opportunities Weblog
    DATE: 06/18/2004 09:41:17 AM
    David St Lawrence: In the good old days of consulting (the nineties) consultants wore expensive suits, made PowerPoint presentations, and billed at rates from $50 to $200 an hour depending on the client. They spent lots of time in meetings…

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