With a major challenge what alternatives do SMEs have to get the advice they need?

Where do UK SMEs turn to for expert help and support to fill their skills or knowledge gap?

With a major challenge what alternatives do SMEs have to get the advice they need?

Where do UK SMEs turn to for expert help and support to fill their skills or knowledge gap? The answer in most cases is to seek out and hire a specialist consulting firm who can offer them the solution they need to solve an issue or to work on a specific project that will help the company move forward.

As one in five small UK business start-ups fail within their first year of operation, and 30% in their second year, it is crucial that SMEs can source the help they need to make their business a success.

Once a company has managed to establish a secure foothold, it is still very disheartening to hear that an average of 50% of businesses will fail after five years, and 70% failing in their tenth year of business. Most of this failure is down to issues over attracting and retaining the necessary talent the company needs to continue to grow and expand.

Hiring professional services 

It is very common for a new start-up business to tap into a pool of talent in the form of hired consultants to help bridge the gap in the company’s skills and experience. With hundreds of thousands of consulting firms across the world, and with UK SMEs spending in the region of £60 billion a year on professional services, you can see why this is such a profitable sector to be involved in!

With budgets being tight, it can be a costly operation for a small business owner to hire an expensive consulting firm when they may only need to utilise a small portion of their services, or only need a few questions answered to be able to move forward.

High rates of engagement fees

A lot of big consultancy firms will have an internal hierarchy to support with large overheads to cover. This often means that you will be paying out high minimum engagement fees to get the help you need, yet in a lot of cases end up being allocated a junior associate under the supervision of a much more experienced supervisor, which your money will also be covering.

Effectively, when you think about it, your consultancy fees are being spent on training up a junior member of staff at the consultancy firm, while trying to access the help your company needs to find a solution.

It is no wonder that nearly half of UK SMEs try to avoid using large consultancy firms simply because of the extortionate rates they charge. An average of 36% of SMEs have also expressed deep scepticism over the level of expertise they receive.

What are the alternatives to using expensive consultancy firms?

While it may seem the most logical solution to go to a consultancy firm to source the help you need, you may be able to find a more cost-effective solution by seeking out alternative help.

Let’s look at four very effective ways to bypass using expensive consultancies that you may not have thought about:

1: Look within your own company

The solution you seek may be sitting right under your nose! One of the most effective ways to source the advice and help you need to tackle a particular issue or work on a project may be by looking towards your own staff.

Your own staff may have come to you already possessing a wide range of training, skills and knowledge that can prove useful to your current situation. Don’t overlook anyone – your in-house IT expert may have had a career change and worked as a business strategist in a previous role.

Encourage your staff to join in with some brainstorming session so you can have a collective input. You could end up with a range of possible approaches to take to help resolve your issue or you could identify some key members of staff that you could appoint to form a working group to work on a project for you.

One of the major advantages of this is that your staff will already know your business inside and out, and will be motivated to work together to find a viable solution because it will not only help your company move forward, but will also help themselves to keep their job security going into the future.

The only real downside is having to disrupt your employee’s day to day duties in favour of your new project and divert their attention away from whatever they are currently working on. You will need to make sure that you have help in place to cover their duties while they are otherwise engaged.

2: Reach out to your personal network

Whether you have friends or family members with the necessary skills you need to help, or you need to look deeper into your LinkedIn network, or even dig out your old contacts from university or a previous company, just about everyone has a network they can reach out to.

LinkedIn especially may hold the professional connection you need being as the platform is like the Facebook of the business world.

The advantage here is that you already know everyone on your list and you will know whether or not they will be able to help you. Your network contacts may even know someone suitable on their own network that they can put in touch with you.

3: Use an expert network 

There is another solution in looking at ‘expert networks’ that actively connect business owners with the experts that they need from all across the world. You will pose your problem or issue to the expert network company and they will seek out the most suitable experts in their network and then connect them with you.

These expert network companies usually deliver fast results and can be very reliable because there is always a strong financial incentive behind their actions. You can then choose who to consult and quickly connect over a call to get right down to your issues and challenges. Your calls may add up over several hours and may not come cheap, but in most cases, it will be far more cost-effective than hiring a consultant to work with you full-time for a couple of weeks.

The downside of using expert network companies is that in recent years they have come under high scrutiny because of issues with insider trading, leading to more than 36 firms being charged with a range of financial and corporate crimes in the US.

4: Employ a consultant

By far the safest and most cost-effective option would be to go down the route of using the new, emerging form of expert networking providers such as Consulthon. Using the Consulthon platform allows businesses to post their challenge to a network of experienced consultants, but the advantage is that you get to do this for free! 

The platforms list of qualified and experienced consultants can read your post and then pitch you a brief overview of their solution to your problem. You are even free to discuss the finer details with the consultant without having to commit to anything.

This means you can get a deeper understanding of how any individual consultant can help you and you can find your perfect match to move forward with. You will be confident that you will be working with a consultant that has the relevant level of experience you need and can offer a solution that you understand.

As all your consultation is conducted over the phone, you will only need to pay for the amount of work that you need with no hidden fees or other expenses that you need to meet.

You will be able to get the high-quality help, advice and guidance that you need without the extra hassle of large engagement fees, expenses and overhead costs.

Marieta Bencheva
Marieta Bencheva

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