Don’t Go to a Consulting Firm or Freelance Consultant If…

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

It appears that some people equate the consulting process too closely with the field of personal counseling to the extent that they go to a consultant intentionally or subconsciously expecting to get free advice like they would if they went to their church, mosque, or temple asking for guidance from a religious leader. 

Understand that business consultants are professionals and experts in their field offering their specialized knowledge to prospective, new, and existing business owners for a fee. This is not a hobby for them. Although their initial meeting with you may be at no-cost, such as the case at Foreman & Associates, LLC, many consulting firms and freelance consultants charge a consulting fee just to sit down with them to share your business ideas, concerns, or issues. Yes, business consultants are coaches, counselors, and mentors all wrapped into one- but unlike most mentors, consultants (and the other two professions) are paid for their advice and training.

If you are in need of business advice, guidance, and training do your research. Know the business. Understand the relationship. Understand what you are asking for and expecting of a business consultant.

Consider the time and effort these professionals are investing in you, and how much this would mean in revenue for that consultant or firm. If you want free advice, checklists and forms then visit websites such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and then figure things out from there. There are numerous SBA locations throughout the nation where you can visit and ask questions. You won’t get the same personal service and hours of operation as you would from a business consulting firm or freelancer, but at least you can get information for free…which is clearly what you desire.

If you want to form a real, long-lasting, and nurturing business relationship with a consultant who can help you achieve your mission and vision for your organization then consider the following:

1. Would you go to a lawyer and ask for free representation? 

2. Would you contact them repeatedly to gain knowledge just so you can go to court to represent yourself?
 
3. Would you go to your doctor and ask him or her a great deal of questions to figure out what is wrong with you, and then instead of paying them to treat or operate on you, you go to a medical supply store and then go home and try operating on yourself?

 4. If your transmission goes out on your car would you go speak with your mechanic to get confirmation of this, and then purchase a new transmission on your own and try to install it yourself without any previous experience?

5.  If the wind knocks off a part of your roof will you go to a roofing company and ask them to assess the damage, but then instead of having them do the work (and without experience) you go and purchase the materials and grab your ladder, and get on the roof to begin repairs on your own?

6. Do you go to your nail salon, hair salon, barber shop, therapist, doctor, dentist, or other service provider and ask them to “hook me up” on their pricing, expecting them to significantly reduce their costs to accommodate you?

7. Do you have a budget that includes the cost to hire a consultant?

8. Does your budget cover the cost for more than $500 for your project? 

9. Does your budget cover the cost for more than $3,000 for your project?

10. Do you have this money right now to invest in hiring the consultant?

If the answer to all or most of these questions is, “No” then why would you contact a business consulting firm or freelance consultant expecting to get advice, guidance, and training for free? 

Let’s keep it real, people go into business to make money and they pray they don’t lose much in the process. Every time a business consultant has to invest their time and energy with prospects and clients who are only engaging the consultant to “get something for nothing or close to it” the consultant is losing money. The time they spend with you could be better spent helping a business owner who truly values and respects their relationship; they could be spending it building their business, nurturing relationships, honing their skills, and even spending time with their family. 

So before you contact a consulting firm or professional consider these things, and then weigh how serious you are about starting, building, restructuring, and helping your business. 

Copyright 2011. Foreman & Associates, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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White Noise Space to Enhance Strategic Thinking

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

I just read a very interesting article by Sabina Nawaz, written for the Harvard Business Review that encourages executives, managers, and other professionals to take two hours per week out of our insanely busy schedules to create our own personal ‘white noise space’, separate from the ‘noise’ of mobile devices, iPads, iPods, tablets, video games, laptops, computers, telephones, television, radio, and the like. Instead, Nawaz suggests that for two hours each and every week we should be taking a relaxing walk, drive or bike ride; or sitting in a comfortable location and doing absolutely nothing but thinking and reflecting; allowing our minds to totally dump all thoughts and ideas where we can quickly write them down in a journal or notepad (plain ole’ pen/pencil and paper, no electronic devices). 

This is similar to a method that I have used over the years and have suggested to my clients and mentees; but I use ‘alone time’ to ‘idea-dump’ or ‘stress-dump’ on paper everything that is in my head; but it has never been a requirement to do so in the absolute silence of non-silence, and without any distractions from electronic devices, etc. Nawaz’s method expands upon my thinking, eliminates all possible distractions (except whatever could pop up while driving in our car or riding a bike) and measures the results from doing so on a regular and consistent basis. She has shown the positive outcomes of creating and building our our white noise space. 

Nawaz suggests that in our constantly moving and changing lives we can be so overly consumed with deadlines, projects, and closing deals that we may miss or overlook a great idea or concept that can be used strategically in our business, simply because we don’t take a few moments consistently each week to take in the non-silence of silence, and allow our minds to do what they were created to do…process, strategize, and create. She also suggests that by building this white noise space to think, we can also find ways to creatively free ourselves for our personal lives so that we can spend this time with family and friends, whom we oftentimes neglect because of work commitments. 

She makes note of when in 2004, the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave a performance of the modern classic 4′ 33″ by John Cage, a composition that was made famous for “its counterintuitive focus on the sounds of music not being played.” John Cage, “…believed that true silence did not exist; he wanted people to pay attention to what was all around them, to recalibrate their perceptions of sound and silence. He wanted them to hear in a new way,” Nawaz wrote.

I agree with Nawaz that in business we rarely take time out to let our minds wander and breathe. We think that the only time we can ‘allow’ ourselves this moment of freedom is when we sleep, and if you’re only sleeping 3-5 hours per day yet up ripping and running 19-21 hours, that’s a great portion of your day being spent in high stress, high intensity environments where you don’t make the time to “wander around the edges of seemingly intractable problems.” Nawaz suggests that, “Building white space in your week lets you hear and think in a new way.”

I believe that it is something worth trying, especially since it has been proven effective with other managers, executives, and business leaders Nawaz highlighted in her article. So I’m going to give it a try for several weeks and see what changes I notice in my stress levels, clarity, business, and in my personal life. It takes my idea and stress ‘dumping’ to a higher level of thinking. So I’m inspired. 

I recommend that you read Nawaz’s article in its entirety then share your thoughts: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/07/this_space_intentionally_left.html

Copyright 2011. Natasha L. Foreman and Foreman & Associates, LLC. Some Rights Reserved.