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So you want to be a consultant?

In the formative stages of any business, in the case of a mishap or in pursuit of business growth expansion, business people often find themselves facing the need for expert advice. The need to seek consultants to help the businesses stabilise or make inroads in the markets is inevitable at some stage.

A consultant is an expert in a particular field who works as an advisor either to a company or to another individual. Business consultants are tasked with giving advice to businesses to help them grow and overcome both internal and external challenges.

A person that knows how to help a business turn a profit can do well as a business consultant. People in this field are very much sought after, especially, as business environments can be extremely tumultuous.

Here’s how you become one:

1. Identify the type of consultancy you want to set up

 Ruth Wachira, founder of StopGap Consultants Kenya, has 19 years of professional experience in Kenya and Dubai and holds an MBA in Management Consultancy.

Wachira says that before starting a consultancy agency/firm one has to identify the type of consultancy to venture in based on their passion, skills, knowledge and experience.

“There are many options. One could be a strategy consultant, management consultant, operations consultant, financial advisory consultant, human resource consultant or IT consultant. I consult for businesses.”

Her company focuses on personal and business development of individuals, start-ups and SMEs.

“Additionally, define your target audience. The aspiring consultant should then decide what consulting style to use,” she says.

There are other factors to look at. Like how to set up office, whether to have partners or to go it alone. Will it be a group of collective consultants or does one prefer to be an individual consultant? What are the pros and cons of this?

2. Take up a professional course

 Follow up with professional courses on that particular field. “In addition, take a course that will help you master how to set up a consultancy practice,” says Wachira.

3. Decide location

  Factors such as whether to set up an online consultancy firm or establish a physical location for consultancy should be considered at the formative stages. However, with the current coronavirus crisis wreaking havoc and businesses going online, the former should be considered a priority.

4. You are considered an expert. Better be one

A consultant should have inspiring ideas, skills and knowledge that will consequently support their clients. This is because the business people pay for the expertise that should turn around fortunes for their businesses, and they will feel short-changed if the expertise they encounter does not match their investment.

One easy way to gain expertise levels is by having a natural passion for the area you choose.

Every consultant should make their work a successful space where they can express their passion, skills, knowledge, experience and talent, thriving in a field that they love and completely enjoy being in, says Ruth. It is the only way they can deliver, if they are really passionate about what they do.

“Aim at transformation and elevation of your business as well as your client’s personal and business venture,” she advises.

5. You can’t be a wuss at networking

In her 19 years of working, Wachira has learnt some very crucial lessons that has helped her shape StopGap and create an admirable client base.

She has learnt the power of networking and understands how to derive support from the network system. A consultant needs the clients just as much as they need the consultant.

“Never take short-cuts in anything you do,” she says. Doing the right thing in the right way, following procedure, always gives the best results in the end.

One should also strive to be unique and authentic. Every consultant should do research and genuinely develop their clients. A good consultant should hear the clients out as much as the consultant would want them to listen and heed to their advice. The clients are the reason the consultancy business is.

 6. Really listen to the needs of your clients

 But perhaps the greatest challenge that Wachira has been trying to solve is suit consulting to different types of businesses in the market.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solutions in business consulting. Even if there are similar types of business, one should find that special niche that will set one’s business apart from the rest and disrupt one’s competition,” she says.

A business consultant, and pretty much every consultant, should never stop learning. They should always find ways to redesign their business, remain current and relevant, given the dynamic shifts in business trends.

When offering advice to clients, they should listen to the business’ pains and gains, then strike a fitting solution. That to mean that they should be practical when offering advice to their clients and make logical decisions that impact the business positively.

Being open and honest should be a priority in a consultant’s partnership with clients, acting in the clients’ best interest. Like in many business relationships, honesty and integrity are crucial foundations that determine the success of a business.

A business consultant should place a strong emphasis on thorough understanding of their clients’ challenges and should find practical and result-oriented solutions to achieve their goals and objectives.  

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