Want to make your IT consultancy indispensable to a small business? Here are three key ways to make yourself the go-to consultant for the small company in need of your services. In my IT consulting work, I find that most startups and small businesses need help in these three key areas:
- Strategic planning
- Leading a critical or new strategic project
- Resource management
As an experienced IT consultant, you have the confidence, experience and connections to make a huge difference in the bottom lines of these organizations and potentially gain a long-term customer in the process. Let's look at each of these niches in more detail.
Nearly every small business and startup owner needs help or thinks they need help with strategic planning. In this economy, clients are looking for any edge they can get, and they're looking for champions to come along and push them toward greater revenue or the next big venture capital payday. Use your expertise to understand their business processes, where they've been, and where they think they should be in the next month, six months, and five years. These are critical milestones in their growth, and it's easy for smaller organizations to lose sight of where they want to be down the road when they're fighting today's battles. Help clients chart that course and understand the tools they will need to get them there.
Leading a New or Critical Strategic Project
Smaller organizations often discover that they focused too much attention on one area and not enough on another, and their customers are suffering. As an “expert” resource, you bring a new and exciting point of view to the small organization or startup. Often they’re bringing you in to handle their first large initiative or to possibly save one or more troubled projects. This is your opportunity to build a success story with an organization starving for your leadership and experience. You’ll also likely have opportunities to instill processes that will help carry that organization forward in the years to come. If they’re looking to you to lead a new project, then kick it off right by meeting with the customer, ensure that the requirements are in place, and start mentoring their organization on best practices, both by teaching and by example. If you’re being brought in to fix troubled projects, then draw up plans to right the ship, get sign-off on your plan from the CEO if necessary, and bring in reps from the troubled clients to calm their fears and show them that the company has brought you in as an expert to oversee the rest of their project. You’re not only saving the company that brought you in, you’re also networking to new potential clients of your own with each customer’s project you save.
When business leaders aren't mindful of resource constraints, it can lead to missed deadlines and lost customers. For instance, when the startup's CEO is out selling his business's services to everyone, he usually isn't mindful of his over-commitment of resources. The CEO may be lining up business for 12 months out or even longer, committing personnel and equipment with no understanding of what that means to current projects and to projects that are already lined up for that time period. This is where you step in. Set up all of their current and future projects in Microsoft Project using common templates for all and use the common resource pool for the project's resource assignments. This will allow you to create reports for the CEO or ops manager to show them how on-track or off-track they are with their current resource base. They will love you for it and think you're a genius.
As a consultant, you may think you need to make a name for yourself by leading initiatives for a Fortune 500 company. However, don’t be afraid to seek out the smaller business. It may take some time to find the right fight, but many of these organizations are starving for what you have to offer. Remember, these companies are likely led by a strong owner/CEO who has built the business from the ground up but is too busy selling to always keep things on track. This is a major opportunity for you to jump in and take on their next big customer-facing project or fix one that’s quickly going south. When you prove your expertise is invaluable, these businesses will keep coming back for your services. Image: Wikimedia Commons