What do Business Consultants do?
Business consultants solve problems faced by businesses by proposing solutions either to immediate operational issues or by giving a more strategic perspective on the course of the business. In the first stage, the consultant talks with the person in charge who runs the project on behalf of the company and who can be from the manager or owner to a person in charge of a department (eg the person in charge of Marketing). At this stage, he understands the problem and gets a picture as it is perceived by people within the business.
In the second stage, he asks questions that indirectly challenge people’s perspectives from the inside, thus trying to determine whether their approaches are confirmed. This is a fruitful process in which he tries to ascertain by experience whether what is happening in the particular business is something relatively common or is the perspective of the people working in the business. At this stage also the consultant himself observes how the procedures work, and how the staff behaves and generally tries to form his own opinion.
Finally, it will propose one or more solutions for the given issue, proving with numbers why something is worth changing, what it will cost and what benefit it will bring to the operation of the business. This data is always quantified and fully documented.
So to the question of what a business consultant does, a simple answer is that he proposes solutions to directly improve an operation of the business but also indirectly the overall strategic direction of the business. This results in higher productivity and overall competitiveness for the business.
What Services Do Business Consultants Offer?
Businesses are as varied as life itself is complex. The fields of business activity are also many (for example pharmaceutical, automotive, hotel, technology, food, and many others) and also the size of businesses can consist of one person (the so-called sole proprietorship) up to many thousands of employees.
This also makes business consulting a special branch that must be adapted to the needs of clients. Below we will mention the main services as they are categorized today.
Business strategy is one of the most important areas that large businesses deal with, yet the smaller we go down in size the less we see small businesses emphasize. Some of the prominent figures of strategy are Michael Porter, Henry Mintzberg, and of course the father of modern management, Peter Drucker.
Porter in his last view defines as strategy a) the building of a unique position in the market b) the company knowing how to make compromises by choosing what NOT to do and c) the company harmonizing its individual functions in a common strategic direction.
Some things may sound general, and for that, we will ask a simple question.
We have a business that, let’s say, produces 100,000 euros in profits today and we want to make it produce 1,000,000 euros in five years.
QUESTION: How much more time and effort will it take to make her produce over the next five years 2,000,000 in profit versus 1,000,000?
ANSWER: No double trouble. The same effort and time and money will be required, just a different strategy.
Unfortunately, in modern reality with the Greek environment making it difficult for businesses to operate, very few businesses can deal with their strategy.
However, the only way for them to survive and (why not?) grow big with exports is to spend a little more time on their strategy and maybe talk to a specialist business consultant on strategy issues.
A financial advisor is one of the few agencies that deal systematically with strategy and can offer solutions.
Marketing is a relatively misunderstood concept for those who are not systematically involved in the business. Most people think that it is about promotion-advertising, public relations, and generally a good image of the business or products so as to trick the consumer into buying.
These are partly true, however, Marketing is a much, much bigger subject. In essence, it is serving the interests of the consumer itself, which means finding their needs, convenient distribution channels, attractive prices, and service before and after the purchase.
Some individual areas of Marketing services are:
The Segmentation of the Market (segmentation), means that we do not sell to everyone, but we target, say, elderly people over 65 years old with orthopedic problems in their feet.
The creation of new or differentiated products and services (product development) depends on the feedback we receive from our consumers or seeing the competition and global trends.
Distribution Channels, which can be physical stores or online, can be addressed only to consumers (B2C or Business to Customer) or only to other businesses (B2B or Business to Business) or to both (B2B2C)
Loyalty systems with discounts in money or percentage or points or bonus and so on.
Correct Pricing, which can be done based on cost, but can also be done based on the competition and the image that consumers have formed about us.
Digital Marketing and Analytics, which means we can now measure our actions with specific clicks, see how many were interested, how many went ahead and searched for something, retarget them in the near future, and how many ended up buying from a specific campaign of ours, etc. All of this was unimaginable a few years ago and now with technology, we are given multiple possibilities.
Branding and Positioning, which means that we have built a name and consumers expect something specific from us. It doesn’t have to be the best in quality, it can be the best just in price. For example, you expect Ryanair to have very low prices and no special treatment. But if Aegean offers you the same low price and somewhat worse cabin service than usual, we will be very upset because this is not what we expected from them. If the same thing happened with Ryanair, we would be happy because this is exactly what we expected.
These are some indicative individual areas of modern Marketing. Financial Advisor specializes in Marketing advice and you can get a better picture by clicking here.
The business plan is an overall illustration of the individual operating areas of the business. This big picture makes it clear to employees, shareholders, managers, and potential outside investors how the business works and why it works.
The bitter truth is that few companies have a clear business plan and in fact, most of them go to make a business plan quickly, in order to apply for a subsidized program, mostly NSRF but also other programs that are not widely known.
The business plan, however, is the main strategic document of the company, which reminds the management why the company operates the way it does, which factors it depends on, and which direction it wants to take.
According to the holding approach as proposed by the Strategyzer team, there are nine individual modules that make up the overall business model:
The groups (or segments) of customers to whom we address (Customer Segments)
Our value proposition, i.e. what do we ultimately sell and why should anyone buy from us? (Value Proposition)
Our distribution channels (Channels)
Our revenues (Revenues)
The main required resources (Key Resources). For example access to natural resources or patents or human resources producing research or capital for mass industrial production
Our daily actions (Key Activities). For example, some companies have as their main activity industrial production, others applied research and the sale of patents, others like gr solving problems of others
The main partnerships (Key Partnerships) and
This overall business plan has been called the Business Model Canvas and it is the model that is currently considered the dominant one among business consultants internationally.
At FinancialAdvisor.gr we mainly use this tool as a basic business model template and we work methodically to ascertain how the business works today and especially what we want to change and where we want to go. You can see more at the following link which provides more detailed information about the business plan.
Operations and Performance Improvement
Business consulting usually starts in this area. That is, there is a performance problem in a certain part of the business, and business consultants will suggest solutions to improve productivity.
Some common areas we see are:
Supply chain optimization, which means for example how to cope with supply and demand uncertainty in your supply chain
Business processes are redesigned, in order to simplify the structure and unnecessary bureaucracy and to serve both the customer and an employee from other departments more efficiently
Development of new products (product development). It is crucial to consider whether the business is going to simplify product lines or further specialize products for customers.
Organized procurement model, negotiations, databases with suppliers in low-cost countries, checking the health of their finances, etc.
Research and Development of new products (R&D). Building structure, consumer incentives for early testing, risk management when projects are delayed, etc
Manufacturing optimization to reduce the industrial footprint and save resources.
Lean Six Sigma. A method of reducing wasteful resources. Such resources may be about unnecessary movements, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary waiting times, over-processing something, over-producing something or even simply underutilizing human resources. Generally, anything that does not add value to the end customer and wastes resources falls under this methodology
Zero-Based Budgeting. Everything is re-evaluated for the next financial period based on the business strategy and expected benefits. Resources are not allocated as they were last year with minor changes, but they are being re-evaluated and everything must be financially justified.
Technology and Digital Strategies
It is now a given that all businesses must acquire not just a digital presence, but a comprehensive digital strategy. This will mean that technology is now integrated into the business and becomes an indispensable part of both the internal operation of the business and its relationship with suppliers and consumers.
Some sub-areas concern the following topics:
Which technologies do we choose, so that they have on the one hand the longest duration in time with remarkable efficiency and on the other hand the lowest maintenance costs?
How do we evaluate the underlying technology solution we have now against the cost of buying the latest technology? When is the right time to change technology?
Are the costs of our physical presence justified compared to our online presence? How does physical and electronic presence tie together in the overall consumer experience? What is the role of our people in the physical relationship with the customer in an increasingly electronic world?
How do we develop next-generation technology capabilities so that we can easily adapt as we go, without major changes that bring disruption and cost?
Big Data & Advanced Analytics
In our humble opinion, this is the correct translation of the widely used English terms Big Data & Analytics. We prefer the term “Analytics” to the term “Analytics” because firstly it refers to new science or methodology and secondly because the term “analytically” is the same as the widely used Greek adverb “analytically”, so unnecessary confusion can be created.
The field is one of the fastest growing in recent years combining the latest developments in technology, science, and business. On 6/5/2017, a great article was published by the Economist magazine which emphasizes that ” The most valuable resource in the world is no longer oil, but data “. So what do Big Data and Analytics have to do with business?
The accelerating digitization of the modern world has created the conditions for an incredible amount of data to be generated from the company’s transactions with suppliers and consumers, but also from the company’s own internal operations. The goal of Analytics and Big Data is to leverage all this data to produce better and deeper insights into various business areas. Some areas of application are:
Trends in consumer demand and what are the predictions for future demand
Track all changes in all areas (internally and externally) in real-time, something never before possible
Better business decisions based on data collection and analysis from Big Data and Advanced Analytics
Improving products and services or abandoning their production, depending on the data we have
It is also worth emphasizing that the field of artificial intelligence, which in recent years has been developing at a dizzying pace, is based on the one hand on enormous computing power of today’s systems and on the other hand on Big Data. Artificial intelligence (artificial intelligence) and machine learning (machine learning) are based on the processing and analysis of the now overlooked Big Data.
In general, business consultants help the business build the right capabilities to first extract data and second analyze it. The ultimate goal is for the company to make the best decisions, but also to gain a competitive advantage by aligning: a) the right people b) the available analysis tools and c) the data it has with its strategic orientation.
Other areas in business advice
Some other, more specialized areas concern:
Mergers & Acquisitions, in which business consultants will assess assets and liabilities, the potential for new value generation, and the integration/completion plan.
Corporate Finance can range from introducing the company to the stock exchange to the issuance of a bond loan.
Sustainable Development (Sustainability). It is the area in which businesses consider their environmental and social footprint and try to change some of their activities for the long-term benefit of both the business and society and the natural environment. And all this without changing their strategy and their financial efficiency.
Human Resources, where it is recognized that the most critical success factor in a business is people and their development.
Cybersecurity. A rapidly growing sector due to digitization and technological integration and the associated risks of malicious attacks and theft of valuable data by competitors.
All the above areas are generally the services of the so-called strategic business consultants.
But there are also large professional service accounting firms that have expanded into business consulting that offer advice in the following areas that are closer to the core of their subject which is Accounting.
Such areas are:
Tax Services (tax services)
In general, business consulting services are endless, just as business life and needs are endless.
What is the largest business consulting firms?
First of all, it is good to divide them into categories.
A large category is the Strategic Consultants, where we find the largest and most renowned companies McKinsey, Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Booz Allen Hamilton.
A second category is the so-called “Big 4”. These are the largest accounting firms that have also expanded into other professional services such as business consulting. This includes Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG.
Finally, a category by itself is the technology consultancy Accenture, which basically came from a former large accounting firm, Andersen (after the Enron scandal, in which Andersen was involved), but gradually evolved into a pure technology consultancy and for that, we put it in a category by itself.
What are the Prices of Business Consultants?
Prices vary and there is no standard model. Unfortunately, many consultants base their prices on the size of the business, so the bigger the business, the more they charge.
The way of work and payment can vary and a) depend on the completion of an agreed project b) can be based on time billing (depending on how many hours someone worked) c) can be done in-house, i.e. be taken over by a consultant and for a while to work in a part of the company as an employee, in order to run some projects and train other permanent employees and d) it can also be done with an agreement on the basis of improving some things. For example, in the past, there were X sales from a certain sales channel and now after the intervention of business consultants they have doubled. Tips will also be rewarded based on increased efficiency.
Financial Advisor generally prices simply and clearly based on time billing and measurable productivity improvement. In fact, if it is a business project that is quite large in volume and cost, there are discounts. This is agreed upon and clarified in advance with the respective company. For the prices and services offered by Financial Advisor, you can see them here.
What are the differences between Advisor, Consultant, Business Coach, Mentor, and Counselor?
Most likely, most people will perceive each of the above attributes in the same way. And the truth is that their common characteristic is that they all advise and want our good.
In general, the quality characteristics implied by each of the above words are not fully clarified even in the most advanced foreign markets. Nevertheless, we must recognize that due to the different words there is a differentiation, which in Greek is not easily seen, due to the wide use of the word advisor.
Unfortunately, in Greek, the term “consultant” prevails as a translation of both “advisor” and “consultant” and “counselor”. In general, we leave “coaching” untranslated in “life coaching” as well as in “business coaching” and what we translate is “mentor” which also has Greek roots (Mentor advised Telemachus, son of Odysseus, in Homer Odyssey).
So let’s clarify the terms so that we know what we advisors are doing too, who are one “advisors”, one “consultants” the other “coaches” and the other time “counselors”.
In order to help ourselves, however, we must first define what advice means and what consultation (process) means.
“advice” or “consulting” implies that the expert is well versed in a field, knows data and has the experience, and can advise by giving information to the client. For example, the expert says: “With email marketing, there is 50% better effectiveness, compared to other digital marketing methods”. A financial advisor might say: “Investments in AAA-rated corporate bonds over a 15-year period yielded 4.5%.” In both cases, we are talking about knowing some elements in a certain area that the client does not have and providing this advice-information. This is the “tip”.
On the other hand, the consulting process or “counseling” does not exclude that the expert knows a subject well and can give advice, however in this case the consulting process plays a dominant role. The counseling process is the deep dialogue between counselor and counselee, in which the counselor’s role is to draw out the answers from within the counselee.
It is possible for the counselor to provide some information and advice at the same time as we said before, however it is important to work on the situation in the mind of the counselee in order to come to conclusions himself. The counselor helps the client to get the answers from within.
Counseling is more related to psychology and has better results because the client believes more about what he had inside him and had not clarified than ten numbers and surveys that a consultant gives him dryly.
For this very reason, good advisers, i.e. “advisors” or “consultants” are those who practice a lot of counseling at the same time as providing advice. They ask deeply and test the client’s beliefs and even prejudices to get as deep as possible into the matter.
The counseling process includes “coaching”, “counseling” and “mentoring”.
To differentiate these too, we could say that “coaching” starts from a positive expectation of the person to change some of his personal information and is always paid.
“Mentoring” refers to a relationship where one party, the “mentor”, is experienced in the subject he advises and does so with consulting methods, however generally without a direct payment relationship. There are, for example, many programs for startups that offer a mentor, who is not directly paid by the startuppers. But if the same startupper wants to do something extra (e.g. in time management) with another “consultant”, then logically he will go to a “coach” and the relationship will be paid and will be called “coaching”.
Finally, “counseling” is a consulting process that usually starts from a problem and not the expectation of a positive change as happens in “coaching”. The problem does not have to be something serious like drugs, it can also be the difficulty in finding a job (“career counseling”). Contrary to “coaching”, theoretically the counselee – “coachee” wants to change something positive in his life (e.g. change his diet), so he turns to a “coach” to train him-guide him so that with the right steps he can conquer his goal.
In general, all these counseling approaches have started with the traditional “counseling”, however, recently “mentoring” and “coaching” have emerged and that is why we are trying to make a basic distinction here.
Services offered by FinancialAdvisor.gr
At FinancialAdvisor.gr, we don’t pretend to be experts in everything, because we know that life is much more complicated and complex than a group of people can imagine.
For this very reason, we offer some specific services that we know well and that have already proven effective.
Thus, we offer services:
We serve in Thessaloniki from where we started and in Athens and for the other areas we do everything we can by phone or Skype before any moving that costs is done.
If we don’t have something, we’ll tell you straight away. Also if we know someone else, more specialized than us in something that is important to you, we will refer you there.
Our goal is to find a solution to your problem and we are sure that you will come back to us one day.
In many cases an old short talk with us has benefited us much more than we could even appreciate. And you tell us this even several years later. We are socially responsible business consultants and we do not start with the motive of money, but the good and long-term result for all of us.
That is why we continue and urge you to fight together, to improve things for us, our people and our country.