A few days ago, I needed some insider information about business registration by CAC and so, I sought the advice of some consultants. I actually contacted those recommended by some people, who claimed that the consultants were the ones they used during their own company registration. But to my amazement, those consultants weren’t giving me the main information I needed. All they were after was how much it will cost to open different categories of businesses and the documents that have to be provided. But any other advice, such as how to determine which category a start up should go for, were hard to come by. When I realised that these people were not the right place to turn to, I searched lower the line. I cut off the consultants and went to business owners. That was where I received the most important information every person that wished to run a business in Nigeria should consider before going to CAC.
Well, permit me to say that three small business owners that didn’t tag “consultants” to their names, provided me with all the information I asked for and more. They gave me a deep insight into the choices they made and how they enjoyed or regretted them. They revealed some hidden treasures in start-ups that can save a lot of people some pains and losses if they find them beforehand. I was amazed at what people that are considered “unqualified” could provide me with. This makes me wonder who should be called a “consultant”.
The writer of a newsletter I read recently advised that people – entrepreneurs, workers, freelancers, etc – should find coaches. She said that no matter how good a person is in his career or business, he needs someone that will be his ears and eyes. She argued that coaches help people to make adjustments that will help them to grow. These coaches, according to her, know the in and out of the careers or businesses they coach their clients on because they are always updated and have access to information. So, contracting one means that you can never make a mistake.
In Nigeria, we have career and business coaches, but we call them “consultants”. But then, how helpful are most of the consultants we have in this country? How have they been able to make changes?
If you ask me, I’ll say that the reason why the works of consultants are not really felt in Nigeria is because people go for the unsuitable ones. For instance, many people felt that the higher a person’s certificate is, the better a consultant he becomes. Because of this, they look for consultants that have big academic titles attached to their names without verifying if they can deliver. How I wish people will understand that consultancy needs more than a formal education to be effective. In fact, not all consultancy services need a degree.
Another mistake people make while searching for consultants is that they expect that only those that charge highly are good in the business. Maybe those expensive ones can consult for multinational companies, but they may not be the right choices for young start-ups, who desire to start small and then grow big.
This then comes for us to ask ourselves what we should look out for before hiring a consultant or a coach. Well, I can give the following tips based on my little experiences with some “consultants”.
- On-the-Job Experience
If you need a consultant to lead you through setting up or managing a business, I suggest you go for the one that has experiences in that business. This time, I’m not talking about gathering experiences as a consultant, but experiences from running that type of business. For instance, if you want to set up a school, you should find a consultant that has managed a successful school within your area. It will be odd for you to stay in Abuja and contract a consultant in Enugu. Of course, he will come with ideas that will work for schools in Enugu and not for the ones in Abuja. If the consultant has never worked in a school before, not to talk of managing one, know it that the business is already in trouble.
Feedbacks always reveal how good or bad a thing or a person is. It will be quite advisable to consider consultants that were recommended by someone you know and trust so well. If you’re happy with the work the person did for others, it is possible he will do a good work for you. Most consultants disappoint a lot, hence recommendations are necessary. Of course I know you might say that the consultants recommended for me, in the case I mentioned above, didn’t give me what I wanted. Truth is, I guess the problem isn’t that they don’t know their jobs but that they are not experienced in the areas I needed information on. Another thing is that they must have been used to people trusting them to do everything without asking questions. So my inquiries threw them off balance.
Like I suggested earlier, some consultancy firms were created to consult for big companies. Their adverts may make them seem as the right choice for SMEs start ups until you approach them and find out that there is nothing small or medium about them. Apart from charging high, they may not really help you to start in the first place. For instance, the consultants I approached called figures that I didn’t know people could release for testing the waters and documents that exist only in my future. If I had listened only to them, I would have been discouraged. This is just to say that when you want to start small, look for consultants that truly help SMEs; that’s their niche. This also applies for those that want to start theirs in a big way. Look for consultants that are cut out for your type and size of business.
It will be good if Nigerian consultants understand that their jobs are very crucial in the country. They should concentrate on delivering values and not on calling exotic amounts for clients and prospects. They have to identify what clients need and work towards providing those needs for them at all times. They should keep themselves abreast of new findings and problems so that they can easily proffer solutions to existing problems. If consultants in this country do their jobs well, a lot of businesses will not fail before they start.