- Putting together a plan to help your business reach its goals (business consulting).
- Helping you build your pipeline and make more sales (marketing consulting).
- Helping you find ways to run the business more smoothly, more efficiently and more cost-effectively as you continue to scale your business (operations consulting).
It’s this last part that I’d like to talk about. Operations consulting essentially is what we can do to improve your company’s internal operations and business performance. Or, as I like to put it, how you can make more money without selling more business.
OK, so what does an operations group actually do?
Companies are always looking for ways to transform their business by doing what they do faster, smarter or better. They have to or they risk sinking without trace.
Operations consultants provide you with specific solutions to deal with specific challenges. It might be helping you identify cost-savings across your retail stores in downtown Nashville, maximizing your profitability across a product line, resolving bottlenecks in your supply chain or streamlining your logistics.
The greatest brands in the world need to be operationally efficient in every functional area of their business: Coca-Cola wouldn’t put up with its products being delivered late or to the wrong location and it’s highly unlikely that McDonald’s restaurants would work with a beef supplier that doubled its prices every year. Efficient business operations are a constant element to thriving, successful companies even when the economic climate demands cuts in other areas.
Operations consulting then, is oriented around problem-solving: advising clients on the ‘how’ to do something rather than the ‘what’ to do. The primary objectives are to reduce a business’ cost base, increase its efficiency and effectiveness, improve the quality of its products and services, and the morale of its employees. Operations is the largest chunk of the management consultancy market in the US and worth around $70 billion.
What’s the difference between an operations consultant and a management consultant?
The biggest difference between an operations consultant and a management consultant is that operations consultants see their strategies through the execution phase, unlike management consultants who generally focus on the strategy then move onto the next project. Operations consultants tend to implement their recommendations and then assess the impact that the changes have made, focusing on continuous improvement within an organization.
Does this mean you need an operations strategy?
Operations consulting is the kind of service that you never really think you need. You’re running your company, you’ve got customers and they seem mostly happy. You’re even making some decent profit. Life is sweet.
But when is the last time you sat down and considered whether you are running things in the best way?
Could your customers be even happier, to the point that they take to social media to rave about your product, service or brand?
Could you be making even more profit?
Updating your business practices is mandatory for any business that wants to grow, profit and delight its customers. Put another way, you need an operations strategy. You need to review your business situation in its entirety, which means that you lift your head out of the weeds for a few minutes and see the bigger picture. If you accept that a process of continual improvement is the only way to reflect your customers’ changing needs, then surely this is the way forward.
And that means looking for operational improvements in every functional corner of the business: sales and marketing, procurement, supply chain, research, outsourcing, finance, staffing, and the underpinning processes and technologies. Every aspect needs to have a plan to deal with your business growth. There are huge benefits to be gained from business efficiencies and it’s not just about sales. We’re talking better profit margins, higher productivity, happier staff and customers, quicker turnaround times, overhead cost savings…the list goes on.
But there’s a problem…
There aren’t 40 hours in a day, nor 10 days in a week. You simply don’t have the time to review all of your processes, practices, technology, and people. Your focus is to keep the business running, your team covered and the IRS off your back, etc. And that’s where operations consultants become worth their weight in gold.
The benefits of an operations consultant
- Consultation, implementation, and expertise – given that ops consultants tend to stick around to implement their recommendations, you get continuity and more bang for your buck. And since this is what they do and have done a hundred times before, you’re going to get advice that’s worth having.
- Time savings – business can continue unimpeded with a consultant around, as everyone is left to concentrate on their own role, while the consultant improves the business overall.
- Cost-savings – the consultant will find quick-fix, one-off ways to save money, but it’s also their job to save money in the longer term. Plus, you only pay for the support you receive which doesn’t include everyday hire costs such as recruitment, recruitment, cell phone and contributions to their 401K!
- Efficiency – a consultant will instinctively look for ways to do things in the most efficient way which is no small thing: inefficiency can cost your business 20-30% of its revenue every year.