Updated: Mar 29, 2019
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "fixer" in a business sense? Is it Ray Donovan, or Heaven forbid, Michael Cohen? The negative connotation with the term is understandable considering the way it is portrayed. However when it comes to getting help with your business, it is important that you know the truth!
"Some people are skilled fixers; they're not the people who fix things with their hands, but instead they're the people who fix things with their heads. In politics, fixers are well-known as people who work behind the scenes to make problems go away (sometimes with questionable tactics). In business, fixers are often tough and tireless people at the front lines, dousing little fires to keep their companies on track."
This passage comes from Amber Mac in a piece she wrote for www.fastcompany.com called "Meet The Corporate Fixers: 5 Business Leaders Tasked With Tackling Big Problems." You can click on her name to go directly to her website. Notice the extensive accomplishments and attention to detail when it comes to her business knowledge! I have also linked the article and website if you would like to dive deeper into Amber's personal experience with effective business fixers.
The Business Consultant
The term business consultant, is in fact, extremely broad. You can find 100's of people, offices or firms that can fall under the title "business consultant" just by searching google or even LinkedIN. They can be anything from accountants to digital experts to guerrilla marketing guru's.
In an article titled "How To Be a Small Business Consultant - 18 Step Checklist" by Karyn Greenstreet (click on her name for more about Karyn), the particular area of a business consultant that is focused on is marketing:
"A small business consultant works with clients on strategy, planning and problem solving, and helps clients develop business skills and knowledge. These topics range from designing a business model or marketing plan, to determining which marketing techniques to use and how to use them. You'll often help clients learn how to plan and implement projects. A small business consultant gives advice, teaches skills, and brainstorms with the client to produce practical results and enhance strategic thinking."
There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking out a traditional business consultant, or being a traditional business consultant. There are quite a few positives to having a business consultant come in and help out your business. For the sake of time (and not to bore you with a long Pro's and Con's list), Here are, in my opinion, the three biggest advantages to bring on a consultant.
You can keep a business consultant around for whatever time period you would like. Bring in a consultant for one specific marketing campaign, or to advise on as many campaigns as you would like, whether it be traditional or digital. Maybe you just simply need a consultant to come in and get you up to speed with your social media use and platforms, or maybe you want them around for the long term to make sure your business stays at the front end of the constantly changing optimization of your platforms. There are plenty of other examples of this, but these are just a few that show how the time frame need for a consultant can vary greatly.
When you own or run a business it is perfectly normal to get caught up in the extremely demanding day to day operations. While this is a good thing in terms of sharpening instincts and knowing the business inside and out, it can skew your perspective in regards to how people on the outside (customers and potential customers) see your business. It is always a good idea to have an independent person come in occasionally and give their opinions of how things look from the outside. That being said, it's not always a great idea to have this person be a friend or even someone you know. First of all, rarely are you paying these people to do this. And I hate to break it to you, but no matter how much this person cares about you, they won't take it as seriously as someone who does this for a living.
What's more, someone you have a relationship with will ultimately be more afraid to be completely honest with you when it is time to be critical. You NEED this person to be brutally honest and critical when it comes to what needs to be done, as the success of your business can depend on it. Plus, if you find an experienced consultant there is a good chance they know quite a bit more, and can provide much more valuable insight to the a successful process to reach your goals.
An experienced business consultant brings a whole new level to what can be done in your market research. When you have someone who knows what to look for, working on your behalf, but isn't directly on your payroll as an employee (generally as an independent contractor), there are many things you can access that you might not have been able to before. An independent consultant has access to your competitors that you may not have, and can compile valuable, measurable data as to what is effective with customers you are battling for.
An added benefit of having an independent consultant to take on your market research is that it frees up more time for you to focus on other parts of your business. If you are being pulled away from important operational tasks by market research, or even worse, neglecting your market research all together due to lack of time in the day, at the very least an independent business consultant will keep you on the level with your competition.
While the intentions of this post are to make a few key distinctions between a business consultant and a business fixer, it is important for me to say that I in no way am trying to cast one or the other in a negative light. They are truly similar, and both can be extremely helpful to a business of any size. Like I mentioned earlier, the term "business consultant" is very broad. This means that a business fixer would actually fall into the consultant umbrella. The focus here is to show you that a consultant doesn't always fall under the "fixer umbrella.
While some consultants are more hands on than others, for the most part their main goal is to find/create/measure as much pertinent information regarding as many metrics as possible. That"s why they can put together plans, and make as many informed suggestions on what to do in various situations as possible.
With technology that can be implemented to help businesses, seemingly cruising along at the speed of light, the competition in the business world is more informed than ever. Information, and how to implement that information is every bit as important as it ever has been. That being said, the ways that information can be attained have grown exponentially. This is where help from an outside consultant can be incredibly useful.
The Business Fixer
This is Christine Nicholson (Click her name to go to her website) from the United Kingdom. While business fixers do a multitude of different things, I wanted to include this short video of Christine explaining a few of the things that she does for small businesses. Take a look and listen to what she has to say to get an idea of how a business fixer looks at what their role might be in the aid of a business owner or operator. After the video we will discuss the main things that separate a consultant from a fixer. At the end of the video you'll see Christine's information as well, if you're in the U.K. give her a call cause she is pretty awesome!! But if you are in the U.S.A. I might know someone who you can get in touch with here-->
You will notice that she specifically talks about "Small Businesses" in her video. It's no coincidence that I mostly deal with, and write about, small businesses as well. There is no rule that says a larger business or corporation doesn't need a business fixer, however I have found that small businesses are more likely to need one. Which brings us to what makes a fixer unique.
Simply put, the best way I would describe a business fixer is someone who is more hands-on. That is not to say a consultant doesn't do a great amount of important, hard work. However, a fixer generally dives a little and can take on
some of the more intimate roles of the business. While generally remaining behind the scenes, this allows the fixer to not only plan successful campaigns, but foresee issues and problems. This is important because most of the time it eliminates the customer, or potential custom
er, from ever being aware that there even was an issue. Now you are probably seeing the reason this is so valuable to smaller business, but if not, we're about to dive a little bit deeper.
While there are many reasons a business fixer is valuable to a small business, keeping with the theme of this post I will discuss the two most important ones, in my opinion.
The most important, and if you think about it, fairly obvious reason a business fixer is so valuable to a small business is that they almost always need more hands-on-deck! I rarely run across a small business that couldn't use more help. As a small business owner one of the two most important issues you have to manage is labor, and that is an indisputable fact. You don't have the margin for error to waste money on excess, so you are always walking a fine line.
What better way to supplement a part of your work force than to take on an experienced fixer that already knows how to make you more successful! Not to mention that while you still have to pay this person, you can use money from your marketing budget to do so. Even if you don't pay your fixer completely from your marketing budget, the total amount almost always turns out to be less than taking on a new employee that needs to be trained, especially if you offer benefits.
This next reason that a fixer is so valuable to a small business is by some, arguably as important as number one. Twist my arm and I would classify it 1a. A common description of a business fixer is a "Crisis Manager".
"Being a crisis management professional is a big responsibility. Your job is to protect your clients, helping them be as crisis-free as possible and helping them manage the hard times when everything is on the line. It’s challenging and it’s rewarding. There’s nothing like being there for a group of people who love the company they work for and helping them better communicate and connect with their stakeholders"
This exert from Melissa Agnes is a few years old, but this principle still applies. It comes from her website www.melissaagnes.com and the article is titled "So, You Wanna Be a Crisis Management Professional. Here’s What You Should Know".
Now, you might be picturing Kerry Washington's character in the show "Scandal", but the art of crisis management comes on many different levels. What is a crisis to one small business can be seen as not such a big deal to others. What it comes down to is optics. By this I mean that when it comes to most small businesses, perception is reality. For example, you might be the most reliable delivery company in the
market. However if that means you failed you only failed 5% of your customers or clients, to that 5% you are NOT the most reliable. To them you are a failure, even though statistically speaking that is not true.
While I plan on doing an entire separate blog post on the business rule that "Perception is Reality", it certainly pertains to this issue when it comes to crisis management. Just ask ANY of your friends, or anyone you know that operates or owns a small business and they will tell you that most of the time they have to choose between crisis management, and operations management. There simply isn't time in the day to have a complete grasp on both. There are plenty of other posts on my site that can help avoid as many crisis' as possible, but you will never be able to avoid them all. And more importantly, will you is almost impossible to manage them all the way that you would like. This is where that contracted business fixer will save your butt, over and over again.
What We've Discussed
I have left you with a lot of information, including some terrific articles and websites to visit. Including some incredible people who know a whole lot about this topic, and some entertaining videos as well. We discussed the advantages of business consultants and of business fixers. Hopefully what I have been able to do is explain the difference between the two, and help guide you in the right direction when it comes time to bring on some help to keep your business on the right track.
As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. It is humbling when someone takes the time to read something that you put time and effort into. Please take the time to Like and Share this post, and please, if you have any further questions about this topic just message me and we can chat about it.