What Are Startup Consultants (And Do I Need One)?

Women in a meeting.

It takes a village to take a business idea from just that to something tangible and successful, which is why many entrepreneurs find that getting the ball rolling with a startup business consultant is helpful and efficient. 

Startup consultants are a great resource when it comes to setting your business down the right path. Not only do they help with small-picture tasks at the beginning, but they can also be a great sounding board for bigger-picture problems later on in your journey. Read on to find out more about what a startup consultant does and if hiring one is right for you.

Recommended: Check out our list of the best startup consulting firms.

Business Startup Consultants 101

Startup consultants are all about helping you—the entrepreneur—out at the earliest stages of your business. The position is different from a mentor or freelance contractor, who may either come in on an as-needed capacity or just offer friendly advice when you get stuck/need guidance. Consultants are typically experienced entrepreneurs themselves who offer their expertise in order to get things up and running. 

A consultant can do anything from creating a business plan or marketing strategy to even helping kickstart a campaign for those first few daunting rounds of funding. Because they have such a strong understanding of what it takes to get a startup successfully off the ground, their insight and guidance can be invaluable to your business plan should you decide to hire one. 

Typical Services Provided by Business Consultants

Consultants are there to show you how to get your business on the right track, and they do that through several specific ways. Once they better understand your business idea, the more proper research they can do and provide their services to the best of their ability. 

Create Client Assessments

One of the first things a startup consultant will do is create client assessments in order to find a potentially problematic situation you should be apprised of at the outset. They’ll meet individually with any existing or potential new clients you ask them to in order to find out where any pitfalls may be. 

Provide Guidance 

The ultimate job function of a startup consultant is to provide guidance. Starting a business can cause owners to have blinders on, which is why hiring an outsider to come in and steer the ship can be a huge help since they’ll be able to see anything you may have missed. Consultants will evaluate your business, including its current and future problems, in order to guide you to success. 

Gather Information

In order to provide guidance, a startup consultant will need to gather all of the relevant information about your business before developing a recommendation. They’ll need to get up to speed pretty quickly, so you may find they’ll want to be present in any meetings or development sessions after getting hired. 

Evaluate Data 

Once your consultant has gathered the necessary information, it’s time for them to evaluate the data. They may also evaluate past data, depending on the stage they’re entering your business at, so be sure that they have the proper tools they’ll need at their disposal. Both past and present sets of data will help them in the final stages of recommendation. 

Develop Recommendations

A consultant’s recommendations, just like providing guidance, is another essential part of their job function. Based on their findings, they’ll identify potential pitfalls for your business and help you avoid them. Their unique professional experience will help them develop the ultimate business plan for you in order to keep you on the path to success.

Pros of Hiring a Startup Consultant

A consultant’s expertise and time are invaluable, and include plenty of pros to consider when it comes to hiring one for your startup: 

Reduced Risks 

As previously discussed, sometimes entrepreneurs can get professional blinders when it comes to their own business. Hiring a startup consultant can be a huge help because they can assist in identifying these problems before they arise and offer their help on how to navigate them. Their identification of potential pitfalls will ultimately help your business by reducing their risk from the get-go, allowing you to focus on the problem right in front of you stress-free. 

Stronger Decision Making 

Because your consultant has mapped out any potential issues down the road, it allows you to make stronger, more confident decisions for your business. A consultant can empower you as an entrepreneur with sound advice and client assessments, making it a great reason to consider hiring one when you’re ready to take your business idea to the next level. 

Professional Advice & Problem Solving

One important thing to know about starting your own business is that you can’t go it alone. You can try, but sooner or later, you’ll realize you need a team of people you can trust to keep things operating as they should. Your startup consultant will help greatly with this by giving sound professional advice and helping you solve business problems in real time. 

Clearer Goals

It’s always helpful to have another set of eyes on something, and with your consultant’s professional eye on your business, you’ll be able to create clearer, more timely goals for many aspects of your business. Since they’re there to steer you to the path of success, those markers will become clearer to you as you set out once they’ve developed their solid recommendations. 

Cons of Hiring a Startup Consultant

It can be easy to look at the world of entrepreneurship with rose-colored glasses on, but there are a few potential cons you should also be aware of when it comes to hiring a business consultant: 

No Personal Stakes

While you are paying your consultant to help you with your business, at the end of the day, they’re not a main stakeholder. Because they don’t have any personal ties to your business, it can mean that they may take on several startups as clients instead of solely focusing on yours, meaning that while you may be invested in them, they may just see you as another client that will pay their bills. 

No Guarantees 

As with anything, there are no guarantees that hiring a startup consultant is going to work out. You may find you have creative differences in how to run your business, or you just might not vibe well together. Whatever the reason is, it’s just something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not a consultant is right for you. 

High Costs

Hiring a consultant usually happens in the early stages of your business when you may not have the proper funds to compensate them. This is a personal decision for your business, and if you don’t have the budget to hire someone, it may be worth setting aside and revisiting later on down the road.

When to Hire a Startup Business Consultant

Understanding what a consultant brings to the table is just one aspect of starting a business; knowing when to hire one is another. Because entrepreneurship is such an undertaking, there is a proper time and place for bringing a consultant on board. 

Ultimately, a consultant should be brought on in the early stages of developing your business. Because they’ll be focusing on either one specific aspect of your startup or helping you develop future strategies, hiring someone at the outset is the perfect way to help you get started.

How to Choose a Business Startup Consultant

Now that you know the potential pros and cons of hiring a consultant and when to hire one, how do you know when it’s actually time to choose one? There are five must-do things before you pick up the phone and say, “You’re hired!” 

1. Determine Your Needs

It’s important to fully understand what your business’s needs are before you start looking up consultants in your area. Ask yourself: 

  • Can my business benefit from an outsider’s perspective?
  • Am I willing to risk this particular investment?
  • Do I have the funds to spend on a consultant? 

Determining your needs requires a lot of faith and trust not only in your business but in yourself. Once you’ve frankly answered these questions, then the research can begin.

2. Research Consultants

Just like your consultant will research your business, you should research your consultant. Do you care if they work remotely from out of state, or do you prefer they be in your own backyard so you can reach them more easily? Take a look at their past consulting experience, too. Do they have expertise in dealing with a business in your same market/vertical? If so, how successful was that company after using its services? 

3. Interview Potential Consultants

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, it’s time to start interviewing. Getting a consultant face-to-face is a great way to feel them out and ask them any clarifying questions about their resume and past job experience. Make sure you bring plenty of questions to the interviews that will help you get a larger picture of what each consultant has to specifically offer to your business. 

4. Evaluate Expertise & Fit

Now that you have more insight into the potential consultants you want to hire, it’s time to further narrow your list down by evaluating their expertise and how they’ll ultimately fit into your company culture. Even in the beginning stages of your business, you’ll want to find someone who matches your work ethic, clearly understands the goals you want them to reach for your business, and that you feel confident in bringing on board. 

5. Clarify Scope of Work & Fees

Once you have your perfect consultant in mind, it’s time for the nitty gritty. It’s important to map out the scope of the work they’ll be doing, as well as discuss any contracts or fees that need to be set up before you begin. This will give both you and the consultant a broad roadmap to refer back to should one of you need it or you feel at any point that the consultant is straying from any of the points you’ve laid out for them. 

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the decision is yours on whether or not a startup consultant will take your business to new heights. You understand what your business’s needs are better than anyone, and finding someone who will help you realize your vision takes a lot of trust and understanding. No matter what you decide, there’s no doubt that a consultant can be a great help when it comes to taking your business from the seedling of an idea to a Top 100 company.