Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Small Business Consulting Opportunities

Many people overlook one straightforward way to get into small business opportunities--consulting.  Beware, however, that this is often a four-letter word in the small business space often associated with the big business version---a.k.a. either "you pay me a lot of money, I give you a three-ring binder, I walk away" or the dreaded "Bobs" from Office Space.  The opportunities with small business are many, however, if you look at the fundamentals--the business is in need of an outside perspective, expertise, and/or hands to do work without making a full-time commitment.  Your ability to bring some combination of those to the table present an opportunity to make a match.  

For you, the benefits can extend beyond financial.  An opportunity to engage with a small business broadens your base of experience and expands your network.  This combination often leads to unenvisioned opportunities.  

A good relationship starts with clear agreement and understanding by both parties.  Be aware that many small businesses rely on getting gratis advice or support from their network.  Define the boundaries of your relationship for scope, time, and money.  Holding to these can be difficult as you get more heavily engaged, but it is important to do.  Small business is inevitably personal, but you can ill afford to become emotionally engaged in multiple small businesses.  This can present an opportunity, however, once in the door to expand a relationship and realize those "unenvisioned opportunities."

A common mindset coming from Corporate America is that you are either a full-time employee or unemployed.  Engaging with small businesses in a consulting relationship can present an opportunity to test the waters before "jumping ship" or to create some income once in the water before engaging in a specific entrepreneurial venture full time.  (Somehow that became a very wet analogy, but I'll stick with it.)  The small business space creates a wide breadth of opportunities for those willing to look for them.  As you have conversations in this space, I guarantee that you will begin to find them if you are aware of them.

A final comment.  Realizing this opportunity is in your hands.  Small business owners are rarely actively looking for this type of support.  If you can point it out to them, assess the potential, and identify specific ways in which you can help, you can typically find a path.  Be creative in finding ways to make it work, since small businesses are rarely rolling in excess cash for several hundred dollars an hour in consulting fees.  In the end, it creates new opportunities for you and the small business.

1 comment:

Cassadee Pope said...

Excellent advice.Everyone should be wise regarding this issue.Thanks for publishing this.

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