As someone who has consulted with collision repair shops for decades, I have seen the transformational power it can have on a business. I’m not saying that to tout my own success. I mean it more generally about the process of working with a consultant. I have seen the same level of business transformation in shops that have worked with many other excellent consultants in this industry. And it’s the leaders of those businesses, not us as consultants, who really made the transformations happen. But the key was bringing in outside expertise to help inspire or guide the change.
So really my goal in this and the next several columns is not to convince you to call me for a consultation. It’s simply to convey the power that working with any good consultant can give you to improve any or all aspects of your business. I will work here to answer three primary questions:
- When and why should I seek out a consultant?
- How can I select the right consultant?
- What leads to a successful shop-consultant relationship?
Let’s start with the when and why. How do you know when it’s time to bring in a consultant? Almost every client I’ve worked with has told me they probably waited too long to seek outside help, thinking that they didn’t need it, that there wasn’t value in hiring a consultant. That’s the No. 1 barrier I see to hiring the right consultant: Getting past the idea that your business couldn’t be improved by a set of fresh eyes bringing in new perspectives and ideas.
I also see a lot of shops hiring a consultant only when their business is showing significant signs of poor performance. I equate it to waiting to check the oil in your vehicle until the engine is running poorly, and only then discovering you’re down two or three quarts. Isn’t that a little too late? Shouldn’t you be checking the oil on a regular basis to maintain the performance and extend the life of the engine?
It’s the same thing in business. Getting a “business health check-up” can help prevent small problems from becoming major ones. That doesn’t mean you need to bring in a consultant every month or every quarter. But working with someone once a year, or every other year, can help you develop a relationship with a consultant you trust, who gets to know and understand your business, and who can offer insights that give your business advantages your competitors might not have.