Choosing a business consultant can be a daunting prospect. Do any of these doubts or questions sound familiar?
- Do they know their stuff?
- Can they get me what I need?
- Will they actually show up?
- Do they really listen?
- Are they going to try and sell me a product or service I don’t need?
- Are they going to teach me just enough so that I have to call them every five minutes?
- Are they going to bill me every time I pick up the phone?
- Is it too much of a risk to even use a consultant?
- On second thought….should we try to do this ourselves…..
As a business consultant and a business owner, I’ve heard many horror stories. It’s not unusual for me to come behind a consultant who just didn’t get it. But when you choose to work with me and The Wren Group, Inc., you can expect an outstanding experience.
Most people are either experts in the use of a product or a reseller of the product, I’m both. I am certified in every program offered by Intuit: QuickBooks Pro/Premier, QuickBooks Online, Point of Sale, and Enterprise. I also hold the Advanced level of certification in QuickBooks, which is earned after three consecutive years of certification and an excellent score in a fill-in-the-blank, journal-entry and methodology exam. Additionally, I am in the premier level of resellers for Intuit. In 2011 I earned the National Rookie of the Year for resellers for Intuit. In short, not only do I know how to use everything I sell and know in detail how to make it work best for your business, but I also have access to the best pricing, which I pass directly on to my clients.
Here’s How Our Consulting Process Works
You can expect me to show up to our appointment ready to listen to your pain points, really try to understand what you need from your system, make a road map on how to get where you want to go and take a ridiculous amount of notes. I will make recommendations about what I think will work and I will be honest with you about the expectations you might have that won’t work. You have my promise that I won’t sell you anything you won’t use or don’t need. In fact, we will do our best to use the equipment and resources that you already have. Remember, I am a business owner too, so just like you, I want the maximum amount of results from the right amount of investment.
Let’s talk about money because that’s an important part of the process. Pricing and billing are all on paper in our engagement letter, which is signed before we begin work. Most consulting is done on an hourly basis. Some projects like multiple sites are priced on a project basis. Equipment and software must be purchased prior to installation; a retainer is paid for consulting and then hours used are billed on a bi-monthly basis. As a general rule, phone calls and quick questions do not incur a fee. If there are ten of them in a day, and they begin to take up a significant amount of time, we’ll have to readdress.
Startups and installations happen over a couple of visits and in phases. You will give input on deadlines and milestones and these pieces of information will reside on your project plan, which you will receive with your engagement letter. Some of the steps in the startup include (this is a general list and is subject to change depending on the situation):
- A process meeting with staff. The purpose of this meeting is to make sure that none of the steps in the existing business are missed with the new projected system. This is also a great way to get buy-in from staff as they become part of the process and feel heard, instead of having to “learn this new system that the consultant brought in”
- Review of current hardware and discussion of the plan with the IT consultant that you already use. This eliminates the “QuickBooks consultant brought this new system in and no one asked me” problem. It also reveals if the current hardware you have isn’t up-to-date enough to run the solution you want to use
- Meeting with accounting/bookkeeper/CPA (keeping everyone involved in the process helps with acceptance of these changes)
- Installation of the hardware and software in one visit. If you are a Point of Sale Retail customer, you will be provided with a practice file to play with the software
- Installation of the real data file and integration with any third-party add-ons
- Training, usually by the user and/or job function, in two-hour increments. Most people learn best when training is in short bursts.
- Follow-up and check-up of the system and of the users, which usually resides with a month-end close to make sure accounting records all make sense
The relationship between client and consultant is very important, and you have a part in the success of the installation and startup. How?
- Make sure that your installation timeline is reasonable. Calling on the 15th for a completion date of the first of the next month puts unnecessary pressure on both of us. A hurried or rushed installation is never without problems. One exception to this is if you’re on a legacy system that has either crashed or died. In this case, we’ll do everything we can to help you as soon as possible.
- Be honest with me about the people in your organization and let me know if you think there is anyone that is not on board with the change. There are many times that a business chooses to change processes when a new system goes into place, and it’s helpful for me to know who the dissenters might be.
- Keep me informed of changes that you make to your project as soon as they happen. If you want to add functionality, let me know. If you’re looking for a third party add-on, I can help with the integration, but I need to know sooner rather than later your intention.
- Make time for uninterrupted training for yourself and your staff. Training can’t happen effectively while they’re still required to handle customers, answer phones, etc.
- Encourage your staff to ask questions, and I will too.
- For retail solutions, installations should not happen on opening day, in the middle of a big sale, or while a store site is under construction.
- Be prepared with questions! We’ll go through everything you need to know, but we’ll also have some practice time to do “what if” scenarios
- Take notes! It will all make sense during training, but ten minutes after training something will come up that you don’t remember how to address.