Odile Olivier, leader of Petite-Entreprise, portal of information and advice for creators and managers of small businesses, gives independent consultants the ten keys to sign consulting missions to leaders of TPE.
“The number of independent consultants has doubled – even tripled – in the last 10 years.” According to INSEE, there were already almost 100,000 consulting structures in 2011. Having no choice but to launch an independent and provide a know and expertise to other entrepreneurs, many former executives are embarking on this path.
Unfortunately, according to Syntec, at least 50% of consultants stop their activity in the first year after their start. Despite this finding of failure, and observing the current market of small business, the French consulting market could well explode in the coming years and meet a dual economic challenge.
A potential “huge”. The 2.5 million French companies are mainly small businesses: 96.8% of them have between 0 and 19 employees (1). And yet, they are very little accompanied, the consulting structures being mainly based in Paris (the Ile-de-France concentrates 62.2% of the jobs of the council in 2007). In this market, it is difficult for an independent company to fight against the leading auditing and consulting firms (the “Big Four”), which target large companies and SMEs.
The growth potential of the French consulting market is therefore elsewhere, towards the VSE market, and more so in the provinces. It is enormous, since, if we consider that any entrepreneur should be accompanied one day or another in his activity, it is several hundreds of thousands – even millions – of coaches and other consultants who miss the call.
The key is a double economic challenge: if the old senior executives were able to sustain their activity, it is the job market of seniors and the market of VSEs that could benefit. It remains to apply the right method to join these two worlds. Consultants need to adapt to new contacts Is not it said that the success of a product or service is due to the fact that it responds perfectly to market demand? Now, is this the case for the supply of consultants?
Regarding the TPE, typically no. Many consulting professionals are “breaking their teeth” in a market they do not understand well and do not know the codes. At Petite-Entreprise.net, we exchange daily with consultants and leaders of TPE, and we always make the same observation: it is almost necessary to “teach” the language of the business creator or leader of a small TPE to the consultant so that he can make himself understood.
To succeed, the consultant will have to make a clean sweep of what he knows, the methods applied in his “old world”, be attentive to the market, active listening, physical contact with the leaders of TPE without selling them anything this is (initially), identify their objectives, observe their managerial, commercial, administrative behavior, understand their social and family environment, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.
If the independent consultant has a real commitment to help the CEOs of TPE, then the keys are all within reach. In 8 years, Petite-Entreprise.net has responded to more than 90,000 requests from business leaders, most often by connecting entrepreneurs with a “Correspondant Petite-Entreprise.net”, a professional consultant.
We therefore feel justified in providing 10 tips to consultants who want to address the small business market and, beyond, respond concretely to the issues of employment and growth that we have mentioned: give a real “second career” to executives seniors and support the very small companies in their development.
1) Multidisciplinary: the CEO of TPE needs a single business advisor or a single interlocutor, not a multitude of experts around him.
2) Offer specific services with a name, a beginning, an end, a price, a support: the leader of TPE buys a solution, not a number of hours.
3) Valuing its consulting missions in terms of ROI (return on investment): the leader of TPE ultimately seeks, even for an HR management service, an increase in turnover and profitability.
4) To be reactive, brief and direct: the leader of TPE does not have the time, he does not anticipate, he has the “head on the handlebars”.
5) Propose a specific action plan with results: the leader of TPE needs concrete, not theory.
6) Listen to the real need expressed by the leader: the leader of TPE buys an answer to his need, not an expertise.
7) Facilitate the life of your customers, offer “turnkey”: the leader of TPE hates paperwork and sometimes has no assistant or secretary.
8) Speak in terms of solution, no method: the leader buys a solution, not training, coaching, support and even less consulting.
9) Stay humble and affordable: a TPE executive needs to understand what he is buying. He is looking for a “person of trust”, not a “consultant” to put himself forward …
10) Staying a business leader first and foremost: a TPE executive gives his respect and trust to someone who will have attitude of a boss, who will speak to him frankly, get paid and bill at the right price. “