Outside Help: Consultants can be key to success – but know what to look for
Around for about 20 years, Resource Planning Associates has worked with its share of area businesses.

The consulting firm deals with everything from micro-enterprises to expanding businesses and work has been pretty steady, said Michael McCarly, senior consultant for the firm, located at 2495 Main St., Buffalo.

"What I offer is a plan of action,' he said.

According to the Bureau, more companies are hiring business consultants to fill vacant positions or to perform a specific task within the company.

The right consultant can help your company improve efficiency, use technology more wisely or help develop a program or plan, according to David Polino of the Buffalo office of the Bureau.

On the other hand, hiring the wrong consultant can harm your company by wasting time and money and alienating employees, the Bureau warns.

If your company even gets far enough to hire a consultant in the first place.

In many cases, businesses don't have the money - or don't want to spend it, not realizing the benefit or return a consultant could provide, McCarly said.

Or they could be a little embarrassed.

"They thought they could handle the business themselves," he said. "They're kind of in a bind and don’t know who to turn to.

"They don't want to be scolded by a consultant."

In Niagara County, many business owners aren't being scolded, but they do have to head back to school.

Of the two consulting firms listed in the Talking Phonebook, a Niagara Falls firm's phone number had been changed to a Syracuse area number, and after several calls to the other firm in North Tonawanda, no one answered the phone or returned a message.

Good thing for Niagara County Community College's Small Business Resource Center.

Tom Bruss, associate director of the center, said it sees about 700 area clients a year and helps companies and businesses throughout the area draw up business plans, hold business seminars and provide marketing assistance among other things.

While the center performs some consulting work, the majority of the center's clients are small businesses -not corporations with hundreds of employees.

In many cases, Bruss said the center helps a lot its clients put together a business plan, often necessary when getting a loan from a bank.

"A lot of people don't do it unless they have to," he said. "They're doing so much work to begin with."

Around for about 20 years, Bruss said the center doesn't advertise its services.

"People seek us out," he said. "If they know about us, they come to us." If a business is planning to go the consultant route, the Bureau says the key to picking the right consultant is to be certain that your company needs one.
Take the time to lay out the specifics of the problem you face, the exact objective you want to accomplish and a time frame for doing so.

Consultants aren't the end-all to a company's problems, Polino warns.

By carefully thinking things through, he said, you may discover that you do not need an outsider to identify the true problem. Maybe one of your employees has the ability and the desire to do the job.

Contact Matt Winterhalter at (716) 282-2311, Ext. 2253.

Newer Story Return To List Older Story