When do you call in a pro? It’s a tough question that business leaders face on an ongoing basis. You ought to be able to do most things yourself, and over-reliance on pricey outside help guts your profit margins. On the other hand, a nudge in the right direction from a pro at just the right time can save untold frustrations and costs.
So when do you pull the trigger and call in a fixer? Here are some signs that suggest “now” is the answer.
1. You have serious problems that are over a year old. Persistent obstacles to growth are serious dangers, not least because they’re so easy to ignore. We get used to them, and they become just another part of the environment rather than a critical problem to be solved.
The most common candidates are people-related: high absenteeism or turnover, or serious challenges with employee morale and engagement. But information technology and process problems also often fall into this category.
These issues sap the life out of your company and cripple its ability to compete and grow. If you have issues like these that you’ve been unable to solve for over a year, call in an outsider. You can’t afford to ignore them any longer.
2. Revenue growth has leveled off. Like the previous point, part of the danger of steady revenue is that it often isn’t perceived as a problem. “We made 32 million this year, 30 million the year before that and 34 million the year before that. We’re looking good!”
Not really. Steady-state profits year after year would be fine if the world was also in a steady state, but it isn’t. Technology is always advancing, consumers are always becoming better informed and more demanding, and the competition is always exploring new ways to eat your lunch. If everyone else is moving forward, then standing still is relative backward movement.
Getting out of the rut means evaluating the situation and setting some new priorities. An objective outsider’s view can be invaluable here, and can seriously accelerate the realization of new growth and profits. If revenues are flat, you need a fresh perspective.
3. You’re facing a critical new challenge outside your core expertise.
The connection between practice and competence is so ingrained, it seems self evident. You can’t be good at something you do only occasionally, much less something you’ve never done before.
When the stakes are high, it doesn’t make sense to be your own lawyer or doctor. Apply the same principle to your business and look for outside help when it comes to your most critical decisions.
Here are a few things that typically fall into the category of ‘critical challenges most companies don’t face very often’:
No company is good at everything, and nobody is good at something they’ve never done before, or only done sporadically. There are watershed moments when investing in the help of an outside expert can deliver enormous returns.
Jay Lebo is one of the founders of Gravitas Business Architects, and has been helping companies multiply growth and outperform the competition for more than a decade.