Should You Start A Business Development Consulting Firm?

If you have a lot of experience in the business world, it may be a good idea to start your own business development consulting firm. You can use your expertise to make a lot of money while also having the ability to choose your clients. What other benefits are there to establishing a consulting firm?

Charge As Much Money As You Want

When you work for yourself, you can charge as much as the market will bear. In some cases, you can make $100 an hour or more if you work for a large enough company. However, working for as little as $20 an hour is still a good rate of pay for what you will be doing for your clients.

Get Steady Work Doing Something That You Love

Once you establish yourself as an excellent consultant, you will acquire loyal customers who will use you on a long-term basis. This means that you won’t have to wake up each morning wondering if you are going to make the car payment on time or pay your mortgage this month. Since you are doing something that you love, you won’t feel as stressed or as bitter about working long hours if a client needs you to finish a project as soon as possible.

Have A Hand Getting A New Company Off The Ground

Working with small business owners can be a rewarding experience. If a company that you worked for becomes the next major search engine provider or fast food company, you can take pride in knowing that your ideas played a part in that. In some cases, you may be able to acquire stock in the company as part of your compensation package. That means that you may literally see your hard work pay off in more ways than one.

Take The Weekends Off

Although you may need to meet with a client on a Saturday every so often, you get to decide when you work and when you don’t work. If your child is sick or you just don’t want to get up before noon on a Wednesday, you can schedule many of your appointments around your schedule. This makes it easier to achieve a work-life balance that allows you to make money while also taking time to play golf or go to Florida to see your kids every so often.

Gain Connections Within The Community

Those who have political aspirations may want to make connections with business owners and others who have money in the community. Business consultants have the unique ability to show what they know while also having the ability to develop personal relationships with potential voters.

Business consulting can be a great job for a variety of reasons. It offers the flexibility that you want while helping you pay your bills at the same time. By making connections in the community, you can fulfill other goals such as running for a political office both locally or nationally. Therefore, you should seriously consider a consulting job if it is something that you think you could be good at.

Using Business Consultants to Expand Your Business

Business consultants can help take your business from small to large with a few expert tactics. Even if you never pictured yourself running a large business with international clients, meeting with a consultant may change your mind. If you’ve always hoped to take your business to the big time and attract clients from all over the world, a business consultant can help you achieve that goal. There are a number of things you can implement in your business that will not only market your business to clients but help you gain a diverse customer base. It’s just knowing how to implement them into your business that can be time consuming and confusing for the average business owner.

Create an Online Presence

One way to reach a mass number of clients and potential clients is to create an online presence. Many businesses already have a website, but just having a website doesn’t mean you have an online presence. An online presence means that your website pops up in the search engines and clients are aware that you exist because they see your business name or brand while browsing the Internet. The days of being able to create a website and wait for people to find you are over. There’s too much online competition to expect the clients to come to your website without being led in some way.

There are business consultants who specialise in creating and marketing business websites. Not only will a good consultant help you manage a website, but they’ll help you create and organize material for a business blog. The great thing about a blog is that you don’t have to personally write the material. You can use someone from your staff or have your consultant find you a freelancer willing to create a few blog posts a month. Once your name is out there as a master in your field, clients will start to make inquiries.

Customer Diversity

One thing you need to expand is a diverse customer base. Your consultant can sit with you and discuss your current client base and see what changes you could make to diversify. Sometimes it’s something as simple as marketing to a new client sector. Other times you may need to offer a new service or product in order to attract a different set of clients. Once you are able to diversity your customer portfolio, you’ll find that it’s easier to expand the business. Business consultants can help you locate a new clientele and market your services to them.

Autocratic vs Consultative Leadership

When one speaks about Leadership styles, there are several different models to choose from. However, whatever the model it is never an easy process to implement or practice a particular style of leadership and hope to get the results that was intended. “Leadership” per se is both an Art as well as a Science. The one key element that all leaders should possess is their ability to communicate their visions and values to the people they are leading and to get the people to buy into their visions and values.

The key concern is whether the leader is getting his people to ‘buy-in’ or is he trying to ‘sell’ his vision. When you want to ‘sell’ you need to be convincing and give the impression that the ideas you have are inherently beneficial to the people and therefore they should accept it. This usually is a challenging dilemma as sometimes the people you are leading might not quite see the relevance of your visions and values and may not be forthcoming in accepting them. However, if you are able to create the circumstances whereby the people feel that what you possess are important visions and values, and that by they buying into these it would benefit them well, you have created a winning formula to lead your people successfully.

If you want your people to ‘buy-in’ rather than ‘sell’ your visions and values you need to pay meticulous attention to the type of leadership style that you portray. I personally find that in this context, leadership can be classified either as autocratic leadership style or a consultative leadership style.

Autocratic Leadership Style

Autocratic leadership is one which is based on a clear top-down approach. The leader is in a position of absolute power and he can implement and do whatever he wants to get things done. Usually in an autocratic leadership environment there will not be much discussion of affairs as the people find that their voices does not carry weight in the problem solving and decision making aspects of their organization.

An autocratic leader will be the driver of his people and without his leadership the organization will not be able to function. Usually autocratic leaders like to delegate their power but at the same time having a stranglehold on all those subordinate to them. They also like to coach their people to do things the way they want it and may create a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of working environment. The impression one gets in an autocratic leadership style is that the leader is seen as some kind of megalomaniacal tyrant to be feared and followed.

Although there is some truth to this, autocratic leadership is not necessarily a bad style. In fact there are some circumstances where an autocratic leadership should be the preferred style. One instance where autocratic leadership style may be applicable is when the organization is new and the people are inexperience and thus look up to the leadership to guide them in their work. Another instance is if the people are disengaged in their job and have no clear direction and there is vast internal politicking of the kind that is disruptive and causes an emotional strain in the way the organization is being managed. Here a powerful autocratic leadership might help to re-align the organization to its original position and get the people back in shape.

The downside of all this is that an extended period of engaging in an autocratic style of leadership can strain the relationship between the leader and the people in that the people might find the leader to be so task-oriented that they may develop a sense of resentment. Further, when the leader becomes too autocratic he may forget that he is dealing with humans and not machines and might create the impression that the people are just part of the machinery. This can create a sense of dissonance in the work environment which will not be beneficial to the leader, the people and the organization in the long run. Take the cue from Dwight D. Eisenhower who said: “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership”

Consultative Leadership

Consultative leadership is the way to go in the long run. Management Guru, Kenneth Blanchard said: “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority”. This is the very nature of consultative leadership in that you the leader will have to develop the ability to influence people rather than impose on them your authority as is the case in an autocratic leadership style. In consultative leadership style, the leader will engage the subordinates efficaciously in the decision making and problem solving process. This kind of leadership style endorses the fact that the leader is indeed the servant of the people he is leading. The people have the power to engage in consultation with the leader and are able to make suggestions which they know would be taken into serious contemplation by the leader.

Further, consultative leadership style endorses the concept of empowerment rather than delegation. When a leader empowers, he is basically giving the person concern a freehand to do what is necessary. The leader may draw up certain parameters for the person to work within and to ensure that he is kept in the loop by the person. In a consultative leadership style, the leader still has strong visions and concrete values that he can communicate with his people. However unlike the autocratic leader, the concept underlying consultative leadership style is one of administering a people-oriented kind of management rather than a task-oriented one.

The consultative leader’s role will continuously involve the development of his people and this is done by being kept aware of the needs and wants of the people. The only way this information can be gotten is by having constant dialogue with the people and clarifying the goals and aspirations that you have and synchronizing this with their personal visions. When the people get to experience this state of being they will be more prepared to ‘buy-in’ the visions and values of the leader.

In the long haul, consultative leadership will be the most appropriate one. As the organization mature, the leader has to learn to move away from delegation to empowerment. When the people become more experienced and participative in their professional relationship with you the leader, you will have to play the role of a mentor to them. Consultative leadership style will invoke in you the ability to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals under your authority and allow you the opportunity to nurture the best out of them. The parting quote by Elisabeth Dole seems apt to be mentioned here where she said: “What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted. Then, once policy is determined, you call on them to help you sell it”.

What Can a Law Firm Marketing Consultant Do for My Law Firm?

A law firm marketing consultant works alongside your firm as an outsourced business development partner. Their main focus is your firm’s client attraction, retention, and management. They help you get in front of your target demographic, educate them on why your services are needed and of value, and to stay in touch with them after they hire you. Depending on your needs, you may work with your consultant in person or via telephone and online conferences and on a per-project basis or through ongoing collaboration.

What type of services does a marketing or business development consultant provide?

Law firm marketing consultants help you:

A. Differentiate your firm from the competition, B. Position you as an expert in front of your target demographic, C. Enhance your online presence and website traffic, and D. Enable you to show your potential clients the value of your services in a fashion that motivates them to hire you and send you referrals.

They can help you create podcast episodes, tele-seminars, and video series to get more traffic to your website, showcase your expertise on the subject, and give you material to share with your prospect clients, current clients, and professional network. They can also help you create a marketing plan of action that considers your field of law, personality, budget, and available time.

How much can I expect to pay for services of a law firm marketing consultant?

Pricing for services varies with each consulting company. Some business development consultants charge per hour while others charge on a flat fee basis per project. Still others render their services in return for a flat monthly payment. Consider your firm’s cash flow and marketing budget when deciding which method of payment works best for you.

Landscaping: A wonderful backyard landscaping idea

A good backyard landscaping idea is one that everyone can make use of. There are many different backyard landscaping ideas and most of them are pretty good but to find the one that is right for you and that is just what your yard needs may take some reading. This article will help you to find the perfect backyard landscaping idea for your home.

A good backyard landscaping idea is one that everyone can make use of. There are many different backyard landscaping ideas and most of them are pretty good but to find the one that is right for you and that is just what your yard needs may take some reading. This article will help you to find the perfect backyard landscaping idea for your home.

A good backyard landscaping idea is to use evergreens. The use of these fabulous trees will do o much for any yard. They will add a stately nature to the feel of your home while keeping it welcoming and warm. Many people like to use deciduous trees in the yard and this is always a good idea but it is the evergreens that will give the yard the structure and the stability that it needs for a good backyard landscaping idea and design.

You need to look for a backyard landscaping idea like the one above that will benefit you all year round. Deciduous trees will not be gorgeous in all seasons,Guest Posting most perhaps, but not all. Evergreens on the other hand are always fantastic and they look as beautiful in the winter as they do in the summer and this is why they make for such a great backyard landscaping idea. The key to any great landscaping design is to find a backyard landscaping idea like this that will keep your yard interesting no matter what time of the year it is.

Another good backyard landscaping idea is to use hardscape. This is the use of things like rocks, fences and walls. These can make your yard look very interesting during all of the seasons. You can have climbing plants on it in the summer and spring and pretty trees around it that will look great in the winter. When looking for a good backyard landscaping idea you need to look for other options besides just plants. There is much more to landscaping than just plants and trees.

Walls and fences can frame your property beautifully and using them is such a great backyard landscaping idea because they will just accent all of your other wonderful backyard landscaping ideas. They will frame your yard as a picture frame frames a gorgeous painting. Look at this kind of backyard landscaping idea as well in your search for the one.

Kaif & Oblom – Artist Book For $1,000,000,000

Every artist has his own work, which he considers to be the most considerable no matter how others understand it.

The desire to create something exclusive lives in every man. Women do not need that,Guest Posting because any woman is able to have a baby which is the most important in her life. Hence, a man has a tendency to create perpetuum mobile or the absolute, and they choose either the complicated or simple way. A complicated one is the way of cognition and creating of something exclusive, even if at the moment of creating it breaks all known decrees of nature. And a simple one – the most common – is the way of destruction. As a rule, this way is used by persons with absolutely defective state of mind.

The occasion of creating is generally banal, like everything in this world – the proof to himself and others that I CAN DO IT! The proof of his POWER, that is with help of this illusion to slip through eternity or at least less remote future.

But to make this attempt work it is necessary to have a victim; and the victim is the creator himself.

On 1 st July 1996 to my lodging, which I proudly called a studio, came a man, Amiran Guntaishvili and said, “I need an artist who will be able to design two books, and one of them is called Kaif and another Oblom”.

Of course, I laughed, because the combination of such words, especially for a Russian man, means nothing serious. But… we were acquainted with for a long time, and the past gave me cause for perceiving him as a very serious man and a businessman. Particularly, I was glad for him as the man who was able to write books, what was bolt from the blue for me. We were talking for a long time. It wasn’t even a conversation but a joint flight to the mere mutual fantasy. The more we talked the more I understood that it was the question of a unique work of art.

As an artist I could choose two ways:

One way was simply to paint the author’s idea; to paint and forget.

The second one was to turn this idea into the unique work of art, being unprecedented in its apparent simplicity so far.

I chose the second way, perfectly realizing, what I risked and made a sacrifice. In itself the idea of Amiran Guntaishvili was not new, and there had been made some attempts to accomplish it. However, the previous authors’ mistake was the following: they presented volumetric idea unambiguously, i.e. on the same plane or interpretation, presenting and considering a detail as the whole.

AMIRAN’S IDEA

One day in Amiran’s presence a man simply said, “Oh! I wish someone would give me a million dollars just for the hell of it!”

As it was said in the presence of a great number of people, everybody laughed except Amiran who thought and said, “They won’t give it to you for the hell of it, but they will give it to you for NOTHING!”

The idea was born in a split second, “All one needs to do is to create nothing and insert it into the book “Kaif”, that is to make a book’s plaster cast or a notebook, to write on the cover page a pen-name – Homo sapiens, the title Kaif and to sell it for one million dollars”.

What is the value of this book? Its value is that a purchaser buys not a book or a notebook but his own pleasure obtained by his own intellect from the idea, i.e. his own Kaif or Nothing. Due to this very reason the author of the idea does not have any right to introduce his content, because no one but a buyer can know what his Kaifis.

Thus a buyer turns into the latest genius, because he becomes a genius not only with the help of his own intellect but also for money, and this gives the appearance of a genius. Also this book can be perceived as whatever one wishes and to see in it any content in any language and one copy only.

But they won’t understand, will they?

Then it is necessary to create one more book “Oblom”, which will be the author’s idea book, Amiran’s one, under the pseudonym Ubralo Adamiani, which in Georgian language stands for a Simple Man. The author of this book has an exclusive right to introduce his content and to present it to the purchaser of the book Kaif as a frustrated Oblom of the author’s idea, if such a purchase takes place.

If the purchase doesn’t occur, the idea’s author at any time can write his Oblom in the book Oblom, publish it in 100,000 copies and get his million.

I was delighted with Amiran’s idea and instantly understood how many-sided it is in its seeming simplicity and infinitely substantial. I agreed to make it at once.

Don’t Fall Into the Query Letter Quandary

He wrote the book on how to write killer query letters. In thisinterview, author John Wood shares his knowledge based on 17 years of working as an editor. More than 30,000 query letters have landed on his desk. Wood lets us in on the things that make or break query letters, and how you, the writer, can get past the editor’s desk and be published.

A Query Letter That Stands Out

Because most queries look and read the same,Guest Posting your query letter must stand out.

“Devise a scintillating title and subtitle for your idea in the style of the magazine you’re pitching,” says Wood. “Center it and boldface it right up front after your initial introductory paragraph. Use bullets, numbered lists, indented paragraphs, italics or even boxes to set off important elements. Don’t go overboard, but do something to make your letter stand out from the pack.

“My former editor demanded that I do this whenever I proposed an idea to him because with a head and deck at the top of the page, he could envision instantly what it would look like in the magazine,” Wood explains. “I have used this technique ever since when approaching editors and agents, and have been told by more than one agent that my queries were the best they have ever seen.”

Your query letter should be no more than a page or a page and a half, and should contain a brief introduction as to why you’re writing that specific magazine. Mention your expertise or interest in your proposed topic, and include one or two ideas, presented in decks and heads. In your closing paragraph, briefly mention who you are, your publication credits and how you can be reached.

Include one or two clips of your writing, but only if your clips are similar to your proposed topic. There’s no point in sending a cooking article clip if you’re querying a travel article!

Most Common and Crucial Mistakes Writers Make When Writing and Submitting Queries

“Of all the ones that I rejected, I found that the writers were making the same simple mistakes or omissions,” Wood reveals. “Unfortunately, reject letters never tell you what you did wrong, so most writers just continue to make the same mistakes.”

According to Wood, there are 4 common mistakes writers commit when writing and submitting query letters:

Mistake # 1. Sending your query to the wrong editor

“This is crucial,” says Wood. “Call the magazine, ask for ‘Editorial,’ and ask which editor handles the subject you’re submitting.

“If you’re sending a query for a health article, ask which editor handles health features. If you’re sending a pitch for the New Products department, ask which editor oversees the New Products department, and so on,” he advises. “If the receptionist gives you the editor-in-chief’s name or says, ‘Just send it in,’ do not accept this. Demand a specific name for your specific topic. If she can’t or won’t, ask to speak to her supervisor.”

When Wood was editor, writers who took their time to do their homework, learn that he was the right editor for their proposed story and then approach him directly by query letter always got top priority.

“Unfortunately, less than 5-10 percent of all submissions arrive to me–or any editor–that way. Writers who act in this manner earn my respect and I will assume they are professionals and treat them accordingly,” Wood says.

And those who don’t? Their queries don’t garner much interestand go straight to the slush pile.

Mistake # 2. Failing to narrow your story angle

“Don’t send a query about horseback riding,” Wood warns. “Send one about horseback riding for blind black women lesbians along the Malibu coast during Kwanzaa. I’m exaggerating, but I guarantee you that a query like the first example will go nowhere; one focused to the degree of the second example will find a market somewhere.”

Mistake # 3. Not studying the magazine thoroughly before querying

Take time to know what a magazine wants and doesn’t want. Know its readers and style the articles are written in. Do these things and you will be able to write a query letter that will catch anyeditor’s eye.

Mistake # 4. Forgetting to include a self-addressed stamped envelope or SASE with the query

5 Things You Should Never Do When Writing A Query Letter

Don’t be presumptuous. Avoid even an appearance of cockiness or arrogance.
Don’t be sketchy. Outline your idea in sufficient depth to give the editor a clear picture of your idea and what you intend to do.
Don’t offer an article on spec.
Never apologize or give a lame reason for wanting to write your article.
Don’t even think about querying by phone.
And If You’re An Amateur, Don’t Give Yourself Away!

If you’ve never been published before, Wood warns you shouldn’t mention it in your query letter.

“You must never give the appearance that you are a beginner or an amateur,” he says. “If you present yourself in a professional manner, the editor can only assume you’re a pro and will treat you like one.

“I have given many assignments over the years to writers who I thought were seasoned pros and then found out later that they were just starting out,” he continues. “That’s fine. But once you let the cat out of the bag and make a slip of the pen (‘This is my first query to a magazine’), it’s an automatic rejection. Few editors will knowingly work with beginners.

“If you have been published before, but only to small newsletters or church flyers or local newspapers, do not mention this or attach such clips,” he adds.

The Query-able Stuff

You don’t need to query every idea you think is publishable.

“The only articles that do not and should not require a query are humor, essays, poems, short fiction, and puzzles/games. These particular types of pieces are subjective and cannot be assigned; you simply have to write them and send them in,” Wood says.

Shotgun Querying and the Waiting Game

So, is it acceptable to send multiple queries on the same subject? Wood says yes.

“Shotgun the sucker to as many editors as you can. You’re the writer; you’re the one who has to pay your bills while waiting (sometimes for months) to hear back from each publication,” Wood explains. “Editors are notorious for not replying at all–even if you include an SASE. The obvious exception would be an idea that is focused to a particular magazine; in that case you should only send it to that place. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t rewrite it and refocus the same general idea to several different similar magazines and send them all out at the same time.

“One lesson I’ve learned: Do not mention that your query is a simultaneous submission,” John advises. He once thought it was necessary until one editor got offended and rejected his query. That editor, according to Wood, only wanted articles “specifically tailored to my magazine.”

“My idea was a unique travel idea that was certainly appropriate to his publication, but to many others as well,” Wood explains.

After shotgunning your idea to as many editors as possible, it’s time for you to wait it out.

“Wait about a month, then follow-up by e-mail,” he advises. “Never phone unless you’ve worked with the editor before. If still no response, assume it’s a reject and move on.”

10 Specific Advice to Help You Get Your Query Letter Accepted (and Make You a Published Author Eventually)

Wood sums it up:

Be professional. Make sure every letter is error-free, is addressed to the right editor, and includes a SASE.
Be new. Offer a fresh idea and set it off with a centered, boldfaced head and subhead.
Be provocative. Pull the reader in with a stunning lead.
Be creative. Lay out your letter in a unique way and show your writing style. Don’t write formally! Write the way you talk, write in your own voice. You have only one chance to impress the editor. If you go down, go down in flames, baby.
Be focused. Narrow your story angle as much as you can. 6. Be customized. Slant your idea to each individual publication as much as you can.
Be multifaceted. Give each editor more than one reason to say yes: Offer more than one place for your article, more than one thing to peg it to, more than one way to structure it, and more than one element to accompany it.
Be realistic. Instill confidence that you’re reliable and your project is doable.
Be qualified. Include appropriate clips, credits, and qualifications.
Be passionate. Show enthusiasm for your project.

35 Brainstorming Tricks For The Geeks!

In today’s agile world when we have defined budgets, time is less, urgency to deliver solution to clients, we can’t compete against our rival competitor because they have bigger market share, bigger budgets.All this drives us to think differently and change the game and “brainstorming” can do it right for us.

In other words,Guest Posting brainstorming is all about thinking, creating, and identifying outside the box to come up with scrupulously scrutinized and pragmatic ideas. It is all about knowing what’s working, what’s not and what can be better. It’s a tried-and-tested tool many managers use with their teams to generate ideas and path breaking solutions.

Brainstorming is a problem solving technique using lateral thinking approach, and it ought to be beyond normal ways of thinking. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas that, at first, seem a bit crazy. Some of these ideas can lead to creative solutions, while others will definitely spark even more ideas.

Here goes “35″ super tips for brainstorming!

1. Understand giving up to the problem is not the solution, which means there is no option to quit.

2. Group brainstorming is considered ideal to filter the best ideas and then develop it.

3. A key principle of most brainstorming meetings is the absence of negative criticism and to encourage people to come up, since no one wants to volunteer ideas that get shot down.

4. Don’t score, competition kill creativity; you don’t want fear of getting ruled out to stop your team from contributing through their ideas. This also improves the contribution of introvert team members.

5. There should be no fear of failure, if we are not prepared to be wrong, we will never come up with anything great.

6. Often we are our worst idea censorship, trust me, there are no bad ideas at all.

7. When creativity is under the gun, it often ends up getting killed, it needs a conducive environment.

8. Remember before entering for brainstorming meeting that we have a problem to solve; and that it’s a critical meeting and not a fun place to be in.

9. If the right idea doesn’t evolve, do not haste, later revisit the problem again.

10. Broadly define lines of objectives, parameters and disclosures about the subject, just to ensure there is a solution at the end.

11. Exaggerate the problem multiple times to test your solution or idea.

12. Build on ideas of others, often an idea suggested by one person can trigger a better idea.

13. Set a deadline to freeze at a solution with ideally 7 to 10 milestone stages, these are generally the evolution steps of the Idea or solution.

14. Invite random criticism about your solution from every possible person, discount judgment and criticism during brainstorming.

15. Let thoughts fly from multi dimensions and meeting not restrained to a one-dimensional output.

16. Best comes when there is friction, like between people, different departments and geographies, harness it.

17. Identify, what’s driving the problem? What’s driving the competition? What is the need for the solution? Why is there a need now? What if we don’t? As you uncover the drivers, you begin to catch a glimpse of possible solutions.

18. Often, human mind goes for low hanging fruits during brainstorming, be aware.

19. Be aware, during brainstorming a silent cognitive bias comes into play, unknowingly we get trapped; after the first set of idea is evaluated many concepts afterwards are likely to be evaluated on a relative merit.

20. Too often we let our mind go million miles and think ‘outside of the box’, even before considering the simple known facts. For example, if you are a Web Design And SEO Company and looking for a revolutionary solution it will only come from the digital marketing arena.

21. Apply divide and conquer rule, task your team for individual brainstorming, then work in smaller teams before the grand finale.

22. Consider role playing, and make people represent the client to define the different barriers you need to navigate around; this is to better requirement understanding.

23. Take help of simulated tricks, few people to act as customers and try to reject the idea by all possible means, repeat this at every stage of the product.

24. Sometimes, start from what won’t work at all, the bad ideas first; strikeout a list of odd one’s first to let the fantastic, creative ideas fly.

25. Another pattern is to come up only with the worst ideas, really terrible ones, and then prime your team to turn those into decent, good, viable & buy-able ideas.

26. Leaders should pipe down else people will feel compelled to give their “buying in” & “consent” probably at the expense of their creativity.

27. Embrace a playful atmosphere for brainstorming to enhance abilities of participants to think, being creative, solve problems, and form positive meaningful connections with group.

28. Do not hesitate to hybrids at all, with any possible permutations and combinations.

29. Think of your idea in a different time, what if this was 15 years ago, just like in 2001 if you were a digital marketing company, what strategies you would have devised to better sales for your Google Adwords Manager.

30. Do imagine your idea with your competitor and how he would tackle it, just to get a fresh angle.

31. Consider for once your problem as the gap to be bridged, you are at point(A) and you want to get to point(B). Try writing the necessary steps to unwind the theory.

32. It happens at times we are complacent within; do try to look and get inspired from outside.

33. Do a SWOT analysis for a final decision making; it’s used to stimulate collaborative analysis.

34. Go with your gut feel, when the right solution or idea is around the corner, your 6th sense will prompt, keep your other 5 senses awake.

35. Introspect and reintrospect before going with the rolling out of the idea or conceptualizing.

Try holding brainstorming sessions in rooms that aren’t regular meeting rooms. If you can’t change the room itself, try changing something about the room to stimulate the brain, and if you have the luxury choose the creative room of your office. Brainstorming should be a safe haven for playfulness, experimentation, and a dose of nonsense to get the creative juices flowing.

Due Diligence 101 Or What You Do Not Know Can Kill you!

Introduction:

This article is written as a general discussion on the subject of “Due Diligence”. It is for informational purposes and not intended to be a definitive guideline for your exact situation. You should consult the appropriate professionals with regard to your specific transaction or situation. Further, this article is in no way advocating, suggesting or implying that anyone engages in any type fraudulent activities whatsoever. These are simply the things a buyer should be aware of when doing due diligence in buyer a business.

You spent months finding the right business. The seller says that you cannot go by what the tax return shows but the business is making a lot of money,Guest Posting and he can prove it. Your inspection of the profit and loss statement shows that sales have been increasing slightly in the last few years. Most important, and the best news of all is; the price is right! Does it sound too good to be true? I am sorry to tell you this, it probably is.

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Mr. Franklin must have known a lot of business buyers. When buying appliances that break in a month, it costs you a few dollars. When you go to a swap meet and are cheated because the solid gold watch is really gold plated, it costs you a few hundred bucks. When a used car salesman cheats you, by selling you a lemon, where the speedometer has been turned back 100,000 miles, it costs you a few thousand dollars. Getting cheated buying a business can cost you many thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only investment or purchase that I know of where you can be cheated out of more money is in the area of real estate. Real Estate fraud can runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars and does. You would be shocked at all the people between 1875 and 1950 who saw ads for prime real estate in Florida and bought swamp land. What about prime Louisiana beach front with Alligators living outside your front door? I have written a series of articles on fraud and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I hope that the point is made. Never buy a business on someone’s word. Actually, you should never buy anything on someone’s word. Confirm everything, believe nothing and understand that you are still going to find out things, after the close of escrow, which is going to surprise you. A similar example is one known by every employer. A staff worked for a company for 4 months and complained to the personal officer that the job was just too difficult. He kept complaining that he needed more training and lower quotas. You feel sorry for him. You talk to him and talk to him about it. You listen and believe all the excuses he gives you for poor production. Finally he quit, blaming you for something that you did, this just before you were going to give up and fire him. Then you started to take over the work of finishing his incomplete projects. You are shocked, as you always re, at what he did wrong and what he had covered up, that he was not doing. This is what happens when you buy a business. You find out all the actions that the seller, not his staff, had stopped doing, from the day that he decided to sell the company.

Many businesses are doing well. Sometimes the owners have personal things going on in their home life. Sometimes they have medical problems. Many times the business is not doing well and the seller is frustrated. It is very common for a seller to work hard to build his business, but because of many reasons, it doesn’t produce what the seller wants. He gets frustrated and one day he gives up. That is usually the day he calls that business broker he met and asks the big question. How long will it take you to get me out of this place? In his mind, he is gone. He just counts the days until he physically walks out.

Have I scared you? Good. There is a plus side. It is worth all the grief that you go through to buy a business when you get in to the drivers seat, put all the marketing actions into place and start driving your own business.

In 2000 I had a client buy a car wash soap manufacturing business for $2 Million dollars. The seller swore it was making $500,000 profit per year. Due Diligence showed it was only making $300,000. When presented with the auditors report, the seller claimed the audit was wrong. The buyer bought the company, knowing he was overpaying for the business. Why? He had done his research on the production department and sales department. He went out on the deliveries with the drivers, and met customers. He determined that he could double the sales and profit within one year. After he bought the business he found two things to be true. The profit was $300,000, as my audit found. He could double the sales and profit within 12 months, and did. The seller tried to screw the buyer, but in the end, justice was served. The seller screwed himself more than he screwed the buyer by not running his business correctly. If he had he could of sold it for a lot more than $2 Million dollars.

Ok, enough with the fun stories for now. Lets get down to the details of what to look for when doing “Due Diligence.”

Due Diligence Defined:

The phrase is composed of two words. “Due” which the dictionary defines as “Proper or Adequate” and Diligence, which is defined as “Degree of care or caution expected of a person. Especially as a party to an agreement.” Caution: is the watchword in this definition.

Financial Statements – What to look for:

Add Backs:

If you bought the business through a business broker you should have received the business financial statement with a separate worksheet showing adjustments to those statements. These adjustments show the owner’s benefits received from the business besides the profit and salary he receives. These can also be defined as personal expenses that need to be added back to the profit. Depreciation, incomes taxes, interest expense are add backs that are not personal. Personal includes such things as family auto expenses, owner life insurance, owner health insurance, business entertainment that was not really spent on clients, business trips not really for business, home office expenses, family cellular phones and much much more.

Make the seller show you the details on some or all of these expenses to verify that they are really personal and not actually business expenses that shouldn’t be added back to profit. Spend time asking detailed questions with the general ledger in front of you. Go through individual charges and what they mean, until you fully understand what is being added back and why.

Inventory:

Inventory of resale merchandise must be checked for two reasons. One is you have to pay for it. Be careful, you do not want to buy merchandise that is old, worthless and not saleable anymore. Only pay for current marketable product. The price you are suppose to te pay for the inventory is the seller’s cost. The price for old slow inventory is negotiable. Always spot check the price and count the merchandise listed on the inventory list. Do people put down that there is three of an item when there are only two? Of course, especially when they think no one is going to be checking them out. Comparing prices from purchase invoices is how you check prices. You cannot check every item against the actual cost but you can do 5% of the items. Pick at random, not by any suggestion made by the seller or others. If you do not understand how marketable the inventory is that you are buying, hire an expert, from that industry. Your broker should be able to help you in finding someone. Do not be cheap, and think you do not need to spend the money on an expert adviser. I will take a lunch bet that they will pay for them selves many times over.

The second reason for checking inventory is that if a seller doesn’t take inventory at least yearly and adjust his inventory value in his accounting records, accurately, the profit figure you are receiving will not be accurate. As a rule, the higher cost of goods sold, the lower the profit. Some business owners reduce the inventory value on the books, intentionally, to a lower value so as to make the business show a higher cost of goods sold, which then creates a smaller taxable profit. If they do this year after year, the profit may or may not be accurate for the current year. It might take a CPA to figure this one out for you, if you do not have a background in retail.

Equipment value:

Next thing to check on the financials is the real, current value of the equipment you are buying with the business. The balance sheet might, if it shows all the equipment the company owns, give you the cost of the equipment when it was purchased. If you are buying assets rather than cash flow, the equipment valuation becomes more important. No one wants to overpay for used equipment. Also check that the equipment works and is actually being used rather than sitting behind the building with other junk.

Cash Sales:

If all income is being reported, check sales volume activities that you have observed against the daily records during your “Due Diligence” to see if the volume corresponds to what was reported last year in the same month. If you see income of $500 per day but the seller shows sales of $1,000 per day, you need to find out why. Some smart buyers sit in the business all day, watch the sales and observe the activities of the staff. This works if the seller is not putting on a full fledge production fraud for you the buyer.

Fraud:

How does a seller defraud a buyer on current sales activity levels? Sellers who keep poor records or no records, many times, suggest the buyer doing a 15-day visual inspection. This helps but it is very dangerous to rely solely on physical inspections alone because the seller can still defraud the buyer. Here is the most famous of the stories I have heard over the years.

Seller owns a dry cleaner. The buyer and seller have opened escrow and the deal is subject to a 15-day physical observation period. The seller doesn’t want the buyer to find out that business volume is very slow. The seller tells all his friends to bring their dry

cleaning in to the shop for a two-week period, at no charge. They bring in the clothing, get it cleaned, pick it up and pay for it. Later the business owner meets the customers and reimburses all of them for the cost of their dry cleaning. The day after escrow closes all that business traffic stops. Think it never happens? The same is true of restaurants. Seller tells all his friends to bring all of their friends in for a free meal. Customers pay the bill and some time later or at home, the business owner reimburses all the customers for the cost of their meals.

Actual time sellers spends working:

Determine how many hours the seller really works. You are buying an income stream based on a known number of hours of work. Make sure the seller isn’t working 80 hours and telling you he is only working 40 hours, per week. I had an absentee fast food owner tell the buyers and me that he worked part time – 5 hours per week. Closer inspection showed he was working 25 hours per week. One auto repair seller, we’ll call him Bob, said he never was at the business, because he had a second full time job. Inspection found he was working 30 hours a week (4 plus hours every night, and 8 hours on Saturdays).

Find out what job functions the seller does:

Get a list of functions that the seller does. Is one of them bookkeeping? Sometimes the wife does the books part time and this is never said. Again you may find the owner does the bookkeeping, at home, every night, for an extra hour. In an auto repair shop, you may find the owner is doing auto body repair work, personally, on Saturdays, which is work that you, as a buyer, will never be able to duplicate. You need to be sure you know how to do every job function that the seller does or learn them. The time to find out what technical knowledge you need to have to take over the business is when you are doing your investigation, not the day after escrow closes.

Verification of things that are not on the Financial Statements:

It is a common occurrence that businesses do not record all of their income on their financial statements. Yes, this is true. Many people do not, in fact, report the truth on their tax returns. In fact, when I am talking about small retail or service businesses that deal with the public directly, I find it is over 90%. “Will the people with an honest set of books, please leave the auditorium. There are two golf carts outside waiting to chauffer you home. You do not need to hear this.”

The balance of this article will discuss how a buyer might do their “Due Diligence” for different types of businesses. These types of businesses include Restaurants, auto repair shops; real estate services contractors, non-real estate repair/ services, and retail stores.

Restaurants- Non-Franchise:

Restaurants compose over 25% of all businesses for sale. This is not because they all go broke, as the SBA reports. It is because 28% of all retail businesses are food service or food sales. It is the largest segment of the consumer market. Because it is a retail consumer business, it deals in 33% cash. Every independent-non-franchise food service business I have been into shows zero profit on the books. Some even go overboard and show a tax loss. It is because they do simple tax planning that does not require an MBA degree to figure out. If the business doesn’t show all of its cash, or any of its cash, the expenses will equal the reported income. This alone makes it attractive to many buyers. We will not discuss the moral issues of this attitude; it is what it is. What we have to discuss is how do you, the buyer, can prove that the business is making a profit? And if it is, how much?

Restaurants come in two categories. 1. Fast food-counter sales. 2. Sit down. Fast food restaurants have computerized cash registers that record the sales into its computer, which has a memory. This memory has daily totals going back to the beginning of the computer’s history. Most owners close out their cash registers at the end of the day and print out the tape of each day’s activities. This does not automatically wipe out the information for the day. The computer does, I am told, have a delete button on it allowing the owner to wipe out the full memory in the computer, in the event of an audit. I have also been told, but do not believe, that an electrical blackout can wipe out the memory in the computer and that is why one seller said he couldn’t give me access to this information.

If we are talking about a sit down restaurant sales information, you can use the daily order ticket, which are then imputed into the computer. This gives 3 sources: tickets, computer and daily tape totals.

When this information is not available, for any reason, an experienced restaurant consultant can tell you the sales activities just by inspecting the restaurant and counting the number of customers eating at 4 key times in a day, and on several key days per week. Then the consultant can figures out what the average sales ticket amount is. With this information like magic the consultant knows the gross sales figure, for the year.

A double check procedure for restaurant consultants is to then look at the food purchases and its costs and can confirm that it matches the actual sales figures. One consultant that was hired to review a Johnny Rocket restaurant for $7,000 did the audit and put together a marketing program for the buyer. The marketing program included delivery and catering. Both of which do not normally show up on the computerized cash register.

Restaurants – Franchise:

You would imagine that franchise restaurants records would be very accurate because the franchise company gets a percentage of the gross income. The bigger ones connect up to the individual franchise and know what is happening faster then the owner. As stated above, the only sales that can be made and not declared to the computer are catering or delivery orders, which could be done without ringing them up.

Some franchises do not hook up to the individual franchise computers and do not do audits regularly. This allows the franchise to report reduced income to the company and the IRS. In case either comes to audit, they press the delete button on the computer. If you as a buyer can get access to the computer you know the numbers are correct even if they are not complete. It is impossible for the staff or the owner to change the computer records. The information can only be deleted. Again catering and take out may not be on the computer. Theft from employees can only be in the form of 1. Employees that give free food to friends. 2. Employees not ringing up an order, which is difficult when businesses put up signs saying, “If you do not get a receipt, your order is free.”

Some sellers are so paranoid of the IRS, they are not willing to show anyone their private records or computer tapes for fear that the buyer could be an IRS agent. My personal opinion, and what I advice sellers to do, is to get their books legal and honest and hire themselves a top notch CPA, like Donald Trump, and use every legal trick in the book. Martha Stewart didn’t go to jail for inside trading. They got her on lying. There are legal ways to avoid taxes so that fraud is not necessary. If you cannot find a good accountant, I will recommend one.

If you ask someone “Are you a government employee or IRS agent?” and they lie to you; that might be considered entrapment and a good possible defense in court. But, I ask you. Is it worth the grief?

The normal action of sellers, in this situation, is to require that the buyer take the business based on the recorded records and guess as to how profitable the place really is. This is a very difficult situation for the brokers and buyers, since sellers do not price their business based on these reported numbers but base their price on the real numbers.

I hope this is of some help to you in doing due diligence on a restaurant you might be interested in buying.

Auto Repair Shops:

Auto repair shops are almost as bad as restaurants when it comes to under-declaring cash. The normal procedure for most, I have run across, is to declare only the checks and credit card charges. The cash they put into their pocket. The good thing, in doing audits is that almost every one of these owners keeps their work orders-invoices. These are kept in monthly manila folders and put into a drawer or file cabinet. They never tell you that they keep these records, but they do. They even tell me, as the broker, that all backup documents have been destroyed, but they are not. When I insist that they cannot sell their business without providing these invoices, they tell me of their existence. With the sales invoices an audit of income becomes simple. Since the sellers keep them in a manila folder by months, you only have to pick monthly folders at random and total the actual invoices. Then compare them to what the “State Board of Equalization” report says and calculate what percentage of the total was declared. If you do this for a few months, a pattern will develop. Some sellers have even run a calculator tape of the month’s activities and/or written it in a private ledger. You can check the actual invoice tapes against the private ledger records to confirm the private ledger information is correct.

Real Estate Services/Repairs Contractors:

Real estate service contractors include new construction general contractors and sub-contractors, contractors that come to your house to offer repairs on your house (plumbers, heating and air-conditioning contractors, gardeners, landscapers, termite companies, roofers, carpet cleaners, cabinet re-modelers, carpet/drapery stores, tile stores, pool service providers, pool installation contractors, landscapers, etc.) These contractors, if the owner does the work himself, do not keep their job tickets-invoices after they are paid for their services, in cash. If the company has service men, then the owner is usually the dispatcher or other administrative person. In this situation seller, most likely, will have kept all of his invoices, so as to be able to look up prior history records of their customers. They might not have recorded the income on their records but they will have the basic records. Theses records may in a total mess, but the records do exist. If they do not, then buy the business based on what the seller can prove to you, or what you can reasonably estimate based on what percentage of the business you think is cash. What they are only going to prove to you is the total of checks and credit card charges, which is what the seller has declared on the tax return.

Non Real Estate Repair/ Services:

Non real estate repair/service companies include such things as large and small appliance repairs, barbershops/hair salons, nail shops, massage parlors, health clubs, pet grooming, wedding photographers, and movie theaters. These businesses usually do not even write up a ticket so unless a central cash register is used for recording income there will be no record at all. Again this is like a restaurant with cash register tapes. If the work is done at the customer’s location, then you study the serviceman’s truck schedule. If you only have some work records, from some work done in the field, you can determine what the average repair dollar volume is and then if you calculate how many calls are made on an average day, you only have to multiply the two numbers.

If we are talking about hair salons, nail shops or barber shops we can gather information about how many chairs there are, how many chairs are rented on a weekly bases and what rent the owner is collecting. If the technician is not paying rent then they are on a commission split. If you know the rental income and the income split you are well on your way to determining the real profit of this kind of business. Remember to ignore the income of the owner since you as a hairdresser or non-hairdresser owner would not get the income of the old owner. The old owner will probably rent space from you so you only add another rented chair to the income.

Retail Stores:

A retail store is a store that carries an inventory of products that they resale. Sometimes they offer installation, which then might put them into the service company instead of a retail store. The main distinction is that they sell a product instead of a service. This includes everything from Home Depot, pet stores, clothing stores, gift shops, supermarkets, vitamin stores, and sign shops. Retail stores have cash registers and daily tapes of their sales. This is handled similarly to a restaurant and should be audited in the same manner. (See Restaurant Section Above) In addition to the cash register information, you also have purchase records, which can be studied to determine the cost of the merchandise as a percentage of the selling price. With this relationship-percentage of cost to sale price known you can calculate either the cost of goods sold or gross sales if you have either to start with. A few smart owners buy some merchandise for cash in order to prevent a tax auditor from catching them by using this same manner. If the seller does this, he will admit it to you, if you ask.

When All Else Fails With a Retail Business:

The only way to protect yourself is disclosure so that you have grounds to sue for fraud. Make the seller put the real sales numbers, cost of goods percentage and any other information you are given and can not document down on a piece of paper and then have the seller sign and date the paper. If after the close of escrow you find the seller lied to you, the document will give you grounds to sue for fraud or misrepresentation. The important thing is be able to show a judge in writing what the buyer told you and to be able to show that he did this in writing. If the seller told you but never did it in writing you cannot prove it. “If it isn’t written, it isn’t so”

Medical Professions and Non Medical Professionals:

Professionals are a form of service business; except they charge a higher hourly rate and they have to keep patient/client files. Most people pay their professionals by credit card or check, because these expenses are usually tax deductible as medical or financial advice. If the seller doesn’t declare all the income, ask what back up records there are. Clients always get receipts for services and payments. There are records, find them and you will have all the income.

When all else fails in Figuring Cash Income:

If you have followed all of the earlier advice on documenting cash income and they in truth do not have documentation, you are in big trouble. You may have reached the end of your rope. You now have Two option left. 1. Walk away. 2. If you still want to buy this business I only have one last suggestion. It is not fool proof but it is a method. Cash appears to be approximately 30%-35% of total sales. You could make this assumption to come up with a real total. Add 50% to the sales showing on the books, this amount is from credit cards and check sales. This is not an exact science; it is only a close estimate. Cash sales could actually be anywhere between 25% or 35%. I never figured it that close.

Cash Expenses Verification:

When you think of unrecorded cash transactions we usually think of undeclared income. Undeclared income is the biggest category, but not the only one. The other is cash expense not deducted on the books. The biggest expense item in this category is cash payroll.

Unrecorded Cash Payroll:

In an attempt to reduce the payroll expense, business owners will pay some of their staff’s payroll in cash. Why would they do this? Workman’s Compensation Insurance, FICA Taxes-Employer and Employee portion – Federal and State Income Taxes. Any accountant would scream at his client “You are missing out on a legal tax deduction.” Let me explain why someone would forego the tax write off by paying cash expenses.

When you pay an employee $100.00 per day, on the books, the employee gets about $70.00 net on his check. If you give him $80.00 in cash, he is happy. He doesn’t have to worry about going into a higher tax bracket.

The employer has to pay approx 10% to cover the employers FICA and other Federal employment taxes. You, as employer also have the workman’s compensation insurance premium. If we are talking auto repair mechanics compensation insurance alone costs 15%. If we are talking new real estate construction workers we can be talking a cost rate between 25% up to 120%. A roofer’s compensation premium is greater than his gross salary. Lets look what payroll taxes cost for a normal worker. The auto mechanic insurance rate of 25% is added to the 10% Federal costs plus the wages give us an expense that equals 135% of the wages. This comes out with the employer paying $135.00 and the employee receiving $70.00. There is a loss of $65.00 per day per employee. Some employers would rather save the $65.00 and not get the income tax deduction for the expense. Also with all the unrecorded cash the business shows, it isn’t important to have a loss on the books, since there is no need for more deductions to lower taxes. The business is already not paying any taxes.

Because there is a danger that an employee might be injured and file a claim under workman’s compensation insurance, it is common among small businesses to show part of the wages on the books and the balance in cash. This means that an employee earning $40,000 per year might have $18,000 recorded on a W-2 form, creating a very low federal tax rate or no tax due at all. Since the employee is being paid part of his wages on the books if he is injured on the job he is fully insured for accidents with State Workman’s Compensation Fund, State Disability Funds, State unemployment insurance and all Social Security benefits. A win-win for employer and employee, even if not for the government. As a buyer you must figure all this out, and adjust the expenses accordingly.

Unrecorded Operating Expenses:

Because owners are collecting so much cash, they need a place to spend it. If you make a major purchase, you cannot just walk in and pay cash for a car. The IRS will be notified of this cash transaction. Owners with a lot of cash will pay for all repairs, gardeners and everything for the home that costs less than $10,000, in cash. Why $10,000? That is the recording cut off that a vendor or bank is required to report when receiving funds in cash. If a business owner still has too much cash, sellers will start paying for business expenses. They start with the expenses where a service man gives a discount for cash. I found two restaurants that were paying for the hood cleaning service in cash, partly because they got a discount for paying in cash. By asking the correct questions, you can discover what is being paid in cash.

Unrecorded Labor:

Because we are talking small businesses, the wife comes in to the business full or part time. One of the children may come in to work part time. You must be aware of these employees who may or may not be paid. This is another form of cash payroll. If you have to replace these people with paid employees, these expenses need to be calculated in to the adjusted profit and loss calculation. .

Sometimes the family member is being paid some wages but not full market value. The adjustment is still needed but in this case only by the difference between actual payroll and the fair market payroll amount.

Conclusion:

It is a hard life when you own your own business; you work long hours. Many people feel that is better than the alternative, which is to work for someone else, pay high taxes, never know if you will be laid off and after years of hard work, never have anything to show for it all.

If you are going to buy a business with your hard earned money, you want to make sure you get what you paid for. Many people believe it is all right to cheat the taxman but otherwise are very honest citizens. Others feel it is all right to cheap any poor sucker that comes along. Don’t be a sucker, do your due diligence and get what you paid for.

Then build your new business into something you can be proud of and enjoy. While building your new business make a point to study everything you can about Tax planning, tax avoidance and reducing taxes legally. I started in College learning about the tax codes, and there are so many ways to save taxes legally, you would never believe it. You will sleep better at night, I promise you. Then 10-20 years from now when you want to sell your business, you can ask top dollar and get it. This because a buyer can do a simple due diligence and know that your business is doing exactly what your books say you are doing.

The Difference Between a Coach, Mentor, and Consultant?

When determining the difference between a coach, mentor, and consultant, it is necessary to look at specific roles and functions. First, we must look at the focus or concentration – what is the specific focus of the person? Second, we should look at the type of agenda or role the person has. Third, look at how the relationship is chosen and or cultivated. Fourth, how does the person garner influence? Fifth, what is the expected return for the services of the person? Finally, we must determine the scope of the person’s work.

Coaches appear in various forms, such as professional, life, relationship, and sports team coaches. All coach types share the same criteria. The focus of the coach is in specific performance – for example, an organizational coach is usually responsible for increasing or improving performance in a given area. The agenda for a coach, then, is usually fairly specific – improve batting average, increase sales, etc. A coach usually arrives in the relationship selected by someone other than the “coachee” – in other words, the relationship is not self-selected. Coaches also influence through their position, such as in the sports world. But what is the expected return for a coach? As we’ve already discussed, a coach is looking for performance and possibly teamwork. Finally, a coach’s scope is usually task-related.

Mentors vary slightly from the coach. A mentor’s focus, unlike a coach, is typically on the individual and not on a specific task or performance. A mentor also takes a more general role to the individual, that is, there is usually a less-specific agenda. Many mentor relationships are self-selected – keep in mind that a coach is usually assigned to a person or a team, whereas mentor relationships usually spring from mutual interests, work styles, and histories. A mentor’s influence usually comes from the perceived value of the relationship as opposed to position. The person choosing the mentor also chooses to take the role of “mentee” because of the expected return. So what is the expected return of a mentor? Many times the return could be as simple as affirmation or learning. Simply having a mentor will not guarantee that a person can advance in an organization and may not even be recognized as an “official” relationship, like a coach. The mentor’s scope is more than likely a general one – for example, if a person chooses a mentor in his or her profession, the mentor will likely cover many facets of that profession, including knowledge, preparation, networking, and technical function.

A consultant may take the form of mentors and coaches, but the primary difference between a consultant and coaches and mentors is that a consultant is usually paid for the specific task at hand. The focus of a consultant is usually not a specific performance or individual but a complete process or concept, such as customer service. The consultant works on a specific agenda, as determined by the organization and the consultant. The relationship between consultant and client is usually self-selected by the client and based on cost, word of mouth, or area of expertise. On the other hand, the consultant can influence the client because of the perceived value he or she presents, as well as based on the record of past accomplishment. Because a consultant relationship is usually paid, the expected return typically has a link to a monetary value, such as higher efficiency or monetary savings. Also, whereas coaches and mentors tend to be general or task related in scope, a consultant’s scope is defined by the consultant and the organization or client.

There are obviously subtle similarities between coaches, mentors, and consultants. But when you look at the specific criteria of the relationship, you can see that the differences should keep us from interchanging terms.