Business consultants are used to making plans for the future.
But with the rapid growth of digital media, they’re also finding themselves more interested in the long-term prospects of companies they’re advising.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the rapidly changing landscape of the internet-connected home.
What does that mean for business consultants?
How do they stay on top of it?
This week, NBC News Business Insider spoke with five of the world’s most respected business consultants to learn how they’re adapting to this new environment and what they’re doing to stay ahead of the game.
“I think I’m the first person in my field who’s actually gotten to this point and I’ve been in this for almost a decade,” says Ben Johnson, a longtime consultant and the founder of the consulting firm Strategic Strategy Group.
“There’s not really a time to be thinking about the long term.”
Johnson says it’s important for his clients to understand the future and the current trends so that they can build the best strategy for the present and the future at the same time.
He believes there are two critical steps a business consultant can take: 1) Identify their business model and 2) make a strategic and strategic business plan.
“You’ve got to understand what’s driving that, what the market’s going to look like in a couple years, and you’ve got a business plan to follow,” he says.
The first step is to identify your business model.
“Businesses that are successful, people who have a great track record of what they do, and companies that are growing, that have a very stable track record, that don’t make money on their initial investments are very, very valuable for a consultant,” says Johnson.
“But if they’re just not doing it because they’re afraid they’ll be a flop, they’ll never make money, they’ve got no prospects,” he continues.
“They’re a business that’s going nowhere.”
What that means is that business consultants need to make a decision about how to make money.
“Business consultants should think about their future,” Johnson says.
“That means thinking about what are they going to do for a couple of years?
Do they want to be doing this for the rest of their life?
And are they likely to have a successful business?”
As a business advisor, Johnson says, he can help his clients make a lot of money by advising them on how to invest in their businesses, both as a first step and later as a long-run investment.
“We can help them build up their business and then we can invest in it,” he explains.
“There’s a lot to learn from a consultant’s perspective, and a consultant can help a business grow more quickly than someone who just sits in a room and makes predictions,” says Ryan Ehrlich, a partner at Strategic Strategy and former president of The Business Group, an industry consulting firm.
“As a consultant, I can help the business grow by understanding the industry, how it’s changing, how people are buying and selling, how they want their product to be used, how to sell it better,” he adds.
Ehrlich says that business advisers can also help the company understand the business better.
“The most important thing a business manager should be doing is learning what their customers want, how the market is changing, what they need and how to deliver it, he says, adding that business managers should “not just be talking to consultants” but to a wider audience.
The most important way to do this is to use an investment strategy that incorporates multiple different types of assets, like shares, real estate, stock options, debt and a combination of all of those things, he adds, “which helps your investors and your clients understand what you’re doing and why.””
You’ve gotta make a business case to investors, your clients, your employees, your board, and to your shareholders, which is something that you don’t do very often in the business world,” Ehrich says.
The most important way to do this is to use an investment strategy that incorporates multiple different types of assets, like shares, real estate, stock options, debt and a combination of all of those things, he adds, “which helps your investors and your clients understand what you’re doing and why.”
The third step is developing a strategic strategy for your company.
“One of the most important things is that you’ve done something in the last couple of months to sell your business, or you’re a company that’s been selling at a loss for a while,” says Ehrisch.
“And then you have to make that case to your clients.
You’ve got an opportunity to say, ‘We have to do something, this is the right thing to do.'”
Ehrich adds that business owners should also consider whether or not to make strategic changes that might impact their company’s financial future.
“I would suggest you don the business and go do some things to the company that might help it survive,” he suggests.
“But then you need to do a better job of it over time.”
Business consultants often see the biggest change in the future as one where their firm’s brand and reputation is at risk. “This is