I am an Excel consultant. I produce spreadsheets for companies all over the world and, at the start of this century, my job didn’t exist. I work remotely and few of my clients ever meet me in person.
The fact I don’t have to travel means I have very few overheads. The fact I incur few overheads means businesses can pay me directly for the work I do, and no one else is taking any sort of cut. However, there is one major shortcoming. Why would you ask me to build a spreadsheet when you don’t really know anything about me?
My experience of Excel consulting has taught me a few lessons. Firstly, you need a website. This is essential for generating sales although, theoretically, you could just cold call every company in the phone directory. It also lets a client know that you take your line of work seriously. If a client is going to spend $1,000 on a spreadsheet, they want the security of knowing you will provide ongoing support. Remember, they know nothing about your career, so need the confidence that you will still be around in a year’s time.
E-consulting is all about confidence. You need the confidence that a client is going to pay for the help you give them. They need the confidence that you will complete the work to the required standard. So when should the client pay?
Everyone has their own answer to this question. Ultimately, someone has to perform the work, or pay the money in good faith. My answer is that the smaller company should always be the one to act in good faith. When developing a spreadsheet for a medium sized business, I would get them to agree terms at outset but I wouldn’t ask for payment until I’d completed the project. It is good practice to ensure you have some company details so you can pursue them through the courts should they fail to pay. When developing a spreadsheet for an individual, I would request payment up front. Individuals expect to pay companies a deposit for services so this is not an issue.
I have never had an issue with non-payment, although the nature of my work may provide some explanation for this. As an Excel consultant, businesses pay me to make their processes more efficient. If a business is about to go under, it does not want to front-load costs. Secondly, very few projects last more than a month from start to finish. Therefore, a healthy company is unlikely to become bankrupt in that time period. If performing larger projects, I would recommend operating on a consultative basis and billing incrementally.
The final advice is to understand the business case for contracting your services. If you wouldn’t employ yourself, chances are that no-one else will. So with Microsoft Excel, a lot of people waste time doing tasks manually that could be easily be automated using Visual Basic. If an employee spends a day a month preparing a report, you could potentially save the company e.g. $4,000/yr (once all overheads are considered), if you can automate the entire process.
So if I charged $1,500 to solve the problem, I would be saving the company money. Well, maybe. But what if I was wasting half the time automating a very small part of the process which only takes 10 minutes to do manually? Should I explain to the client that I can do the job for $750 but that they will still need to make a few changes at their end?
The answer has always got to be “yes”. It demonstrates that you understand the nature of their problem, and that you can be trusted. There’s no point trying to squeeze a customer because any experienced consultant will tell you that the bulk of their work comes from existing clients. If the client trusts you to explain what is and isn’t worth doing, they will come back to you more often.
The database consultant and the small business owner can work together to solve company problems or to expand for new growth. By making use of the latest technology, owners are reducing their costs in several important areas. Inventory control is one of those important areas.
Thankfully, the days of handwritten inventories are mostly behind us. Depending on the items you stock, it may still be necessary to physically count a few items. But with the labels available today it should be possible to scan them electronically. Let the computer do the counting for you.
Barcodes were a major advancement for retail industries. There are still a few smaller older businesses that manage to do without them, but they are the exceptions rather than the norm.
Business analysts believe that barcodes will soon become a thing of the past. They will be replaced by radio frequency identification tags or RFID tags. The advantages of using RFID technology for inventory control are several. The tags can accurately be scanned from longer distances. Some tags transmit signals continuously, an invaluable tool for mobile inventories, such as livestock or vehicles.
The computer chip inside of the tag can store a variety of information. The vendor and the date the item was received, the cost, price and profit margin are examples of information that can be stored in the chip.
A database consultant can help you determine if RFID technology is the right choice for your small business. It’s a matter of weighing the costs and benefits.
If you happen to be a wholesale vendor interested in government contracts or selling items to large retailers, investing in RFID technology is absolutely essential. Departments of the US government and retailers like Wal-Mart have required that all vendors place RFID tags on all shipments for several years now.
RFID tagging is the most accurate and effective inventory tracking, supply chain management tool of the day, but not every small business needs it. Your company might benefit more from GPS tracking or a combination of RFID and GPS.
A database consultant can help you decide which kind of technology is right for your company by asking questions. Some small business owners are suspicious or annoyed by all of the questions asked by consultants.
Actually, you should be suspicious if the database consultant does not ask a lot of questions. The value of consulting with an expert is to customize your system. It is impossible for consultants to customize without asking questions.
Hiring a software consultant could help your small business grow, while reducing your daily costs at the same time. In other words, you would be making a good investment by hiring someone competent to help determine your company’s needs and help create programs to meet those needs.
The keyword is “help”. Good consultants help by making suggestions. You can expect to answer a lot of questions about your company. He or she will listen to your answers and make suggestions. You might find the questions annoying, but without understanding the day-to-day workings of your company, a software consultant cannot suggest the best solutions.
You might have ideas about what you need or you could be completely in the dark, just hoping there is a solution. You may know of a program used by a similar small business or have no clue as to what’s available.
Good consultants stay up-to-date on the latest innovations. They are aware of the systems that have been used by other companies for years, as well as the newer ones that are only being utilized by a few businesses. They know what’s working well and what’s not.
After good consultants ask questions, they listen to the answers. They listen to your ideas and come up with ideas of their own. The two of you will be working closely together. You should have a good rapport. You should not feel you are being bombarded by one question after another. It should seem like a friendly conversation.
You can expect the conversation to eventually turn to your budget. How much are you willing to invest in this aspect of running and growing your small business?
You might think that a software consultant should tell you how much to invest. While there is always a minimum investment, there is truly no maximum. He or she will want to be sure to work within your budget in order to ensure that the project can be completed.
There have been many instances (usually mega-million dollar projects, but not always) when failure to determine an accurate cost of completion caused delays. In a few cases, the projects were never completed as they were originally planned, because the costs were just too high.
In order to stay within your budget, it is sometimes necessary to break large projects down into smaller ones. That’s one of the many things a small business software consultant can help you figure out.
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They can give you the perfect advices to the industry for the issues of security and existing systems. It is a wise decision to hire any consultant from any It recruitment agency because they provide assurance that the person to whom you are going to give the responsibility will fulfill your needs and help you to reach the success in the business.