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To Grow the Distance: My Move To Remote Consulting

Remote consulting is the wave of the future. As businesses reduce costs and look for options to save money, business consultants must adapt their techniques to the needs of the client.
Written Jul 09, 2009, read 3442 times since then.


Remote consulting is an innovative solution for assisting small businesses where full-scale, on-site consulting projects are not an appropriate or viable solution. With remote consulting, clients get access to a professional consulting team at a lesser cost than that of a traditional on-site project.

I have been helping businesses small and large to grow and thrive for a quarter century. Until recently, there was an assumption that consultants like me had to be in a physical, one-to-one situation to be effective.

We tend to forget how recently telecommunications like the Internet and cell phones began to influence our lives and the way we conduct business. Until just 10 years ago, there were very few options rather than to be on-site with your client if you were going to be an effective consultant. The late 1990s was the time that most companies were able to get an e-mail address and design a fledgling web page. Still, it was not until a half-decade later that fiber-optical development lowered the cost of the transmission of large files between distant computers. Do you remember dial-up? At those low speeds, a moderate-sized QuickBooks file would take a long time to transmit. Today we can do that same thing in a minute or two. Confidentiality agreements, of course, cover all transmission of sensitive information on our projects.

Telecommunications allows business consultants a new range of mid-priced consulting options to offer to clients. Traditionally, managerial consulting has usually been divided into two main areas: profit and expense control; and, organizational management. Profit and expense control deals primarily with the chart of accounts, balance sheet, income statement, and the ability to fold the cost of goods and services sold into the revenue streams of the profit centers. Because of the nature of consulting in this area, most of the math-based profit and expense-side can be handled remotely without loss of benefit to the client while saving a great deal of money over on-site consulting.

With the use of the Internet to transmit QuickBooks and other accounting files, an experienced and qualified, small business consultant can review systems remotely for managerial accounting viability. While a tax accountant might be very happy with a company’s accounting system, that system may not provide the information that business owners need to move forward and control their business.

Aside from just QuickBooks accounting files, profit and expense information like cash flow, three-year historical-trend analysis, budgets, and other number-based reports can be reviewed and restructured using remote consulting services. Again, this saves the client a great deal of money and the consultant a great deal of travel.

However, the organizational management-side of the consulting project is normally best developed on the premises of the client. The difference here is that the profit and expense control portions are number-based and so are amenable to remote consulting. Organizational management is by definition a people-based function. In order to help design and structure an effective consulting program to increase organizational management efficiency, confidential, one-to-one contact with key personnel is required by the consultant.

The cost benefits of remote consulting include the fact that there is no need to pay for a consultant's travel expenses, that time may be purchased in small or large blocks as required by the client’s needs, that there can be a custom schedule, that hours purchased may be used in one long session or multiple shorter sessions, that there is flexibility in deciding how many team members attend each session, and that team members may be in multiple locations.

For instance, with my company, we normally assign one consultant to each remote consulting project. This allows the consultant to get to know the client well and allows each new discussion to build on the previous one. The consultant also has full access to the rest of the Pathfinder’s Team so the client gets the clearest, most accurate advice in the shortest amount of time.

There is a perception, accurate or not, that having the consulting team in a client’s office whenever possible is more effective and that even though it's getting easier to collaborate over the Internet, a face-to-face meeting session is just more productive especially when kicking off a new project or implementing work done remotely. Facial expressions and direct conversations often communicate more than we realize while e-mail or chat sessions can be misinterpreted because of the lack of those elements. Therefore, Pathfinder’s normally recommends a combination of on-site and remote consulting services.

For instance, after an initial three-day, on-site, all-expense included, business assessment, a consulting program could be designed to where the profit and expense control issues are addressed from the Pathfinder’s offices by a consultant charging only remote hours while the organizational management-side of the project is undertaken by the on-site consultant. The work done remotely is then implemented by the on-site consultant. This unique combination allows a team of consultants to work on a client’s project while greatly reducing the cost to both sides.

Remote consulting is the wave of the future. As businesses reduce costs and look for options to save money, business consultants must adapt their techniques to the needs of the client. Pathfinder's leads the way.


Learn more about the author, George Whitfield.

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