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Chris Griffiths

Lure executive expertise in two easy steps Add to ...

I run into a lot of business owners who are trying to get over the “hump” taking their business to the next level but not exactly rolling in cash.

Sometimes you need to spend money to make money . Well, more than sometimes. Expansion can often require having the people, or space, or inventory, or marketing in place in advance of generating new business. What to do?

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Keep it nimble and variable. I’m willing to bet that’s what got you this far: doing a lot with less and being focused.

Some good examples have appeared across The Globe and Mail lately – here is one from last week. It’s not hard to imagine the value you can get from an experienced chief financial officer (CFO) or other senior executive, but that doesn’t mean you can afford them. Why wait?

Here are two ways you can get serious executives on board on an as-needed basis. And you can start on both in the next 15 minutes:

Create an advisory board

You would treat this as a board of directors without the legal obligations and permanency. Find two to three (which will be plenty for your small business) executives in your community close proximity is cost effective and convenient and invite them to participate.

Meet quarterly for two hours or so and let them know that’s the limit. Make sure their backgrounds are different from each other but relative to your current and medium-term goals and challenges. Make an agenda and send it out in advance, with concise meeting materials. Ask specific questions and make sure each member has a way to contribute to every meeting.

Pay a modest honorarium. They won’t do it for the money but they’ll appreciate that you recognize they get asked for free advice all the time. A range of $200 to $500 a person per meeting is meaningful enough to all parties.

Think that’s expensive? If you choose right, they’ll have decades of experience and connections between them, doing things much like you are trying to do. But you don’t need them from nine to five, all year long, to get 100 per cent of their intelligence and thoughtfulness. Take action on this now – there is no downside.

Hire consultants

If you think you need a little more time and attention, in addition to the advisory board, on more specific items, consider consultants. Yes, plural.

I used to think being a consultant was a glorified way of saying you were substantially unemployed and willing to work odd jobs until something better came along. Until I became one. I was substantially unemployed and I was willing to work odd jobs until something better came along. I’ve been at least full-time ever since and I’m having a blast.

The truth is, before that I had regularly hired outside experts to look under my company’s hood. I found I could pull amazing advice and guidance, and decades of experience, and direct lines to personal and professional networks for fees that looked paltry in comparison.

I once hired a manufacturing consultant for three days for $3,500 a day, which nearly broke me financially – save for the fact his guidance completely laid the groundwork for an amazing turnaround in my business and influenced my personal life in unexpected and wonderful ways.

The consultants I hired weren’t all that transformational but I easily got my money’s worth – even if all they did was confirm my own strategy, which led me to step on the gas with confidence.

So, why wait? These are two ways to get started with the modest resources you already have, and to be on your way to exceptional results.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.

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