It’s impossible to become a great business management consultant without learning the best way to uncover the problems within a company.
Some consultants tend to dive in feet first when they’re starting out, failing to explore the various ways to determine the issues within a company and attempt to resolve those concerns.
To bring a business back on track, you must be ready to perform plenty of research.
Of course, your approach to research is equally as important as the findings themselves.
What you find out about a business will ultimately determine its future path, whether the final outcome is increased sales, higher profit margins, or improved employee relations.
To a consultant, there is nothing sweeter than the sound of a project breaking open when the true source of conflict is unveiled.
Searching for the Problem
However, the investigative process is not always as clear-cut as many new consultants expect.
There are two approaches to research: quantitative and qualitative. While each has a specific purpose, both methods become a part of almost every consulting project. Depending on the type of business and the owner’s goals, you may use one process more than the other, but it’s likely that both methods will be of use to you.
Crunching Numbers with Quantitative Research
Quantitative research deals with numbers, or as the name suggests, quantities. This method will come in handy when you’re dealing with figures, particularly if the client wants to increase profits or implement a strict budget.
With this type of research, the numbers speak for themselves, so there is only one right answer.
Qualitative Research through Observation
Qualitative methods, on the other hand, can be interpreted in different ways.
They deal with experiences and observations, meaning the final results could vary among consultants. For this reason, it is vital that you try to remain as objective as possible when monitoring the employees and activities within a business. You may also find it beneficial to keep a watchful eye on your clients business, whether at their retail store, factory or office floor as you are likely to learn a great deal about their business.
Finding the Right Mix of Both
To find the right balance between quantitative and qualitative research, think about the task at hand.
Take the law firm down the street, which has experienced a serious drop in clientele within a short period of time. After speaking with various staff members and senior management officials, you can’t pinpoint an obvious issue, so you embark on a quest to solve the mystery.
Consulting Research Methods in Action
Using qualitative research, you determine that the firm’s revenue is down 20%, bringing their annual earnings to $300,000 for the first quarter, but there’s not enough information to resolve the problem.
By acting as an innocent bystander and subsequently conducting a staff morale survey, you soon realize that the accounting department is frustrated by the way the office is being run. As a result, invoices are gathering dust on their desks, significantly affecting the amount of money that is brought in each month.
Although your gut instinct told you that the firm was experiencing a financial problem, the opposite proved to be true. It was an issue between staff members and the management team that sparked the predicament, leading to a decrease in revenue.
Without quantitative research, you would not have been able to determine that there was an income shortage.
Similarly, without qualitative methods, you would not have discovered that there was tension building within the bones of the business.
With every project you tackle in business management consulting, be sure to use a combination of both techniques to get efficient results every time.