business advisors

11 Types of Small Business Advisors

Management consulting is a $250 billion industry and growing businesses employ a diverse number of advisors for their business ventures.

Running a business solo (or even with a co-founder) is not an easy feat. Executives and senior managers cannot realistically excel in every aspect of scaling a business.

Small business advisors work with multiple clients at a time, supporting the business goals, providing industry insights, and tapping into their own expertise running (or coaching) other companies over the years.

If you’re looking to solve some of the most common business challenges, I’ve prepared a list with the most common types of business advisors that companies refer to in times of need.

1. Strategy Advisors

Business strategy includes planning, workflows, action plans, and projections across every discipline of running your business.

Strategy is the high-level component of launching new products, opening new departments, hiring key leadership roles, entering new markets.

Due to the broad set of disciplines covered in the scope of business strategy, advisors focus on the bigger picture. They often work alongside with the CEO or the COO and collaborate with other niche consultants for specific initiatives (which we will review further).

strategy advisor

The most important reasons businesses look for strategy consultants are:

  • Employing the right processes in new ventures
  • Aligning and optimizing processes or resource allocation internally (often together with operations consultants)
  • Safely launching new ventures without harming the rest of the organization
  • Validating initial concepts and business plans proposed by senior management

A key component in applying business strategy workshops successfully is conducting SWOT analysis horizontally (across the entire organization) and vertically (focusing on upcoming ventures or initiatives on the roadmap).

2. Marketing Advisors

Skilled marketing advisors profile in customer behavior, identifying unique selling propositions, and packaging them across the right channels.

There are multiple approaches to marketing. While consultants in the field are generally familiar with the broader categories in the field, specialization is often applicable.

marketing advisors
  • Some advisors in the world of marketing profile in mom-and-pop shops or restaurants and local marketing.
  • Digital marketing consultants help to develop a digital strategy or lead digital transformation initiatives.
  • Outbound marketers often engage in advertisement activities or PR campaigns.
  • Branding advisors shape the messaging of the business, slogans, digital identity, the company’s vision and a lot more required to grow a team successfully, attract the right talent, and amplify messaging for the right customer audience.

Marketing advisors can help with both traditional marketing initiatives and the transformation into digital marketing as well. Proficient marketers are well-aware of your industry, being able to identify new monetization channels, partnership opportunities, and the most effective short-term and long-term strategies to skyrocket your business in the coming months.

3. Financial Advisors

The term “financial advisor” is used for several different initiatives in the accounting and investment fields. Some popular examples include:

  • Investment portfolio advisory and guidance
  • Bank account consulting (and handling deposits or other internal investments)
  • Financial planning, projections, and estimations both short-term and long-term
  • A de-facto outsourced function of a part-time CFO
financial consultant

In the context of company consulting, financial consultants (or advisors) review past data and future projections regarding your business model and apply industry-grade patterns for risk management and safe allocation of resources (both investing in internal initiatives and managing all expenses, from rent through salaries to stock distribution).

In the event of existing additional capital (for continuously profitable businesses with healthy net margins), an advisor may build a separate portfolio investment plan that yields healthy ROI from funds that are yet to be distributed elsewhere. This may include anything from the stock exchange through forex or penny auctions to purchasing gold or art or real estate investing.

Additionally, financial advisors often help with personal finances too. This covers dividends vs. salaries, what is eligible as a company expense, and different investment paradigms for long-term sustainability.

4. Operations Advisors

operations advisor

Operations consulting is a branch of management consulting that profiles in solving operational and efficiency problems within the organization.

Unlike the “bigger picture” component of the business strategy, operations concern the day-to-day activities in a business. Once the strategy has been established and distributed, operations advisors dive deeper into the execution components of accomplishing tasks, allocating resources, the practical workflows, revising the supply chain from beginning to end.

In a traditional manufacturing or eCommerce business, operations experts are invaluable in establishing the most effective workflows in production, shipping, warehouse management, logistics, and maximizing efficiency throughout the process.

In an agency’s context, operations consultants dive into the most expensive component of running an agency (staff, since salaries form the major expense) and the proper in-team management – anything from reporting through meeting scheduling, feedback reviews, day-to-day assignments for team members, the structure of a team, feedback loops, retention opportunities and efficiency paradigms for maximizing output or free time between projects.

5. Management Advisors

management advisor

Management advisors are the strategic planners behind operations consultants (who are in charge of execution).

Traditional management consultants (and advisors) are MBAs who have spent a decade or more in the corporate space.

I’ve studied 500+ of them and over 80% fell in this category.

Funnily enough, this is mainly dictated by the background of “management consulting”. This isn’t a popular title in the startup ecosystem and most founders haven’t gone through this process in the first place.

Which is why a lot of traditional management advisors dive into a certain specialty for SMBs and startups and rely on the following titles instead:

  • Digital consultant
  • Growth strategist
  • Startup consultant
  • An advisor for startups
  • Business consultant for startups

Management consultants are expected to help organizations improve their operations performance, head analysis of existing organizational issues, and develop plans for improvement.

6. Tax Advisors

Tax advisors leverage their professional expertise on tax legislation to help clients handle their taxes in the most efficient manner, and leverage any tax advantages or exemptions.

There are several different types of companies one can register locally, a variety of payment methods (wire transfers, credit cards, payment providers, aggregated services), separate options for paying dividends vs. fixed salary, possible shares distributed across the senior team, and other payment structures that could be founded for different divisions (or products) across the company.

Working with a tax advisor early on enables businesses to run smoothly as tax advisors can take care of tax forms and CPA services and communicate with tax authorities on behalf of their clients. In particular, these tax experts provide consulting on the two main types of tax advice: corporate or personal.

Corporate clients often refer to large companies or enterprises while individual clients who need advice on their large assets need personal tax advice. Just imagine the complex structure of Google or Facebook, registered simultaneously in various countries, and transferring funds back and forth with different taxes in every area.

tax advisor

Here are several areas where tax advisors can facilitate the financial work for an organization:

  • Corporate tax
  • International and customs duty
  • Personal tax (for executives)
  • Trusts and estates
  • VAT (or corresponding tax laws in different countries or states)

Tax advisors often have the following responsibilities:

  • Prepare and optimize tax returns
  • Resolve potential tax issues
  • Comply with company tax requirements
  • Save on taxes owed under lawful regulations
  • Advise on financing and legal issues

Tax advisors can work with accountants, lawyers, or other financial advisors and create a formidable team of experts who will help you battle financial woes and even prevent any sort of issue from happening. In the context of a 50+ company, they work closely with both the CEO and the CFO of the business.

7. Legal Advisors

A legal advisor is essentially an in-house lawyer that specializes in providing advice on matters concerning the law applicable for the company (area, country, state, or even city in some cases).

Corporations often have a legal team comprised of legal experts while smaller companies have a legal advisor on-call whose primary tasks include the following:

  • Draft and negotiate contracts with vendors or clients
  • Ensure compliance with local and international corporate laws
  • Provide counsel for employee and management conflicts
  • Conduct legal analysis and research (especially for newer areas such as CCPA or GDPR)
  • Review acquisitions, mergers or negotiations and their legal implications across the organization (including possible non-compete clauses, non-disclosures, or possible monopoly cases)
  • Formulate legal responses to settlements of disputes
  • Monitor and refine the implementation of the legal clauses and policies within the organization
legal advisor

Legal advisors are particularly helpful in making sure that companies arrive with legally appropriate conflict resolutions whenever there are labor or contract disputes, compensation issues, harassment suits, and other employee and management conflicts.

Small to mid-sized businesses often can’t utilize a lawyer full-time (and it’s too expensive to hire one) which is where legal advisors are extremely helpful. Additionally, advisors work with multiple businesses (often 15-20 at a time) and provide a broader overview thanks to their experience with other clients dealing with similar challenges.

8. IT Advisors

IT advisor

IT advisors are a separate branch of consultants that profile in one or more of the following areas:

  • Infrastructure development
  • Hardware systems
  • Networking
  • Software engineering
  • Web development
  • Building and/or scaling development teams
  • Product development
  • Compliance (for banks, governments, and companies working with security agencies)

IT advisors are often former CTOs or VPs of technology who transitioned to consulting, enjoying the variety of working with multiple clients at a time.

Some of them profile in a specific area of work – such as facilitating the preselection and recruitment process of technical teams or facilitating a company to outsource a complex product (by contracting the right agency).

ISPs or SaaS companies eager to migrate to a large cloud infrastructure like AWS or build their dedicated server center can also contract the right IT advisor and initiate the planning and transition process accordingly.

Smaller businesses often partner up with IT advisors when they don’t want to build an entire technical team in-house. In this case, the IT advisor acts as a part-time CTO or works alongside the CTO on initiatives outside of their core expertise.

9. Recruitment Advisors

Recruitment advisors

The recruitment process is one of the most impactful areas of scaling a business successfully.

  • About 56% of companies in a study reported that a candidate rejected their job offer in 2012
  • Of the 20,000 new hires, 46% of them failed within 18 months
  • 89% of those who left failed due to a mismatch of values
  • 11% failed because they lack the necessary skills
  • Hiring the wrong fit often costs 6 figures (let alone missed opportunities and the limited progress due to delays)

Hiring issues may vary but when downplayed, scaling can be a very costly endeavor.

Recruitment advisors provide support an in-house consulting for both internal hiring and liaison with staffing firms (or other outsourcing companies).

Working with a recruitment advisor will grant you access to a broader number of reliable recruitment agencies, thus bridging the gap between companies and applicants. 

Basically, the following are the responsibilities of a recruitment advisor:

  • Negotiate job profiles, contracts, and fees
  • Headhunt and screen candidates for a job
  • Interview prospective employees alongside the team leads
  • Organize the selection process in a smooth, easy-to-follow manner
  • Advertise job vacancies across internal networks

These recruitment advisors help companies streamline the staffing process, hiring and onboarding staff efficiently.

10. Sales Advisors

Sales advisors navigate the sales processes within the organization – building in-house teams, streamlining the internal sales processes, improving the funnel development process with the marketing team, refining pricing, and more.

79% of consumers prefer interacting with salespeople who are trusted advisors. This is why it is crucial to have a trustworthy sales advisor in a company, whether in B2B or B2C.

And if you manage to hire an industry leader who is a known player in the space, this can facilitate your recruitment process, too.

The responsibilities of a sales advisor vary depending on the industry and the products or services offered by the company.

sales advisor

eCommerce businesses may count in a professional sales advisor in various areas:

  • Negotiating better vendor terms and delivery orders
  • Managing sales promotions, discounts, prices, and return terms 
  • Outreach for sales and partnership opportunities (including wholesale and retail)
  • Processing sales transactions alongside the team
  • Handling customer concerns and complaints for high-tier customers
  • Assisting in sales pitches and product presentations

B2B businesses can fully offload the sales process after the first several months and delegate sales meetings, trade show demos, and other strategic relationship deals to their advisor.

Nowadays, 50-90% of the journey of a buyer with a B2B company is complete before the buyer interacts with a sales representative. Although the nature of tasks differs, all sales advisors share a common goal: increase the likelihood of a sale by providing sales advice and creating an appealing environment for decision-makers.

Some of the common traits companies look for when looking for a sales advisor are:

  • Proven experience in the industry (preferably with other companies in the field)
  • Digital know-how for leading webinars or product demos
  • Customer-oriented and results-driven
  • In-depth knowledge of products and services advising on
  • Great communication and interpersonal skills
  • Great organizational skills
  • Team-building skills for nurturing an in-house sales team
  • Vision and product understanding enabling them to expand monetization opportunities together with executives

11. Digital Transformation Advisors

digital transformation advisors

The digital universe has been growing rapidly over the past 20 years – with a good number of Fortune 500 companies offering predominantly digital products or services.

This led to the slow transition of traditional businesses to the web in various disciplines:

  • Moving in-house systems to the cloud
  • Deploying modern CRMs, ERPs, marketing automation solutions
  • Modernizing hiring with application tracking systems and innovative processes
  • Digitalizing services and solutions previously offered offline
  • Building eCommerce solutions where applicable
  • Transferring on-site onboarding and training processes to online training platforms
  • Coaching and mentorship sessions with different groups of employees on the new technical suites (and other concepts around data privacy or personal security)

Digital transformation advisors excel in these areas and help businesses transition to the modern web with minimal friction in the process.

They often operate alongside with marketing teams to allow for a seamless process without interfering with existing operations in the works. Especially in the context of traditional offline marketing, offers are being transferred in their digital equivalent, including the adoption of tracking systems like Google Analytics, advertising solutions from Facebook, Google, Taboola/Outbrain, or even Instagram, marketing automation suites (and more).

As online visibility has become a selection standard for most millennials and Generation Z consumers, digital transformation advisors have been extremely helpful in attracting young talent once the company shows progress in adopting the latest tech and industry-grade standards for the web.

If the endless pool of opportunities for hiring advisors seems overwhelming now, take my free email business accelerator course to dive deeper into the most critical areas of running a successful business. Once you identify the initiatives you need help with, look for the right advisor in the corresponding field and get ready to transform your business.

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