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You've got data - now what? Part 3: Finding the Right Advice

Economist and data analyst, David Maher, director of Melbourne-based company Right Brain Insights, shares his thoughts on how cloud software is a valuable tool for companies to understand and use critical business data. This article is the fourth in a 5-part series.

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So, you are now one of those entrepreneurs who truly understand the value of your business data. You even have a solid intelligence infrastructure to keep your stats, figures and charts in an easily accessible order. That’s fantastic!

However, there is a problem - you do not understand, or simply do not have time to make sense of, this well-organised data. So what do you do? Offload this task to your accountant, right? Well, that depends.

Not all acountants are made equal. Your accountant, on the proviso that she or he is a good one, is irreplaceable for taxation and compliance issues. But if they're an even better one, they'll be much more than just a bean-counter. What you need is someone who also has the vision and the skillset to understand the potential of a new market or assess high-level opportunities. This may mean finding a specialist data analyst or business advisor, or an accountant with particular experience and focus on this area.

Either way, you need someone who can make sense of your data in a way that would answer all the questions vital to the business. A great advisor will be able to look into the past, present and even see into the future of your enterprise. That person will help you steer the ship that is your business away from the underwater mines onto the route of success.

So who is that person who can look at the crystal ball that is your organised data, and see clearly inside it? Look for these three critical qualities when seeking out an advisor for your business:

1) Trustworthiness

2) Creative vision

3) High standards

Let’s discuss these in more detail.

Trustworthiness

When someone is providing advice to you, no matter how big or small the decision, you must be able to trust them. Do not settle until you find someone that knows what they are talking about, can deliver, understands your real problems and can relate to you, and only has your best interests at heart.

The benefit of finding someone you can trust is that they become your sounding board. You have the benefit of open and honest conversations where you can bounce questions freely.

Creative Vision

The finest advisers in the world not only have rock-solid trust, but also operate like a Grand Master chess player: thinking moves ahead and assessing possible risks and opportunities.

Creativity is important as it concerns how efficiently and effectively a problem is overcome. A great adviser will come up with a creative solution, but also conduct the analysis around the solution in a creative way.

High Standards

Remember in school, the teacher that was harsh sometimes, but somehow always brought out the best in you? They knew you could do well in their subject and they would not let you slip. You want the same approach between you and your specialists. You need to hold them accountable, but they should also be holding you equally accountable.

To help distinguish the above qualities, here are 10 questions to ask:

  • What is their knowledge of, or previous experience working with, your industry?
  • How would they handle certain situations relevant to you? After all, it's your business so you need to feel comforatable that their approach aligns with your goals.
  • Ask about fees upfront - but don't make your decision based solely on cost, worthwhile consultants are not cheap.
  • Do they have tangible examples of the impact they have had in other businesses, particularly those with a similar business model? Ask for a white-labeled report if possible.
  • How do they measure results/success?
  • Do they have business relationships or strategic alliances with other service providers who may be able to further assist you?
  • What supporting tools or recommended systems do they use?
  • What is their availability? You want someone who will be by your side, and stick around, until you need them. Great consultants don't just hand you a plan and then bail!
  • Who will you be working with? You want to build a close relationship with one or two advisors, not a team of consultants and their juniors.
  • What kind of questions did they ask you? Are they interested in creating a tailored solution for you and your goals?

Look for people and companies that set high standard
 for themselves and their clients. Do not be swayed by the cheapest offerings in the market. Like so many things in life – you really do get what you pay for.

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