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Management Consultancy Practices for Small and Medium Business

Abstract

This paper will discuss management consultancy practices and will explore the benefits that SMEs will obtain from adopting management consultancy practices. Moreover, it will review various definitions of SMEs and compares management consultancy practices employed in Sri-Lankan SMEs and UAE. There are two types of research methodology employed in this paper. These include qualitative and quantitative methods. However, more emphasis will be put on qualitative research. The method of data collection employed in this research will be one to one interviews that will be conducted on selected five UAE small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The conclusions that will be drawn from the research will offer some insight on whether SMEs should adopt management consultancy practices or not.

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Introduction

Presently, the world of business is facing constant transformations and challenges. For small micro-enterprises to thrive in a more complicated environment, they will need to engage consultancy services in their businesses to help improve their performance. In every business, there comes a time when the management will require to expeditiously seek external expertise due to limited resources or when the available resources are being utilized maximally. The small micro-enterprises are faced with difficulties in trying to decide whether to hire consultants or not. This is largely due to the fact that they may not be sure of the costs involved, are not familiar with the business, they don’t understand how to go about it or they are not certain whether they will get time to ensure that the work is done or not. Small businesses will need to hire consultants so as to get in touch with specific expertise that cannot be accessed within the organization. Qualified consultants have various skills, individual attributes as well as knowledge which they can pass to the regular employees. Every small business has special needs and necessities. However, there are several advantages that a business advisor can inject into a small business regardless of the sector or industry.

This paper will discuss management consultancy practices and also explore the benefits that SMEs will get from adopting management consultancy practices. Moreover, it will also review various definitions of SMEs and compares management consultancy practices employed among SMEs in Sri-Lanka and UAE. There are two types of research methodology employed in this paper. These include qualitative and quantitative methods. However, more emphasis will be put on qualitative research. The method of data collection employed in this research will be one to one interviews.

Definition of SMEs

Analoui and Karami (2003, p.24) confirm that there are several definitions of Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) due to a wide range of businesses that fall under this portfolio. The best definition of an undersized firm is still the one employed by the Bolton commission in its report on micro firms written in the year 1971. This report stated that an undersized firm is an autonomous business that is run by its owner (s) and possess a little market share. This report additionally adopted several statistical descriptions and approved that size is related to the sector. This implies that a firm of a specified size may be small in connection to a specific sector whereby the market is well established and there are several competitors; while a firm of corresponding size may be termed as large in different sectors with smaller number of competitors or fewer firms inside it. Moreover, an SME can be defined as a venture that has completed trade registration or corporate registration in agreement with law requirements and in conformity with the following criteria:

  • In the mining, construction, quarrying and manufacturing industries, an SME can be a paid-in investment of 2.42 million US dollars or a smaller amount.
  • In the fisheries, forestry and agriculture, gas, electricity and water, commercial, warehousing, communications and transportation, finance, real estate, and insurance, commercial and industrial services or personal or social services industries; a sales income of 3.03 million US dollars or a small amount in the previous year for an organization may qualify it for an SME.

The key factors that determine if a company is an SME include the annual revenue or the balance sheet and the number of staff. In the event that an organization has employees below two hundred and fifty, then it can be categorized as an SME. In addition, the yearly revenue for such an organization should be approximately 50 million Euros. it is also worth noting that there are business organizations that still employ less than 50 workers and as such, they may not be categorized as SMEs. They are rater referred to as small scale businesses. Hence, SMEs have a particular classification since they are not necessarily small businesses.

A firm is termed to be micro if it has employed less than ten employees and realizes annual income of two million Euros or less or a balance sheet sum of the same amount. In reference to the kind of business the government organizations are providing leadership, an SME is defined in relation to the number of regular staff as described below:

  • In the construction, quarrying, manufacturing and mining industries, the number of constant employees must be lower than two hundred.
  • Ventures with lower than one hundred constant employees are grouped as SMEs in the following industries: leasing and real estate industries, forestry, agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries industries, gas, electricity and water industries; retailing and wholesaling industries; restaurant and hotel operation industries; insurance and finance industries; communications, warehousing and transportation industries; technical, professional and scientific industries; medical, social welfare and healthcare service industries; leisure, cultural and sporting service industries; educational service industries in addition to extra service industries. Small micro-enterprises also refer to businesses with less than five people who are working on regular basis.

The European Commission defines SMEs as small firms with maximum of ten employees who are employed on full-time basis. Additionally, the firm must realize annual revenue of a maximum of two million Euros or have a balance sheet of the same amount. The European commission also defines SMEs as micro firms with maximum of fifty employees who are employed on full-time basis and with a balance sheet of up to ten million Euros or annual revenue of the same amount (Johnston & Beaton 1998, p.200).

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SME family business Vs non family business

There is no clear definition of what comprises a family business. However, a business with one family associate who is actively engaged in the business is considered to be non-family business, while a business with more than one family associate who is actively engaged in the business is perceived to be a family business.

Jones and Haven-tang (2005, p.74) emphasize that governance and competency are issues to be put into consideration for a family business to excel and for a plan for succession of management and leadership to continue. There is need for family businesses to constantly build up competencies and attract managers who possess managerial competencies for the businesses to excel because starting and managing a SME may face several challenges just like running a big firm. Individuals who own small businesses lack managerial capabilities which may lead to business failure. Studies demonstrate that family businesses are more likely to depend on networking rather than relying on formal education or on the job experiences in establishing successors. Business performance may also decline when family ventures concentrate on family visions of the business instead of focusing on maximizing profits. Family businesses are usually concerned with improving the lives of family members across generations (Poutziouris 2006, p.80). Therefore, the vision of family business differs with that of non-family business. In most cases, the aim of family business is to employ members of a family in the administration team and guarantee independent possession of the business.

Comparing SMEs and big firms

Harvie and Lee (2002, p.241) argue that there are operational disparities between large and small companies. Big and small firms vary on how they practice quality enhancement. These differences include structures, procedures of developing policies, and use of resources. The major distinguishing element of big firms is the presence of hierarchy with many levels of management. Big firms have high rank of standardization, specialization and formalization which small firms lack. SMEs are more advanced in developing improvement ideas due to their low extent of specialization. Large firms are bureaucratic while SMEs are mostly organic. The chain of arriving at decisions in large firms is extended as compared to small firms. It is evidenced that smaller firms are moderately and completely less likely to offer external training to all levels of employees as compared to larger firms.

Management consultancy practices and origins

Management consulting refers to the process of assisting organizations to enhance their performance mainly through studying the problems that are currently facing the business and coming up with enhancement plans. Businesses may rely on management consultancy services for several reasons. These encompass access to special skills offered by consultants and getting external (and most probably objective) opinion. Due to the fact that consulting firms are exposed to and linked with several organizations, they are informed of the best practices in the industry. However, the transferability of these practices from one business to another could be restricted by the nature of situation at hand. In addition, consultancies can offer assistance in transforming the management of an organization, implementing of new technology, establishing training skills, developing policies, or operational enhancement services. Management professionals frequently bring their personal proprietary frameworks or methodologies to direct detection of problems besides serving as the foundation for proposing more efficient methods of doing job tasks (Czerniawska & May 2004, p.211).

The origin of management consulting is attributable to the emergent of management as a special area of study. Arthur D. Little was the earliest firm to be established in the field of management consulting. This firm was established way back in 1886 by MIT don and was incorporated in the year 1909. Although this firm initially specialized in scientific research, it later developed into a universal management consultancy firm. Later on, Booz Hamilton was incepted before the start of 1915.This was the first consultancy firm to provide services to both government and industry customers.

The Glass-Steagall banking act paved way for various business ideas that were attached to offering consultancy services. Although consultancy services had been in place for long even before the start of 1930s, lack of well defined rules and regulations often led to conflicts when conducting the business. Since 1950s and beyond, consultancies expanded their businesses in America, Europe, South America and Asia. After the Second World War, several fresh firms in management consulting were established. This brought a scrupulous systematic move towards the study of strategy and management. In addition, several firms that were already running consultancy services during the1960s and 1970s were mainly motivated by knowledge obtained from various centers of excellence. Some of these centers included the Harvard school of business and Mckinsey. These learning centers were indeed instrumental in offering guided and practical knowledge on various consultancy related fields such as Strategic administration. Several other professional scholars also acted as impetus towards knowledge acquisition in the field of consultancy bearing in mind that they were also part and parcel of most consulting teams.

Sadler (2001, p.400) confirms that the industry marked significant development in the 1980s through 1990s by obtaining substantial significance in connection to state GDP. It is worth noting that firms which had engaged themselves in consultancy were quite small during the 1980s. However, there were about 30 firms that were in this business during the 1990s. This number had risen from merely five firms. At the start of 1980s, the industry experienced tremendous growth that was facilitated by the demand for organization and strategy consultancies. It is worth noting that information technology was largely responsible for myriads of development that were witnessed during the 1990s. In mid 1980s, the large accounting firms penetrated the information technology consulting sector.

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Ernst & Young, PWC, Deloitte Touché Tohmatsu and KPMG were classified as the large four bookkeeping firms. These firms frequently provided advice plus their regular services. However, towards the end of 1980s and onwards, consulting services became more crucial in connection to the advancement in the market of auditing and accounting. Towards the mid 1990s, the above firms had developed more than the service provider’s interested on organization and corporate strategy. The consulting business went on as usual notwithstanding the case scenario whereby some of the well established firms divided their lines of service. The latter division was largely caused by Enron scandals. The situation was worsened when Arthur Andersen declined in terms of performance. The industry declined in the year 2001 prior to improving the previous year with a present inclination towards a clearer division of executive consulting firms.

Management consulting practices of SMEs in Sri-Lanka

The SMEs in Sri-Lanka contribute significantly towards the economy of this country by creating more employment opportunities, bridging the gap between sector growth inequalities besides income generation, modernization and technological improvement. Research indicates that Sri-Lankan SMEs add up to eighty- ninety percent of the total businesses and contribute twenty percent of the industry value. SMEs account for seventy percent of employment created in the trade sector. However, this sector is currently facing many challenges that are limiting faster development; especially difficulties in accessing finances, expertise development and entrepreneurship, market significance and enhancing competitiveness. For SMEs to remain competitive and strive for growth, they need to employ consultancy services. Management consultancy practices will help SMEs to formulate good policies that will enhance their effectiveness and efficiency. It is crucial for Sri-Lankan SMEs to consider the strategies implemented by adjacent regions, especially in Eastern parts of Asia. This is because SMEs in East Asia share similar constraints with Sri-Lankan SMEs that hamper their development (Annandale 2005, p.100).

There is an urgent need for SMEs in Sri-Lanka to seek management consultancy services which include business planning and strategy. This is because advice and support for SMEs in medium and low income states are faced with global challenges. There are a number of consultancy firms in Sri-Lanka that provides services to SMEs for instance, the Enterprise Development. This firm provides services particularly in remote areas. The objective of Enterprise development is to establish mentoring and training program that are sustainable. This program aims to develop and spread out several skilled business consultants who have the potential to deliver a wide range of services tailored to meet the needs of small micro enterprises in Sri-Lanka.

The business advisers in Sri-Lanka provides mentoring and on the job training to the local employees and trainees. They also help SMEs to come up with rational business evaluation plans. They moreover offer direct mentoring to help customers to develop essential skills such as marketing and financial reporting.

Annandale (2005,p.100) confirms that though a number of special credit schemes for small micro-enterprises have been initiated in Sri-Lanka, amid the policies instigated to enhance access to money, the preparation of business plan seems to be slow and thus, there is need for concern. At present, the Sri-Lankan small micro- enterprise toolkit offers some data on its website concerning the design of, and the motivation for, coming up with a business plan that is successful. For this to be achieved, management consultancy practices for SMEs in Sri-Lanka need to be improved to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of this sector.

Small micro- enterprises are more innovative and development oriented, thus they need more attention and joint support. Additionally, these firms have improved prospects for achievement because it is easy to manage their finances and administration. Moreover, SMEs would be more approachable to policy aid and facilitation. Lastly, if small micro-enterprises are provided with initial help and facilitation, they would have improved success.

Management consulting practices of SMEs in UAE

The SMEs sector in United Arab Emirates creates employment opportunities for more than fifty percent of UAE labor force. Small micro enterprises that employ below two hundred and fifty workers, conversely, lack appropriate business and marketing power to remain competitive. There are a number of consultancy firms in UAE that help SMEs to improve their businesses. For instance, the Flagship is the chief marketing and management firm in Dubai and is instrumental in this area. This firm helps SMEs to improve their marketing expertise by highlighting new global practices in addition to tailoring international practices for the domestic market that is increasing competence and outcome oriented. The SMEs in UAE need to engage consultants to get solutions and techniques that would allow them to get a bigger market share and establish better connections with their customers through effective management and marketing techniques (Biggs 2010, p.200). Marketing plays a significant role in the growth of SMEs. However, the need for advertising events to maintain and develop these organizations in a competitive corporate environment was never evident in the UAE.

Internal vs. external consultants

External consultants are people who help business organizations to come up with business strategies, lay out plans to reduce costs and create business plans, in addition to solving wide range of intricate issues. On the other hand, an internal consultant can be described as any group or individual that provides services to internal customers in a consultative ability. Secondly, external consultants provide business solutions which range from business plan to reorganizing operation procedures. While internal consultants provide services to internal customers in a consultative ability which include bringing a specialized administration advisory skill to enhance the base line performance of the organization or company: working within the corporate structure to resolve business problems and implement remedies in fields that encompass organizational efficiency or growth, improvement of the processes, or strategic scheduling: playing the role of a facilitator, change representative, educator, or instructor within your organization: aiding internal customers in a joint service group business, for instance finance; information technology; human resources; and quality management.

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Moreover, external consultants usually take duration to comprehend the organizational culture, assess the situation, and come up with the best solution while, on the other hand, internal consultants are familiar with the organizational culture and it’s easier for them to solve problems (Lukas 1998, p.78). External advisors could be valuable in developing strategies and suggesting the way out. However, these advisors mostly lack an indulgent of the customer culture and more significantly how to incorporate change administration in the existing society as compared to internal consultants. The external advisors could be a valuable resource when an organization wants an objective scrutiny of skill or condition in a particular field while, internal advisors are employed across the organization from business planning/ corporate development to diverse human resources and additional service or support roles.

Lukas (1998, p.78) argues that despite the differences between external and internal consultants there exist similarities in the roles they play in business. These include: advisory firms mostly share a general move towards delivery entailing: understanding the condition and difficulty or opening that need to be tackled; developing the company case to sustain the general plan: defining the planned framework, launching baseline and recognizing and prioritizing openings: planning and building the key and creating execution plans: building up detailed execution plans, deliver payback and oversee optimization process.

Benefits of consultancy services

Indentifying of gaps and challenges within the businesses

From a careful review of literature, studies have shown that consultancy services play a significant role in ensuring victory and survival for small businesses (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 3). Notably, consultancy services help business owners to identify the gaps that exist within the numerous sections of their business. For this case, it is arguable that consultancy services also help small entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in their businesses in order to meet the interests of their clients. Needless to say, Smallbone and Welter (2001, p. 1 2) comprehend that most of the SMEs fail due to lack of know-how in certain areas, a factor that is attributed to limited skills and unfavorable organizational challenges. According to McKenna (2006, p. 23), it is evident that consultancy services help to improve the overall management of small businesses. This has to do with matters of rendering primary services to small scale consumers. In line with this, one can therefore, infer that such services are the core tools of marketing products and services provided by small and medium enterprises (Smallbone & Welter 2001, p. 17).

I agree with McKenna’s (2006, p. 72) arguments that SMEs should understand the market trends better in order to seize infrequent opportunities. Additionally, it is certain that consultants might know the market better than business people. For this reason, they help them to obtain a fresh look on the existing situation from a business point of view. Consequently, this helps SMEs to be able to identify goods and services that are on high demand at a given season. In addition to this, they help entrepreneurs to get a direction for running their businesses (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 14). For this reason, consultants aid entrepreneurs to develop an organized thinking through which they are able to utilize their assets to meet the sales targets in a given time frame (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 5).

Aids the businesses with marketing skills

Shaw, Shaw and Turley (2000 p. 81) argue that in as much as a small and medium business would desire to grow, marketing is not an easy task. This is due the fact that it needs sophisticated strategies to allow business operators to reach out a large number of people within a short period of time. Sturdy et al (2009, p. 3) note that in order to be competent marketers, SME operators should have the skills to convince customers about the goods or services rendered in order to make their business competitive. For this reason, every small and medium entrepreneur should be convinced that consultancy services will help to boost and add value to their products in the market (Smallbone & Welter 2001, p. 43).

In connection to the above, empirical surveys have revealed that approximately 35% of SMEs collapse due to failure to examine the feasibility of their business ideas before implementing them (McKenna 2006, p. 34). Therefore, it has been proved that consultancy services benefit SMEs by helping them to examine the feasibility and viability of the businesses ideas before they implement them. At this juncture, feasibility test has to do with matters related to examining the technological, personal, legal, environmental, market and financial viability of a business (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 13).That notwithstanding, economic scholars are quite unanimous that consultancy services help SMEs to conduct and carry out financial review, a factor that prevents premature failure of their businesses. Research has revealed that more than 50% of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs often give up running their business after realizing that they are not feasible financially (McKenna 2006, p. 42). Moreover, they lack better strategies of financing their businesses. For this reason, it is argued that consultants play a significant role in not just examining feasibility of a business but also on effective management of such businesses (Shaw, Shaw & Turley 2000 p. 81).

Impacts businesses with specific skills

According to Sturdy, et al (2009, p. 4), obtaining specific skills is one of the benefits that is derived from consultancy services. It is imperative to note that there are some skills that are non-existent or scarce in businesses. Therefore, hiring consultancy services acts as an eye opener for entrepreneurs to embrace the benefits of such skills. Notably, as the business expands it reaches a point where an entrepreneur and his management team need to consider external expertise in order to expand it fully (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 14). Succinctly, this has to do with consideration of expertise such as skills, knowledge and resources that are limited or partially utilized, a factor that creates an opportunity for further investment. It is important to note that though some business has what it takes to grow in terms of skills and resources, there is need to look for better options within the external environment (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 6).

Provide entrepreneurs with an independent view

In addition, empirical studies have revealed that consultancy services help small entrepreneurs to obtain independent view from consultants (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 11). It is essential to consider the fact that most of the consultants are non-members of the business and hence they bring in their objective and independent view related to the impending problems facing the business (McKenna 2006, p. 52). In connection to this, research has revealed that most businesses face challenges due to poor strategies of making decisions. In this case, difference in opinions causes chaos and conflicts, a factor that is likely to affect the growth and management of a business (Shaw, Shaw & Turley 2000 p. 83). To avoid such cases, consultants act as the best alternative to help the business to make decision on crucial matters. Note that consultants are never involved in internal politics and for this reason; they are likely to provide opinions and views that are unbiased (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 15). In line with this, consultancy services assist entrepreneurs to obtain external perspectives and this encourages imagination and creativity.

Acts as a drive for change

McKenna (2006, p. 60) asserts that there comes a time when a business requires unique drive in order to change. In line with this, this author analyzes that comprehensive change in SMEs is crucial since it brings about growth and development. Nevertheless, management of change in a business is crucial and highly valuable in order to monitor the performance of a business. According to Smallbone and Welter (2001, p. 45), change management in business is crucial and its one of the most useful services rendered by consultants. In this case, studies have shown that 70% of the SMEs have benefited from consultancy services where they are able to structure and employ coherent approaches in realizing growth and development (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 14).

In order to experience such changes, there is need to conduct an assessment in the business in order to come up with recommendations related to areas that deserve changes. In this case, consultants are the best people to use while conducting such assessments. This is due to the fact that they are neutral and hence they will make recommendations that are not subjective. Note that whenever, employees happen to conduct such assessments, they are likely to make recommendations that will favor them in their areas of work. Moreover, such recommendations might not even be beneficial to the business. In this case, consultants will not only make recommendations just for the sake if improving the organizational structure but they will also ensure that the changes help to maximize productivity. McKenna (2006, p. 61) refers to consultancy services as catalysts for change. This is due to the fact that they also advise small scale entrepreneurs on how to implement recommended changes.

Acts as a tool for identification, classification and solving of problems in small businesses

Additionally, studies have shown that a large number of consultants watches over the process of problem solving and also advise the entrepreneurs on effective means of affecting a long-lasting solution. It is important to mention that most of problem solving techniques calls for the management to make major changes in businesses (Shaw, Shaw & Turley 2000, p. 84). For this reason, consultants play a significant role of making the managers to understand the effects of the changes made their value and benefits to the business. In line with this, McKenna (2006, p. 64) asserts that problems that affect small and medium entrepreneurs can be diagnosed and classified in levels. In most case, entrepreneurs fail to do this by themselves, and this causes multiple problems in businesses. Therefore, to avoid the hurdles, small and medium entrepreneurs employ consultancy services in order to help them change their course of thinking. According to Sturdy et al (2009, p. 9), failure to recognize and rank problems compels entrepreneurs to apply a common measure to all of them. In most case, this might be ineffective and uneconomical since different cases require distinct measures. Shaw, Shaw and Turley (2000, p. 82) comprehends that with the aid of consultants, it is easier for entrepreneurs to diagnose, classify and determine appropriate measures to be taken to solve each problem.

Acts as source of temporary and professional services in small businesses

Another benefit of consultancy services is that they provide small business entrepreneurs with temporary and professional services. It is imperative to note that small businesses often get themselves in a position whereby they lack adequate expertise (Shaw, Shaw & Turley 2000, p. 82). In this case, they are unable to hire or employ extra managers and employees. Therefore, studies have shown that most of them use consultants as temporary professionals. Notably, this helps the businesses to run well rather than breakdown due to lack of professionals.

In addition to this, evidence has shown that those businesses that use consultant services often perform well than those who decline such services. This is due to the fact that, whenever an entrepreneur engages some of the activities such as assessment to consultants, the managers are relieved. In this case, they are able to concentrate on core business activities such as controlling resources and monitoring the staffs. Besides this, consultancy services provide small and medium-sized entrepreneurs with interim management services. This entails temporary resources, skills and techniques that can be used in management. Notably, is normal at some point to experience shortage of management resources, skills, or procedures. In this case, consultants stand in and supplement SMEs with such resources to prevent them from collapsing (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 16).

Acts as a short-term asset for pursuing projects in small businesses

Apparently, McKenna (2006, p. 67) complements that consultants act as short term assets from small and medium-sized businesses. This is due to the fact that it becomes easy for entrepreneurs to collaborate with them and can also dismiss them very easily when need arises. Arguably, the fact that consultants are easy to replace is a benefit for SMEs (Shaw, Shaw &Turley 2000, p. 82). In line with this, the replacement gives room for entrepreneurs to collaborate with consultants only on matters that require external intervention. In this case, consultant services become cost-effective. In addition to this, this shift gives small business a chance to replace consultants with those that suites a particular project. In connection to this, is essential to note that businesses are subject to risks and uncertainties. Empirical studies have exposed the fact that a significant number on SMEs do not have effective strategies for managing risks that face their businesses (McKenna 2006, p. 34) In this case; consultancy services help employees to develop ethical procedures through which to use to manage impending or anticipated risks.

Shaw, Shaw and Turley (2000 p. 82) analyze that whenever employees’ skills are improved, they are able to prevent anticipated risks in business. In addition to this, prevention and management of risks help to make the performance of the business stable. Needless to say, it is apparent that training workers also equip them with skills that enable them to monitor growth and development in a business (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 14).

Training of employees and equipping them with healthy working ethics

Furthermore, Shaw, Shaw and Turley (2000, p. 82) assert that consultancy services benefit small businesses through training employees. Notably, consultants transfer their knowledge and skills to employees indirectly and this improves their performance. According to Sturdy et al (2009, p. 10), such services provides a solid foundation through which employees build their skills. Consequently, they develop healthy working ethics and hence they are not easily destructed by mere challenges facing the businesses. In line with this, it is certain that in a business, there are numerous forms of resources that should be monitored and utilized appropriately in order to realize the organizational goal.

Help to improve productivity and sales performance in small businesses

From a careful review and analysis of literature, Sturdy, et al (2009, p. 26) comprehend that very few entrepreneurs understand or possess the mechanics of the concept of sale function. In this case, organizing their sales becomes a complex task for them to execute. Needless to say, most of them do not know the appropriate sale strategy to use and therefore they use those that they feel they are convenient for them (Gelderen, Frese & Thurik 2000, p. 166). Therefore, consultancy services help them to derive better strategies to use in measuring and promoting sales performance. Moreover, they advise them on the products and services that are likely to give them attractive returns (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 17).

Staffing plan

From a careful review of literature, most of the Small and medium sized businesses often have ambitious expansion plans. Nevertheless, such ambitions are never realized due to lack of effective staffing plan. In this case, consultancy services help SMEs to develop a sophisticated staffing plan in order to push the businesses across all levels of growth (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 37). Needless to say, consultants help entrepreneurs to impact immediate change in the organization work force. This entails considering workers interests and what they can perform best, a factor that enable one to allocate them in the appropriate work stations depending on their competence (Shaw, Shaw & Turley 2000, p. 82).

Management of Human resources

McKenna (2006, p. 72) argues that consultancy services provide effective strategies for organizing and managing human resources in small and medium-sized enterprises. From a careful analysis of literature, scholars assert that human resources are crucial assets in a business since they create effective responses to ensure appropriate functioning of a business. In this case, there is no business that can function well without human resources. Most of SMEs misappropriate these resources and this often results to failure or poor performance of their businesses (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 41). In this case, most of the SMEs employ consultants who give them guidelines and procedures on how to manage the resources in their businesses. Nevertheless, is imperative to note that consultants provide varying guidelines depending on the operations and needs in a given business. Notably, there those business with specific requirements and need and hence this is considered independently (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 44). Of essence to note is that consultants should give guidelines and procedures that are geared toward developing a realistic strategy for achieving the goals in a business. Moreover, Smallbone and Welter (2001, p. 22) argue that effective management of human resources ensures that all practices and policies are implemented effectively and this boosts the performance of a business.

Critical arguments whether or not consulting services would help SMEs

Why consultancy services are not helpful to SMEs

It is imperative to note that having consultancy services in small and medium sized business can either cause positive or negative effects to small and medium-sized businesses. In this case, the significance of consultant services is argumentative and it all depends with an individual perspective. It is imperative to note that there exists a management controversy over whether consultancy services would help SMEs or not. In the meantime, there are scholars who have come up with overwhelming arguments that consultancy services are not of help to SMEs. For this case, in as much as consultancy services can help the SMEs to grow and develop, they heavily interfere with their performance in numerous ways.

This is due to the fact that consultants tend to focus on the performance and operation of a business without considering the fact that there is a specific context in which they operate. Having noted this, Smallbone and Welter (2001, p. 27) highlight that a new entrepreneur who is thinking of hiring consultancy services for his business have got a long way to go if only he will be able to overcome all the shortcomings. In this case, consultants intervene and interfere with the operation of the business without considering crucial factors affecting growth and success. Therefore, it is arguable that consultancy services are not a cure-it-all for SMEs since they are associated with numerous demerits (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 45).

Moreover, Smallbone and Welter (2001, p. 27) warn that young entrepreneurs should not hire such services for businesses that have not began to earn income. Instead, they should only consult them when need arises and the services should comply with the legal requirements of the business. Further studies have shown that there are scholars who argue that consultancy services tend to be ineffective and thus not helpful for SMEs. This is due to the fact that most of the consultants stays at the bench rather than being involved during some of contract agreements made by SMEs. In this case, they do not have background information concerning the history of the business hence the decisions and procedures offered to the entrepreneurs do not match with the needs of the business. Moreover, their interference affects the services they offer to business men.

Notably, scholars who oppose that consultancy services can be of help to SMEs argue that these services are meant to increase operational costs and not much is done to help the business improve (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 17). Succinctly, consultancy team involved in consultancy prolong and complicate the projects making SMEs to undergo extra costs and in most cases, no changes are realized. This mostly happens when consultants collaborate with clients who are not willing to embrace and implement their ideas in the businesses. Notably, employing consultancy services in SMEs increases operational costs and this can be a risky investment especially if it is prolonged.

Gelderen, Frese and Thurik (2000, P. 166) recommend that small and medium-sized businesses should hire consultants who will be able to work collaboratively with them not just to make money but to create a positive impact in the business. This is due to the fact the small and medium-sized businesses have to make complicated financial decisions such as obtaining business loans in order to hire consultants. Therefore, consultancy services add value to the products and services in SMEs. Pointless to say, most of the consultants serve numerous businesses. In this case, their skills, opinions and attitudes tend to be duplicated among the businesses. In this case, there lack creativity and originality among businesses especially those that produce similar goods and services. This is a factor that makes the market not to be very competitive and hence affects the performance of the businesses.

That notwithstanding, studies have shown that most of the consultancy services only deliver the content in terms of skills, knowledge and procedures of defining and refining products in SMEs without explaining how such can be resourced. In this case, most of the consultancy services do not deliver creativity to SMEs (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 56). Most of the consultants produce ideas that have worked in big companies and apply them for SMEs without considering the fact that they might become a burden or fail to be realized. In this case, they fail to offer issue-specific ideas and procedures depending on the problem faced by a particular business. Notably, generalization of ideas in business might be fatal and can ruin the success of certain business (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 14).

In connection to this, studies have shown that determining quality control among consultants can be tricky for entrepreneurs (Gelderen, Frese & Thurik 2000, P. 170). In most case, entrepreneurs get to hire strange consultants and hence they lack background history about their skills, knowledge and experience. At this juncture, there lacks visibility and, in cases where consultants demand full independence they can offer shoddy services. For this reason McKenna (2006, p. 81) recommends that SMEs should hire consultants on referral basis where they are allowed to offer services in bits and they are allowed to proceed on the merit of the results.

Nevertheless, SMEs usually benefit from minimal impacts provided by consultancy services especially when there is no long-term partnership. In this case, consultants only focus on the specific need in a business and might ignore others that might be beneficial to an organization. This implies that for a business to experience long-term impacts from the services, they have to incur extras cost and form a permanent partnership with the consultants. Needless to say, most employers do not know the right consultants to get for certain issues (Smallbone & Welter 2001, p. 46). In this case, they end up getting decision that does not specifically address the impending situation as anticipated.

Needless to say, Sturdy et al (2009, p. 49) argue that much of the time that could be used to invest is used up through consultancy services. For instance, a consultant might realize that most of the problems facing a certain business are due to poor skills among workers. In this case, the entrepreneur might decide to initiate training programs for the employees to acquire the non-existing skill. Consequently, much of the time will be spared in the training program rather than in investment. Pointless to say, most consultants demand to work in line with organizational leadership. Therefore, leaders are compelled to abandon some of their duties to attend to consultation schedules. Moreover, consultation schedules need ample time in order to facilitate the consultation process. Certainly, partitioning some of the production time might affect the operation and performance of the business (Andriejute & Snieska 2004, p. 18).

From a sociological perspective, evidences have shown that most of the consultants are influenced by external politics. Notably, these forces compel them to make biased ideas in favor of one party against the other in a business. For example, formulation of terms of services in a business might favor the leaders against the workers and vice versa. It is essential to note that using consultants as de facto advocates can mess up the business by making inappropriate policies. In line with this, more that 40 percent of the SMEs collapses due to such discriminative policies and hence consultant services hold the blame. Sturdy, et al (2009, p. 51) point out that some of strategies supported by consultants do not add any real value to the business.

In a shift of focus, there is need to understand that most of the SMEs are corporately organized by a team of leaders unlike those that are family-based. Therefore, those that are institutionalized have got directors and stake holders who can perform the role of monitoring the performance of the business. In this case, such stake holders will be able to take a wider view of external ideas and broad-based perspectives to benefit the organization. Consequently, they can make appropriate measures to meat strategic goals and objectives even with the absent of consultants. This implies that external consultancy services are irrelevant and might not be much helpful to such businesses. This explains the reason why most of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs ignore consultancy services. From a careful review of literature, most of the entrepreneurs believe in no failure at all. In this case, it is assumed that those who hire such services are the ones that believe in failure.

In some cases, credit market failure is also a factor that makes consultancy services unhelpful to SMEs. Needless to say, it becomes very hard to monitor the liquidity constrains in the market and most of the times the situation is never constant (Sturdy, et al 2009, p. 52). Therefore, only those entrepreneurs who are determined to increase their sales volume take the risk of hiring consult-ants. For those who decline hiring such services, they perceive success as sheer luck.

Why consultancy policies are helpful to SMEs

Nevertheless, from a critical point of view, it is definite that consultant services are necessary evil. Elaborating on this, (Sturdy et al 2009, p. 52) notes that in as in as much as consultant services helpful for SMEs, they have a key role in helping such business break through in terms of performance (Gelderen, Frese & Thurik 2000, p. 169). Needless to say, good consultant services have been known to have good reputation of helping small and medium-sized entrepreneurs to achieve their strategic goals. In this case, such services are helpful in myriad ways. For example, it is apparent that the business owners understand their organizations better and thus they are not the most suitable to evaluate and access critical issues such as customer services (Dean & Zinman 2011, p. 1278). This is due to the fact that entrepreneurs are likely to be subjective and this prevents them from administering customer services effectively. In this case there is a need for a neutral team to suggest how activities can be done in ones business. In this case, hiring a consultant helps SMEs to increase objectivity. Furthermore, Sturdy, et al (2009, p. 55) acknowledge that external consultants are able to go beyond the SMEs blind spots hence they are able to visualize things that go without being noticed.

Besides this, studies have revealed that most of the skilled consultants have multidimensional approaches to issues affecting business. Contrastingly, entrepreneurs fail to make concrete changes since they use a unidirectional approach. Therefore, (Shaw, Shaw and Turley (2000 p. 112) argue that consultancy services help entrepreneurs to develop a fresh or external perspective on handling issues in businesses. Empirical surveys have demonstrated that business men who employ external decisions and problem solving approaches have got higher chances of success in business than those who dwell on common strategies (Gelderen, Frese & Thurik 2000, P. 166). Recent research has revealed that consultants are helpful to entrepreneurs since they are used a tools to challenge or support existing strategies in business. From a political perspective, consultants can be used to oppose fractions of procedures and policies against other. Therefore, Sturdy, et al (2009, p. 56) assert that consultants act as de facto adjudicators.

Research Methodology and why qualitative research

It is essential to note that the research methodology used is quite diverse in order to capture the general population and derive their perspectives on why they use consultancy services or not. In line with this, it is vital to mention that this research deals with personal opinions on the role played by consultancy services in SMEs. For this reason, this research study must take a critical approach in order to obtain data that is relevant for the study. It is crucial to consider the fact that research methodology used in any topic of study highly depends on the type of data to be collected (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 109) Needless to say, research methodology is also determined by the nature of the topic being studies. Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 8) argue that by considering such factors, one gets an opportunity to select the most appropriate method for research.

According to Creswell (2003, p. 4), there are two major types of research methodologies that are used to collect data in the field. These methodologies include qualitative and quantitative research methods. Mays and Pope (1995, p. 109) establish that quantitative research method is appropriate while collecting data that need to be presented in numerical form. In line with this, this method is suitable while collecting data that can be quantifies such as number of years, votes, and other statistical facts (Creswell 2003, p. 8). In most case, quantitative data is presented in forms of tables, charts or graphs. Further studies have shown that qualitative research begins by formulating a hypothesis which acts as a guide during the research. Needless to say, these hypotheses or questions are normally very brief and therefore they allow respondents to provide precise responses that are mostly either yes or no answers (Creswell (2003, p. 11). For instance, in the context of the topic of study in this paper, one can formulate questions such as whether SMEs use consultancy services or not. Moreover, this method of research can formulate questions that will help to get data related to sales volume, years and other statistical figures.

Contrastingly, qualitative research method is used to collect data that need to be presented in theoretical format (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 109). To emphasize on this, if one want to collect data that is historical and can not be quantified, qualitative method can be used. Pointless to say, there are some aspects of life that can not be quantified such as opinion, behavior and history (Creswell 2003, p. 12). At this juncture, qualitative method helps an individual to study and collect data related to aspects of life such as opinion, behavior and altitude since they can not be quantified.

Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 4) complement that a good research should entail the two methods of research. This implies that they should complement each other. In addition to this, Mays and Pope (1995, p. 110) assert that neither qualitative research method nor quantitative one should be perceived as superior to the other. In this case, a researcher should give them equal chances in the field. Due to this argument, there is need to understand that in every topic of study, there is no way you can rule one method out. For example, even the form of data that can be quantified and presented in tables need to be interpreted (Creswell 2003, p. 12). Therefore, in as much as quantitative research method plays a significant role in collecting the data needed, qualitative method must be used to analyze and interpret that data. In the context of the research topic, I intend to apply qualitative method due to the nature of information required.

It is imperative to note that the two research methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses (Denzin & Lincoln 2005, p. 6). Having known this, a researcher should utilize them simultaneously in order to increase the accuracy of data collected. For instance, it is believed that quantitative research method provides more accurate data since it collect data that is precise, brief and therefore easy to record, interpret and analyze. Mays and Pope (1995, p. 101) notes that qualitative method is prone to errors since data provided is in theoretical or story form. In this case, it becomes complicated for the researcher to record, analyze and interpret information provided to him by respondents. In lie with this, theoretical facts obtained can be subjective, prone to misunderstanding and hence there is a tendency of biasness (Denzin & Lincoln (2005, p. 4).

Why qualitative research

From a sociological point of view, empirical studies have revealed that qualitative research is widely used (Creswell 2003, p. 15). This is due to the fact that this method is able to study objects in their natural settings. Therefore, through the method, one is able to make sense of, analyze and interpret phenomena without external manipulation. For instance, this method helps to study the behavior of entrepreneurs and their altitude toward consultation services. In addition to this, Mays and Pope (1995, p. 109) assert that qualitative method especially when studying why SMEs use consultancy services or not will use a naturalistic approach. This enables one to give priority to first hand data that entails numerous philosophies. Moreover, in order to achieve this, one should incorporate numerous study designs and techniques. Such encompasses use of in-depth interviews, discussion groups, participant observation, content analysis and use of focus groups (Denzin & Lincoln 2005, p. 12).

In this research, the main reason as to why qualitative research has been highly preferred is due to the fact that it enhances an in-depth understanding of behavior and factors affecting it. For this reason, this methodology will enable one to answer questions such as why, who, how, when and what (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 109). For example during the research one will be required to have samples that will help to answer the question in relation to why SMEs use consultancy services or not. That notwithstanding, it is important to note that as the research progresses, new issues emerge and this will demand an in-depth enquiry (Denzin & Lincoln 2005, p. 13). Notably, quantitative research is usually restricted and gives no room to address emerging issues. In this case, qualitative research method is more preferable in order to address emerging issues through discussions and interviews.

Succinctly, qualitative research is more suitable to study phenomena that can be classified in social disciplines (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 109). For instance, one can use a social approach to study the benefits of consultancy services to SMEs. Note that the topic being studies in this paper has numerous aspects that are interlinked together forming relationships. Therefore, sociological knowledge will help one to identify the relationship between the aspects and how they influence each other (Denzin &Lincoln 2005, p. 17). For instance, it is definite that there exist a relationship between SMEs and consultants. In this case, one can use qualitative method of research to identify and analyze how the absence of each aspect affects the other.

Mays and Pope (1995, p. 110) comment that qualitative research provides a room for clarifying and questioning about the nature and behavior of social objects. Note that this is impossible while using quantitative research. This makes Creswell (2003, p. 19) to comment that qualitative research method is unsurpassable since it is rich in details. Mays and Pope (1995, p. 109) complement this statement where he assert that the method has got exploratory power that is intuitive undeniable. Studies have shown that qualitative method best deals with topics of social sciences in order to unearth the invisible (Denzin & Lincoln 2005, p. 9). For instance, when researching on why SMEs use consultancy services, one need to understand the people’s views, knowledge, fears and why they opt to make their decision. It is important to note that there are valuable insights that can not be obtained from the respondents by observation. In this case, one has to interact with the target audience in order to collect vital details related to the topic of study (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 109). In this case, one of the strength of using qualitative method in this research is that it will enable one to develop a complex textual description related to entrepreneurs’ experiences with consultation services.

Most importantly, Mays and Pope 1995, p. 112) argue that some of the issues that need to be researched on are not readily apparent and hence the researcher should understand in order to interpret them. For instance, when researching on SMEs there are intangible factors that make entrepreneurs to use consultancy services such as customs, social-economic status and social norms. In this case, such finding should be derived from the characteristics of entrepreneurs and personal opinions. Additionally, qualitative research method has been known to embrace both verbal and non-verbal communication (Creswell 2003, p. 21). This helps the researcher to study behavior of the respondents, a factor that aids in revealing the subtlety of complex issues.

Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 13) acknowledge that qualitative method is very diverse and there are myriad techniques of collecting, analyzing ad interpreting data. Needless to say, this gives a researcher an opportunity to be flexible where you can use more than two techniques of collecting data simultaneously. Qualitative interview is usually and commonly used as vital method of collecting data. This is where the researchers make appointments with respondents in order to interview them on matters related to the topic of study. The interviews comprise of questions set for guidelines in order to avoid mixing of concepts or wasting much time (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 112). It is imperative to emphasize that there are two types of interviews namely structured, semi-structured and unstructured. Moreover, these guide questions ensures that important matters are not left out. It is worth to emphasize that qualitative interview are very flexible since the researcher and respondents can diverge into new matters that sprout up in the interview process Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 15). This makes qualitative methodology to be suitable for the study topic unlike the case in quantitative research.

In line with this, participant observation is another method of collecting data where researchers observe objects in their natural settings. Creswell (2003, p. 33) asserts that this technique is also flexible since it give room for greater spontaneity. Moreover, it allows the researcher to adapt the interaction that exists between him and participants. Mays and Pope (1995, p. 109) point out that the interaction between researchers and their participants is less formal and this makes the latter to be more elaborate and this encourages them to give correct responses. Nevertheless, from a careful review of literature, evidence has revealed that observational research vary in diverse settings.

Moreover, Creswell (2003, p. 34) argues that observation is a reflective method of learning and therefore one can not use a single method of observation. For example, while carrying out the study on whether SMEs benefit from consultancy services or not, a researcher needs to use participant observation to collect crucial information. In this case, one is expected to mingle with small and medium-sized entrepreneurs to observe the role played by consult-ants in their businesses. This provides an opportunity for one to gain a closer insight on consultants’ practices, motivation for SMEs and emotions portrayed by workers. Creswell (2003, p. 37) notes that some insights might not be observed if the researcher does not participate in the study. On the other hand, a researcher can decide to collect data without interfering with the target population. For this case, he observes them in their natural settings without them noticing it. Creswell (2003, p. 37) argues that non-participatory observation has an added advantage since the target population do not provide manipulated data. To emphasize on this, Creswell (2003, p. 47) establishes that target respondents often change their behavior, opinions and perspective once they realize that they are being studies. Notably, this can result to collection of incorrect data.

Besides this, studies have shown that qualitative method applies diverse approaches in line with identified techniques in order to collect data. Creswell (2003, p. 48) establishes that such approaches entail use of grounded theory, ethnography, narrations, storytelling and shadowing. In a shift of focused, Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 24) assert that the method also collaborate with other methodological approaches that make it easy to collect diverse forms of data during research. For instance, these methodological approaches include use of action-network and action research theories. Empirical studies have revealed that this method of research categorize data on numerous basis in order to organize, analyze and interpret results. Mays and Pope (1995, p. 101) analyze that qualitative research methodology has numerous ways of analyzing data. Commonly, a researcher can use interpretive analysis that is based on his personal impression. In this case, the researcher is perceived as an expert who can observe record interpret and analyze data. Notably, interpretative analysis will highly be used in the research topic in order to derive a recursive conclusion.

Nevertheless, Denzin and Lincoln (2005, p. 41) lament that qualitative method of research is not systematic and this deprives it the scientific merit of drawing, testing and announcing its conclusion. Moreover, there are scholars who argue that information obtained through the methodology can not be generalized. This is due to the fact that respondents tend to provide information depending on their views, beliefs and opinions (Creswell 2003, p. 42). Moreover, evidences have revealed that this method of research only address a limited number of audiences as opposed to quantitative research. For instance, while comparing the benefits of consultancy services for SMEs in Sri Lanka and UAE, only a few respondents can be interviewed in a given time. This is due to the fact that numerous forms of interview become lengthy especially for respondents who do not provide brief responses.

In line with this, Mays and Pope (1995, p. 101) point out that data collected through qualitative research is very subjective since it is based on personal opinions, interests, altitudes, values and beliefs. From a careful analysis of literature, most of the respondents are likely to provide information which they lack solid background about it (Creswell 2003, p. 51). For instance, most of the small and medium-sized entrepreneurs can provide details on why they use SMES or not. Nevertheless, the fact remains that majority of them have never attempted to hire such services. In this case, information provided about their benefits and demerits could be guessed. Consequently, the researcher will make biased conclusions since it is hard for him to verify the authenticity of details given by respondents.

In connection to this, Creswell (2003, p. 67) points out that the method is complicated especially when it comes to matters of analyzing data. This is due to the fact that most respondents provide dissimilar views and hence it takes time for a researcher to compare them and come up with a common idea (Mays & Pope 1995, p. 112). Moreover, some of the information provided is lengthy and hence it takes time to analyze it such as stories and content analysis. Further review of literature revealed that most of the respondents often lie to researchers and it becomes hard to identify this (Creswell 2003, p. 88). Additionally, there are those who shy away from providing crucial information to researchers and this makes the study to be very complicated. Nevertheless, amid the identified shortcomings, qualitative research methodology remains the best choice for studying why SME hire consultancy services or not.

Data Collection Method

One to One Interviews

Interviewing of direct subjects of a study is the most widely used method of conducting research. Research has proven that it is very reliable in gathering credible information for the creation of desired documents. Successful interviews are supposed to be carried out with careful research on information needed as well as prior preparations. During my interviews, I ensured keen listening, careful analysis, and also made sure that I maintained optimal control over the depth and range of information. I ensured that I was extremely observant bearing in mind that this is a critical aspect of obtaining quality outcome. After every interview, I gave undivided attention to my findings by revisiting all my notes. Since I was severally forced to work with some limitations like divided attention and poor communication by respondents, I emphasized on strengthening relationships by developing strategies which buffered most of the inevitable weaknesses.

Literature has revealed that the most basic and universal technique for researchers to gather information is organizing well planned interviews (Seidman 2006, p. 30). The subjects (respondents) for this case were chief executive officers and the general managers of specific companies based in the UAE. More opinions were also gathered from other members of the corporation for instance technical directors and members of executive boards. These are some of the people who have the relevant knowledge on the operation of organizations which I needed to explore.

There were several factors which had significant effect on the interview. At times, the targeted parties had to take time out of their busy schedules to respond to my research concerns. This made me to optimize the limited time by making sure that I gathered important information only. My contact with the different persons was an important favor which was granted to me and therefore there were restrictions and strict deadlines to keep. I employed my experience in contacting interviews. I took my steps with expertise before and during the interviews to ensure that I was effective

Before the interviews

When preparing for the exercise, I was keen to build a good base upon which I could execute successful interviews. I did this by being strategic and keen. I narrowed my focus to several important aspects of face to face interviewing.

Defined objectives

I defined the purpose of all interviews. I was interviewing to gather information which would help me to explain why SMEs should or should not use consultancy services. This was a documented step of performing my research. My established and pre planed goal helped me to set the scope of my interview. My final findings were supposed to be detailed information which was going to be analyzed and used to make a sound conclusion about SMEs. I prioritized the latter and thereby managed to get the right information. My research paper required an open and general range of information. Step by step details were avoided. I obtained a specific data.

Researching the subjects

I reviewed variety of background materials on consultancy. I also did enough research on the companies chosen. This gave me documentation of the organizations. Continued operations of the organizations were a base for the information gathered. Acquiring of background information such as the financial positions of enterprises helped in making better questions for the interview. Great compliance was given to the outlined list of questions which were chosen for different parties. This helped me in keeping track of the study subject of my interviews. It also assisted in making sure that there was no any important concern which remained unasked. I grouped my questions according to the levels of detail I aimed at. The topic was covered to its entirety. This gave the interviewees an important perception that I was well prepared and highly focused.

Assembling my necessary toolkit

I was careful to use the appropriate kit for my activities. I decided to remain organized by gathering everything I needed during the interviews. I was equipped with all common tools. I made sure that before I started any interview either through Skype or by physical meeting, I had ready notes and writing materials. These tools helped me to keep all my interview attachments and notes safely. In addition, I made sure that I was well equipped with the right directions. I also created plenty time for my movements because I expected to encounter difficult traffic patterns.

During the interviews

When I interviewed the respondents face to face, I was able to gather the much needed and useful information. This was the goal of my project. In many cases, the interviews were the most resourceful way I could gather information with. When the chance was disrupted I opted to come back for more information or clarification of several issues. I was keen to manage the flow of my interviews. I took this caution to make sure that I got the most appropriate responses.

Active Listening

This technique proved to be highly dependable. It was not easy to maintain a clear attention to the issues raised by respondents. However complete attention was given to the respondents. Panneerselvam (2004, p. 298) notes that “hearing is not listening.” He elaborates that listening is giving attention to the details of what is being said while hearing is the mere perception of sound (Panneerselvam 2004, p. 300). I gave all my speakers undivided attention by being focused on listening. I controlled my talking to make sure that I did not distract the mental plans of relaying my questions. I remained relaxed and by so doing, I was able to navigate my movements from one question to another.

Open-ended interview questions

Questions used for interviews demanded detailed answers which were more than just “no” or “yes”. My open-ended questions sought to explore whether SMEs needed or did not need the services of consultants. They also made the different respondents to give their personal opinions in the issue of management consulting.

Control of interview

This was necessary especially due to time constraints. I was careful to make sure that I did not antagonize them. It was also important to maintain professional relationships so that I could not arouse negative feelings. I kept in mind that persons are offended not just by words but also by gestures of impatience. I made sure that my tone was relatively lower than the one of interviewees. The environment of all interviews which were conducted was personalized accordingly. Whenever areas were found to be distractive, for example by the reception of numerous phone calls, I made requests for the interview to be conducted in conference rooms which had a better set up. Given that there were cases in which the interviewees were to use a computer to demonstrate different things, I made sure that they could use their personal computers accordingly. This helped in ensuring that quality and accurate information was obtained. In situations where the officer was too busy to afford me enough time, I was compelled to comply with the given environments. There are times I was forced to get the best I could from very unfriendly situations.

Paraphrasing information to repeat it

This was helpful in getting full details of complex principles of organizational operations. Paraphrasing ensured that details were reinforced with additional information. There were cases in which the information could not be easily clarified. Whenever this was the case, I put the information down in own words. This was because a basis for asking more questions was needed. A majority of people were ready to continue proving information provided that I continued raising questions about my subject matter.

Identifying gaps in data

Interviewees are not able to give every necessary detail in a planned way. This made it important for me to rearrange information. By doing so I was able to spot gaps in the reports I obtained. This was important for my organization wide documentation of data. It helped in structuring questions which for seeking clarity of information.

Accuracy

It was important to get correct statistics in every case which was studied. Information about the enterprises was corrected accurately. Accuracy of data was essential in avoiding a painting of wrong pictures about organizations. It is harmful to reflect bad images of an organization due to careless collection of incorrect or biased information about it.

Organization

It was helpful keeping marks of notes which needed to be clarified later. Where procedures of questioning branched, one part was exhausted and the other was dealt with at a different time. This made it easier to guide the collecting of information with respect to the demands of my research. Pieces of information which had to be gathered at a latter time were marked using highlighters. In addition to this, a running list which had leading information was carried. These provided a peaceful flow of interviews.

Closing interviews

At the termination of every interview it was remarkable that I had developed good relationships. This made me to feel pretty good in regard to the information I had gathered. I took this chance to reinforce the success o f my interview. I showed my sincere gratitude to all my hosts and enquired whether I could call back for follow up. Most officers were ready to continue cooperating with me. They allowed me to be part of their mailing lists. I kept on contacting them as I continued to compile the findings of my study.

After the interview

Kothari (2008, p. 123) indicates that follow through is a reliable technique to use in digesting the information obtained from research interviews. After conducting all interviews I followed through the notes I had gathered. This was immediately in order to ensure that I did not develop unnecessary lethargy. Gaps in notes, deciphers and cryptic notations were filled accordingly. Indeed, I gave some of informants a chance to review my write ups.

Emerging issues

In general, my cooperation with the different organizations was optimally beneficial to my research. It was not highly limited by in adequacies in communication, personality disparities or lack of respondent’s intellectual commitment. According to Gubrium and Holstein (2007, p. 476) these are the major factors which demerit face to face interviews as a method of gathering information. It is true that a researcher can not control the cooperation level of every interviewee (Cohen, Morrison & Manion 2000, p. 145). This was observed in cases where persons were conceptual thinkers. It took me extra time to get information from several managers who needed to conceptualize the issue of my research. This lot had to be given more time to revisit the consultancy undertakings for their companies.

Another phenomenal issue was timing in relation to when to start using consultancy services. It seems unwise for SME entrepreneurs to start paying for theses services without proper timing. The best time should be determined. Apparently, the moat appropriate moment is soon the organization arise a serious need for consultation. Engaging in consultancy requires skill to negotiate for what a particular business organization can comfortably accommodate. Although these services gives the company sound advice, it is important to understand that it can be a challenge.

One major aim in this activity is to communicate problems to consultants. It is therefore important to anticipate an eradication of ideas which seemed null. They should be replaced with others accordingly. Consultancy can not be separated with business intelligence. 5they both come in to provide methods of operation which act as a guide of organizational operation.

Specific interview rationale

My selection UAE based small and middle sized enterprises for data collection came in handy. This approach gave a classical coverage of all the concern of the study. In a keen review of relevant literature I realized that interviewing was the best choice for this work. Information which contained opinions and principles of how SMEs operate were gathered. The companies I focused on were a real representation of average SME’s. They displayed all the dynamics of operating a successful company. This gave a quality research outcome and indeed thoroughly enjoyed the discussion process with various people I gathered the data.

Interviews can have a complex structure or a simple basic structure. Usually, unique list of questions is often given to each respondent in a structured interview. In semi structured interviews the interviewer follows the theme of his research concern to make a growing conversation as they obtain and record the necessary details. This technique is referred to as laddering (Seidman 2006, p. 200). Gubrium and Holstein (2007, p. 400) point out that the use of this approach helps interviewees to make smooth movements from a statement to another. They are able to joint together premise information to come up with truths which account for basic or known principles. The descriptions involved about questions asked to different people reveals all the necessary data. It therefore becomes possible to deduce conclusions from the notes gathered during an interview.

In my profession I have experienced a lot of exposure to research. Quantitative research gives direct results. Many cases of debates crop up. This paves way for me to dig deeper and to understand the holistic aspect of research. At times I take a general approach in which my research interest is generalized. This needs open discussions which are in line with a given topic of study.

The issue of whether SME’s should, or not employ consultant services is an organizational decision (Curnow 2005, p. 200). It should be noted that every business organization has specific goals to achieve in both short and long run. According to Buono (2004, p. 124) consultant services are supposed to help organizations by improving their performance. This is supposed to be attained through the tackling of existing organizational challenges and a development of more plans for future improvements and comes with organization wide changes (Curnow 2005, p. 300). It is therefore most appropriate to interact with the corporate members of organizations in gathering information about particular SME’s consulting patterns.

Since my study concern is to gather information, my questions must be highly integrated. I thought my questions should be able to bring out a pool of information from which I can be able to deduce conclusions on whether SME’s should or not employ consultant services.

  • Can organizations can attain optimal performance without the employment of management consultant services?
  • Your understanding of the best way to apply consulting services
  • Is the question of whether SMEs should or not employ consulting services significant in today’s global economy?
  • Would you mind paying money to a consultant to evaluate your business?
  • Do you think small and developing companies can comfortably afford consultancy cost?

The questions are meant to be so comprehensive such that they are supposed to start a discussion which will grow according to my concerns. As I pointed out earlier, an interview is highly effective if it exposes more details than the expectations of the researcher. Otherwise, it does not help in making a dependable foundation for making conclusions based on research findings.

How information was analyzed

After sourcing all my data, I needed to analyze it so that I could make a summary of findings. I had to be keen to use right approaches and strategies. My major aim was to remain organized rather than to uphold the “dos” and “don’ts” of analyzing research data. I began by doing a preliminary analysis of all the opinions of the respondents I used. I used the practices in the given companies to come up with information. I then built on this information using the data which I had gathered from literature reviews. A comparison of the realities in the operations of the companies with principles of management consultancy was made. By doing this it was possible to make evaluations which illustrated the benefits of employing consultant services. Responses and explanations from different people were a basis for making conclusions depending on what had been experienced in the management consultation of the organizations.

I did my analysis with the aim of moving my readers to a point beyond raw data. This kind of qualitative research yielded a large amount of information in relation to the question. Hence, the desired foundation was built based on the earlier research thesis that had been developed. Explanations of the findings given by the interviews were arranged according to specific concerns. These were the links used to analyze the common themes of the employment of consultant services. I took an evidence based analysis in which all the statements were designed to be convincing. This is the most elementary phenomenon of every kind of knowledge (Panneerselvam 2004, p. 156). Arguments are rendered invalid if they lack the ability to give to speak out in a quantifiable way. The notes gathered from interviews with every officer were an ultimate basis for the development of the theory in my paper.

A discussion was to put forward all the chosen claims. Companies which use consultant services in operation provided explanations of why they do it. It was necessary to get their point of view in order to develop collective and real experiences. Cohen, Morrison and Manion (2000, p.231) points out that researchers use quotes of their final findings to execute their task of giving sound accounts for their work. A good example was the use the implications of consultancy management in all the given companies. This was used to equip me with the knowledge I needed. It was an important tool used to judge whether it is worth for such organizations to continue employing these services.

Ethical considerations

After the formulation of the interview process I took time to analyze the people I was to interview. I was keen to rely on a group that had desirable professional levels. One of the things I wanted to do away with was a possibility of choosing parties who could not respond to me openly. This is why I put much effort in structuring my work in way which could be appealing. It is normally possible to get twisted information from interviewees. This makes feelings and emotions an important issue which must be given due attention.

Cohen, Morrison and Manion (2000, p.231) in there work recommend that building trust is an important attribute which interviews use to ensure that researchers obtain the exact information they are looking for. It is evident that obtaining trust is much difficult in cases where the parties participating in an interview have never met before. These truths gave me a base to work on. I placed my self in a position where I was comfortable enough to have a successful interaction with the people I chose for my interviews. I gave close attention to cultural concerns, gender and the different levels of experience in their professions. I majored on officials who have gained much experience in the running of their organizations.

I chose to do all my approaches with relatively high levels of professionalism. Otherwise it could be impossible to gather reliable information. My initial activity was to book appointments and to speak to my officers personally. I made it clear to them that I would like to be granted a chance to do an interview on the employment of consultants to their organizations. I also went ahead and explained that the study called for my personal involvement. I was also keen to mention that I would be open to and helpful to their organizations during and after my engagements with them. This simply that I was going to be traceable for any contacts needed for the sake of clarifications.

It was necessary for me to share all the steps I was going to execute in the study. I was flexible enough to welcome any profitable recommendations from my counterparts. It was so good that all the persons were highly fascinated by my research. They kept on mentioning that this was a good topic of study which has remained unexhausted to a number of given factors. It became clearer that my quest of finding out whether MSEs should or not use consultancy services were going to be resourceful to many organizations. This was a good motivation. It is highly motivating for a researcher to realize that his or her research topic is significant. The purposes of a study are well attained if its result is informative to both the researcher and other parties who must not have participated in it (Panneerselvam 2004, p. 180).

Discussion points – rationale on the research

Is the question of whether SMEs should or not employ consulting services significant in today’s global economy

Upgrading skills for all professionals is a central element which should be worked on in order to improve performance (Curnow 2005, p. 262). The current global economy which is knowledge based calls for a change in the management of businesses. SMEs must be able to adapt quickly to changing environments. Curnow (2005, p. 271) recommends that there is enough evidence that failures of SMEs are particularly due to lack of formal management training. The findings from the five companies in UAE and a literature survey on the case of Sri Lanka shows that these companies have managed to evade terrible failure through the use of managerial technical training.

How does SMEs compare in the UAE and in Sri Lanka

It was clearly reported that demonstrated that high performance of SMEs relies on SME management consulting and training. The use of universal training in Sri Lanka leads to increased efficiency. Governments’ advocacy for such training has led to the stabilization of management systems. Although there are no clear definitions of SMEs in Sri Lanka, the development board for enterprises plays a very important role (Noack 2007, p. 149). This board has created a team of experts which is provides national consultancy services to small and medium sized business organization (SMEs). It gives training to young companies and offers consistent counsel to the established ones. Businesses have therefore been equipped with flexible management skills needed for survival in the current competitive business environment.

Management skills for SMEs with UAE and in Sri Lanka have a separation in the aspect of skill endowment. It is evident that the organizations in UAE are more focused on the pursuit of management consultancy from organizations (Noack 2007, p. 150). Through consultation these organizations have been able to acquire knowledge for their teams. Small firm managers seek training from experts working with established organizations. Entrepreneurship has been fostered through competition. This is different from the case in Sri Lanka where small sized organizations are at amateur levels of using management consulting. It is worth to argue that the general professional system in a region plays an important part in educating the business leaders there in. Kiggundu (2002, p. 295) notes that differences in the success of SMEs in these regions are as a result of ineffective application of management. A wrong perception that SMEs can be ran comfortably without management training has played against their welfare.

Data Analysis and Sense Making

It should be noted that research papers are well compiled if the relevant data is collected in a wide range. This means that the research creates a rich store of notes from which they can draw conclusions. After winding up my data collection it was good that I had collected more than what I required. I decided to write all my information systematically according to the different persons and organizations I visited during the interviews I carried. I gave them headings in line with my research questions. I found it easy to peruse through my headings as I matched similar themes obtained from different instances. All I needed to do was to highlight them in different colors. This coding was very important in making sure that I redeemed time. It was in line with the system I had made to use during the interviews. It seemed like I had several lots of mixed information because of mistaken recording. This was because it was challenging to record information as my interviewees were talking to me.

I managed to deal with the several challenges of my study by choosing to be relaxed as I compiled my report. I chose early morning hours for this duty. I realized that I could maintain a very balanced mindset. It was easier for me to remain focused although I had other activities to attend to during the day. I could easily put my self back to the time of my research and thereby realized that it is possible to recall most of the major elements obtained from my information search.

I tried as much as I could not to merge my earlier research findings with what I was obtaining during my active interviews. I did not want to depict a biased picture to the respondents. This could happen if I shoed elements of knowing too much about what I sought to gather. My personal opinion was therefore kept at bay as I pushed limits to gather more information. Whenever different opinions differed with the line of my knowledge I could make sure that I dwelt on the area until I obtained solid explanations.

My decision to take the position of a learner was a major factor of my quality findings. The fact that I chose to remain reserved as I waited for the officers to move from an idea to another gave them the opportunity to exhaust all relevant details. I could see lots of enthusiasm in the explanations I obtained.

I remained vehement as the managers gave me facts about their respective organizations. This motivated Mathew to credit my skills. He noted that the issue I was dealing which had strong basis on revealing the entrepreneurial risk taking secrets of organizations. He felt that my approach of waiting for information could give me quality findings. Mathew further advised me to focus on factual information which happened.

Kiggundu (2002, p.79) notes that in the analysis of data it is important to cut down all masses of raw data which is not easy to manage. Mr. Mathew managed to equip me with the right mind set as I interviewed the different officers I had chosen. Remaining relevant was inevitable through out the research. I therefore made it an issue of great concern. It was a key characteristic of all my research questions.

To ensure that my research matched with the intention of my study, I was keen to put together relevant questions. The major theme of my study was to find out the importance of employing management consultants in small and medium sized companies. This explained why all the questions were revolving around performance of SME’s with or without practice of management consultancy. Although there were open discussions, I kept a close interest on all details which related to the organizations’ practices of consultation. By doing so I managed to do a utilization of the wide range of opinions and observations. It was therefore possible to bring the whole picture out.

Can organizations can attain optimal performance without the employment of management consultant services

All the chosen leaders in the organizations highly valued management consulting. This practice of the provision of organizations with managerial aid improves the performance through analyzing all business problems and coming up development plans for improvement (Kiggundu 2002, p. 150). Research has shown that organizations procure management consultancy services at different times (Kiggundu 2002, p.150). Companies rely on these services to operate in a competitive way. In given timescale of about twenty years, a company that uses management consultancy realizes consistency. This is not the case with companies which do not.

The general manager of operations, Advance Technologies & Power Industry by the name Abdulhaziz gave reasons why his firm keeps on employing the services of consultants. He gives the reasons why the company has continued use them; to increase cash flow, Income and sales. Resolving Sales and marketing mishaps. This helps in getting rid of impairments which have limiting factors on the productivity of the organization. It creates a necessary turn around in every department of the organization. This involves all general changes in business culture. He felt that the organization has been able to survive the pressures of competition in the market.

Companies are able to enhance their operation in more efficient and effective way. Buono (2004, p. 35) shows that the progressive management of innovative and new ideas is a key factor of the well being of a company. It takes many minds make convincing decisions about how an organization can adopt better ways of operation. A reliance on consultant services at different times in fiscal year comes with specific situations.

Abdulhaziz observed that there are typical situations which bring the necessity of going for the services of management consultants. There are times when the organization needs skills in specific areas of which they have no internal expertise. In other given periods several activities such as organizational change need to be carried within a very short period of time. This can only be done comfortably if the services of a professional are employed. Mathew also commented on this. He felt that when attempts to meet the needs of the organization from within fail, it is wise to involve consultants so that there will be no replication of failure. As organizational members keep on having disagreements of the most appropriate way to tackle an issue, it is always important to bring the input of consultants. Special skills of facilitating the process of making a consensus are valuable to the organization.

Organizations are systems which can only be run if a general perspective of doing activities is laid down (Buono 2004, p. 70). It is not easy for a company to operate optimally if there is no incorporation of different managerial resources. It is evident that the goals of any given organization are achieved if inputs are drawn from a wide range of angles. It is possible to operate organization without much ado if managers learn to execute their duties perfectly. However, there is an inevitable need for SMEs like Advance Technologies & Power Industry to continue using consultant services in all areas of operation.

Mathew who was the chief executive officer at A.L.P. Emirates Panel Manufacturing Company elaborated that his organization depends highly on the services of consultants. He was quick to outline the several ways through which they employed the services of consultants. They have been able to equip all departmental heads with the right skills for managing the operations of the organization. Bi Almah recommended that through consulting and hiring the appropriate management consultants the managerial needs of the organization have been met well She posited. We have been able to know the differences between the available approaches.

Management consultants help to ferry organizations across the waters of facing their challenges. A challenge to an organization becomes organizational if the internal officers find it hard to solve it using their normal skills. This calls for a concerted involvement of the services of expert consultants. A.L.P. Emirates Panel Manufacturing Company used the guidelines provided by management consultants to redeem their performance. An assessment and diagnosis helped all individuals to identify and state the problems which affect the company at the moment it was facing a decline in cash flow. Suggestions provided by the contacted consultants were helpful. For instance a step of using different sources of information for the company boosted the skills of employees. Research analysis equipped members of the company to have a better understanding of the issues it was facing.

It was found out that the organization’s goals were under threat of several obstacles, irregular business trends and events in the market. This could be solved accordingly through the employment of clinics to drill all officers with more skills. Lloyd (2007, p. 76) points out that the use of seminars to give staff members the essential skills is a reliable way of absorbing the difficulties of an organization. Retreats for officials were important tools which helped the managerial team to be able to come up with relevant steps of executing the chores in the organization. A summary of an organizational process is communication, collaboration and smooth resolution of differences which occur during daily undertakings. This process is normally reinforced through the input of expertise services of different consultants. Research has shown that organizations are placed in better positions if they deny their independence and pay keen attention to aids of trade (Lloyd 2007, p. 120). Buono 2004, p. 77) explains that a good coordination of aids of trade like consultancy with an organization’s resources gives the organization a strong foundation to operate on.

Account for the benefits the organization has gained from management consulting

Consultants are well known for their expertise ability to come up with special ways of doing things (Lloyd 2007, p. 124). Organizations are out to ensure that they exercise a suitable expenditure of all the resources they have drawn from funders. This is a major reason as to why consultants are brought in to assist in solving the puzzles encountered in daily operations. Organizations use consultants to give credibility to the decisions made. It is believed that they bring in a unique taste of carrying out the operations in an organization. In most time it is the experience of management consultants which help to get managers from managerial labyrinths (Lloyd 2007, p. 140).

Procurement of the services of a consultant is a strategic action taken for the benefit of an organization. Bi Almah the chief executive of Zian Designs gave comprehensive information about how these services helped the developing company. Management consultation has helped this company with a provision of overviews of its position in the market at different times. This helps the company managers to make long term, mid term and short term goals. It also helps it in coming up with the right angels to take at different situation. Typically, there are situations which face the company from time to time which require a deep experience of consultants. They have always helped to bring in a broad understanding of most of the recurrent problems experience by the organization. Consultants have been able to give proper unbiased reviews of all proposed courses in Zian she explained. She felt that the expansion of the realities behind several choices made in the company has helped them not to loose the track of profitability. Decisions have been made in knowledgeable ways because consultation has played towards the creation of a better organization. I would be playing the game of unprofessionalism if I do not give credit to the experts who have brought my organization this far she felt during the interview.

The input of professional consultation acts as a catalyst towards improvement (Noack 2007, p. 123). This happens as alternatives are recommended into organizational management. In most cases manager have blurred pictures of the most probable ways to take in manage. Consultation helps the top leaders of an organization to understand how they can move from one option to another. Noack 2007, p. 125) points out that organizations use the services of consultants to enhance cohesion in the team which ensures the well being of an organization. He notes that this is achievable through the use of consultants to manufacture quality in-built abilities which boost the togetherness of a team (Noack 2007, p. 125). This intention is normally attained through the cultivation of a suitable environment for cooperation to grow.

Small companies and consultancy cost

The question on whether small, medium-sized and growing companies can afford consultancy services is answerable. Indeed, they can enjoy the importance of management consulting. What is important is their timing in terms of whether they really need such services or not. Lloyd (2007, p. 56), recommends that SMEs can afford cost of management consulting if they act according to reliable plans. This means that they can acquire the services after the organizations have gained reasonable stability. It should also be noted that there is a wide range of firms which offer affordable consultation services. This means that a small company can be allowed to acquire what it can afford by customizing the services accordingly. Private consultants are also available for SMEs. There was varied view to this issue as seen in the interview below:

Bi Almah from Zian designs noted that their company had a consistent reliance on consultants since it was small. She reported that it was necessary for them to get the services from individual practitioners who agreed to offer the services at affordable rates. On a similar note, Joe the chief executive at Al Muhaidib Technical Supplies agreed that cost was a challenge although it did not bar them from management consulting. He noted that proper timing was essential. “We only approached consultants when it is very important,” he noted. Mathew the chief executive officer, A.L.P. Emirates Panel Manufacturing Company pointed out that according to his personal opinion, all companies must practice management consulting.

No one is an absolute expert when it comes to the management of successful organizations

These business organizations are always geared towards the achievement of success. It is not easy to achieve total success in an organization without the incorporation of the basics needed. Buono (2004, p. 311) outlines that there are numerous degrees of success for small and medium sized enterprises. This is illustrated by the fact that a company may be called unsuccessful even when its managers believe they have the relevant objectives.

Mathew who is the chief executive officer, A.L.P. Emirates Panel Manufacturing Company gave the major marks of success in organizations. He felt that these elements are heavy tasks which can only be attained through concerted involvement of a variety of managerial skills. These skills are normally used together with guidelines from consultancy experts. Every area has a set of strategies which led to the successful execution of roles. It is not sound to assume that a person can lead an organization to success without the use of outside resources. For instance desirable outcomes are achieved through the proper following of guidelines. When a fix is encountered, it is always recommended that professional should use the services of consultants. This organization has been able to attain success in many ways through overall specification of desirable goals with the help of consultants.

Indeed, for problems to be solved successfully, the objectives set in daily operations of an organization should be put in line with the overall direction of the organization. It is easier to work with consultants during turbulent moments of an organization. In general, success comes when organizations complete its operations within the set times and budget limits, quality relations are upheld between different departments such as marketing and human resource management and when problems are solved in such a manner that they do not keep on arising from time to time. It is evident that the creation of harmony in an organization may not be possible if a diversity of actions is not put in place. Since human managers are limited in several ways (For example they cannot manage a whole organization without the help of subordinates), it is important to recognize the invaluable services offered by consultants (Noack 2007, p. 121). Consultants have managed to equip developing SMEs in the UAE with the right skills of commercial risk taking (Noack 2007, p. 146).

Bi Almah from Zian designs gave a sincere account of her experiences for thirty years in managing organizations. She explained that managers have to exercise relatively high intellectual excellence. It is totally impossible for a manager to succeed in executing duties without appreciating the fact that they are limited in several ways. Bi Almah pointed out that although she knew that she was an expert, it was crucial for her to demonstrate intellectual humility by accepting that she too needed the help of other experts. She gave lots of credit to all management consultants who enriched her management techniques. She illustrated how growing organizations like Zian designs had to highly rely on the services of external consultants from time to time.

Kiggundu (2002, p. 127) in his work outlines that business organizations become successful if they are given an opportunity to draw expertise diversely. He adds that a business is a set of dynamic processes which must be adaptive in reference to the transitions of economies (Kiggundu 2002, p. 127). This should make organizational decision makers to learn how to depend on consultants in order to stay highly updated. It is a sound illustration of why there is a great need for management consultation for business organizations of both small and large sizes.

Your understanding of the best way to apply consulting services

There are different methods used in management of SMEs. Joe, Ahmed and Rosalia had a common understanding of the basic way of using management consulting services. Ahmed who was also the board member at Al Haider Restaurant Management Company stated that the use of a standard way of applying consultation had been of great help to the organization’s performance. Joe, the chief executive, Al Muhaidib Technical Supplies agreed that if organizations followed the right procedure when using consultancy services, there would be improvement in performance. Ahmed was keen to point out the major stages which should be adhered to. This ranges from document preparation to exercise closure and evaluation.

The following procedural guidelines are instrumental and therefore should be adhered to the letter (Kiggundu 2002, p. 320). The process starts with documentation. Proposals are prepared to be used in selecting an appropriate candidate to hire. Reliable selection of a good consultant for SMEs is done through the use of market intelligence. Several factors such as financial and technical specifications are also considered. This is followed by a formal approval of a management consultant. After this a contract should be prepared and given the signatories of both the client and the consultancy firm.

Joe, the chief executive at Al Muhaidib Technical Supplies informed me that their focus on strategic consulting has been crucial to the organization.

The necessary focus in management consulting

Consultants play a significant role of making the managers to understand the effects of the changes made their value and benefits to the business. Problems that affect small and medium-sized entrepreneurs can be diagnosed and classified in various levels. In most cases, entrepreneurs fail to do this by themselves. Lack of focus towards management consulting may later cause multiple problems in a business establishment. Therefore, to avoid the hurdles, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs ought to employ consultancy services in order to help them change their course of thinking. Failure to recognize and rank problems compels entrepreneurs to apply a common measure to all of them. It is imperative to mention that this might be ineffective and uneconomical since different cases require distinct and specific measures to be applied. It is easier for entrepreneurs to diagnose, classify and determine appropriate measures to be taken to solve problems that arise especially when managing their business organizations. In the case of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), management consulting plays an even bigger and more significant role towards the success of the organization.

A consultant is a professional or expert in any particular field. This means that consultants are bestowed with wide knowledge on specific subject matters. Management consultants help to bring desirable changes in any business organization. Although there are various areas of focus, the objectives of management consulting are geared towards maximizing the operational abilities of an organization (Curnow 2005, p. 214). It comes with technical, economic and strategic approaches. All these aspects help organizations to maintain their capability of pursuing their goals.

Abdulhaziz informed me that the technical part of managing is organization has been a success through the incorporation of several tools. Above the numerous ways he had used in running the organization he notes that management consulting is important in ensuring a smooth coordination of the departments which make the organization. The managers of all the departments had been benefiting from alternative ways of dealing with problems which have been proposed during consultation. The difficulties of making decisions of the improvement of their organization have been minimized since consultants were always called in to assist in all cases of problems. He added that his organization was likely going to face lots of failure if they had not developed the culture of professionalism.

Strategic and economic elements of management consulting assist in placing companies in a more competitive position. Companies which have quality strategies build for themselves a stable position to operate from. For instance, Rosalia gave an account of how her organization had managed to attain profitability in the highly competitive UAE market as observed in the interview below.

She outlined that her organization Al Haider Restaurant Management Company had kept a clear record of a continuous development of highly dependable strategies. She explained that this was a practice learned from the services of experienced business management experts. Once strategies were made a combined effort of bringing them into action would be put in place. This assisted the company to do away with all possibilities of keeping paper plans which would never be turned into a reality. Ahmed who was her counterpart reported that he had come to believe that it is perpetually impossible for a business to grow if its managers are rigid. He also pointed out that from his experience; he had come to ascertain that most businesses had realized failure because they simply did not want to incur expenses of hiring management consultants.

Literature rationale

Is the question on whether SMEs should employ consulting services or not significant in today’s global economy

Upgrading skills for all professionals is a central element which should be worked on in order to improve performance (Curnow 2005, p. 262). The current global economy which is knowledge based calls for a change in the management of businesses. SMEs must be able to adapt quickly to changing environments. Curnow (2005, p. 271) recommends that there is enough evidence that failures of SMEs are particularly due to lack of formal management training. The findings from the five companies in UAE and a literature survey on the case of Sri Lanka shows that these companies have managed to evade terrible failure through the use of managerial technical training.

How does SMEs compare in the UAE and in Sri Lanka

It was clearly reported that demonstrated that high performance of SMEs relies on SME management consulting and training. The use of universal training in Sri Lanka leads to increased efficiency. Governments’ advocacy for such training has led to the stabilization of management systems. Although there are no clear definitions of SMEs in Sri Lanka, the development board for enterprises plays a very important role (Noack 2007, p. 149). This board has created a team of experts which is provides national consultancy services to small and medium sized business organization (SMEs). It gives training to young companies and offers consistent counsel to the established ones. Businesses have therefore been equipped with flexible management skills needed for survival in the current competitive business environment.

Management skills for SMEs with UAE and in Sri Lanka have a separation in the aspect of skill endowment. It is evident that the organizations in UAE are more focused on the pursuit of management consultancy from organizations (Noack 2007, p. 150). Through consultation these organizations have been able to acquire knowledge for their teams. Small firm managers seek training from experts working with established organizations. Entrepreneurship has been fostered through competition. This is different from the case in Sri Lanka where small sized organizations are at amateur levels of using management consulting. It is worth to argue that the general professional system in a region plays an important part in educating the business leaders there in. Kiggundu (2002, p. 295) notes that differences in the success of SMEs in these regions are as a result of ineffective application of management. A wrong perception that SMEs can be ran comfortably without management training has played against their welfare.

Personal reflection

I had read a good number of books about how to do this qualitative research. One of my greatest concerns was to make sure that I remained keen and attentive to the information collected from literature reviews and the interviews I conducted. I felt that although I had mastered my interest and matched it with the question of study. I decide to take the role of a careful investigator. I knew this would be a very helpful strategy. It would help me not to lead the interviewees into areas of my choice. This was a good learning opportunity. I used it to compare my knowledge on management with that of other managers. Indeed, it was interesting to see how people can be highly resourceful if they are granted the opportunity to offer what they know. Personal opinions of chief executive officers were in line with established facts. Since I had already hypothesized that SMEs needed to employ management consulting, I was glad to meet experienced officers who illustrated how their organizations had relied on these services.

My intention to venture into the field of consultancy was validated. It was highly fascinating to come across persons who kept on encouraging me to plunge into the essential profession. I realized that one of most important steps to take was to come up with an initiative which could demonstrate to SME runners why they needed to employ consultation. Taking an angle of mentioning cases of organizations which employed these services was better than trying to convince companies how they had failed to utilize them.

Summary

As mentioned in the analysis of findings, the objective of the study was to respond to the query whether SMEs should employ management consulting or not. It is important for such organizations take a paradigm of upgrading management skills and training through consultation. This is the key to improvement in performance. It is an era in which pressure in mounted on SMEs by globalization of economies and highly dynamic technologies of business operation. Organizations which do not make modern restructuring to attain flexibility and adaptability have no chances of surviving. Expertise services granted by consultants are important and can not be dismissed. They are a crucial array of organizational and managerial tools for growth. SMEs must depend on management consultation to create inventions and innovations which are resourceful in making organizations more competitive. There is no opportunity for organizations of any size to succeed if they do not build an adaptive and participatory managerial structure.

The available evidence shows a relationship between good management performance of SMEs and the use of management consultancy. In most instances organization wide consultation rates small organizations at the same rank with highly performing ones. This is mostly in the level of professionalism recorded.

Need for Further research and conclusion

The above data suggested that small and medium sized enterprises should employ management consultants just like other business organizations. It is evident that management consultancy is essential to all organizations regardless of their scale of operation. Small and medium size organizations benefit largely from expertise of consultants. It has demonstrated that SMEs which do not employ management consultancy do not have a privilege of technical, managerial and informational support. It is also clear that the small and medium sized companies practice the employment of consultants. They have managed to attain a relatively high efficiency as a result of consultancy.

Management consultation among SMEs helps to define the position of an organization. It reviews both short and long term strategic actions and acts as a catalyst to change through recommendation of alternative ways of action. Organizations are strengthened by emergence of team work resulting from consultant-client relations. According to the findings of this study and the literature rationale provided, it is clearly shown that SMEs should use the services of consultants. On top of the findings of this paper, more objective research is necessary. This should be done by setting more specific study goals on the operation of SMEs. For instance, it is important to find out the exact consultancy needs for a given company.

It is important to undertake an executive decision to implement total management consulting. There are recognized structures, authority and responsibility for quality assurance; a fully controlled, documented and effective procedural system in place; a workforce experienced in the required skills and competences to undertake jobs in an effective manner; a very busy corrective action loop and regular quality related meetings to take place in order to discuss specific problems. So what is improved? Where is focus for change directed?

Small companies usually have a management resource problem. The responsibility for improvement initiatives usually rests with management and the degree of success measured by how good or bad that one individual organize and carry out responsibilities. The latter is indeed one fundamental factor which creates a sense of organizational direction.

Where is focus initially going to be placed? The answer is to solve problems by improved communication, involvement and training. As a matter of fact, capacity building and training of an organizational workforce ought to be considered as an integral ingredient in management consultancy. Such an approach towards consultancy will eventually provided a form base for management sustainability especially in the event that an SME establishment experiences incessant and inadequate accesss to consultancy services.

The overall managerial decision is to enlist outside consultants to facilitate change and solve problems. Management consulting assists SMEs greatly. In dealing with SMEs, consultants handle the whole spectrum of management in general. Consultants are professionally trained to have reliable experience. They change the developmental activities of small firms into more appropriate approaches.

This research offers issues that could add to our understanding of management consulting practices in enterprises, and thus provides several guidelines for improvement of management capability. The findings of the study highlight the importance of technology management in high technological enterprises. The study has empirically examined the relationship between management capability in small and medium-sized enterprises. The findings indicate that the enterprise with higher management capability level can achieve better performance. Since management can be decomposed into three categories of elements namely resource, organization, and quality, the managerial implication is that all elements should be emphasized and management consulting should be improved in all its aspects.

Findings also shed light on the roadmap of promoting management capability of enterprises. Although it is emphasized that harmonious development of technology management is crucial, it does not necessarily imply that the element with the lowest maturity should be improved firstly or the three elements should be improved simultaneously without much difference. During the course of improvement, a certain order should be followed due to the rule existing in the interactions of the management elements.

On a final note, it is worth to reiterate that this study has explored management consultancy among SMEs. Results show that the order by which it should be emphasized or prioritized is resource management followed by organizational management and finaly quality management. The latter reveals the routine of the developing enterprises. The managerial implication is that to enterprises, high quality is based on effective organization and resource management while excellent organizational issues rely on effective management. This explains the dependency management consultancy which determines the difference between some enterprises and others.

There are numerous limitations to this research study and therefore creates room for further research. This study has its own limitations just like any other. First of all, although the enterprises analyzed in this study are technologically-intensive and cover some sub industries, these enterprises are mostly private and may not represent the whole of the high technology industry. Thus, interpretation of the findings from the study should be conservative. Secondly, through the survey conducted, personal bias due to subjective responses to the questionnaires should be taken into considerations. Thirdly, the theme of research is not fixed. As the environment changes, the applications will also change. The latter may affect routine practices in an organization. This has been left for future research.

References

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