The Rise Of The V-Suite

As I continue to gather feedback from the small business community around working with coaching and consulting professionals, there still seems to be an immense amount of confusion about how each of these various service providers add value to the organisations they partner with.

Almost three years ago, I officially launched my business coaching practice based on my understanding and interpretation of what a business coach offered at that time. What I later realised was that the market had a vastly different perception of what that entailed. In fact, I quickly learned that the term was so broadly used (overused) and seemed to overlap with all sorts of other types of coaching that whenever I was either working with an existing client or explaining what I offer to both referral partners and prospective clients, the response was overwhelmingly consistent: “It sounds like you are more than a business coach”.

My initial reaction was to go down the path of trying to alter this misguided view and to build a new narrative around what I believed a genuine business coach should be doing to help their clients manage growth. While this approach had fuelled my desire to enhance the perceived value of business coaching in Australia, it became apparent that I was driving my own agenda and not really listening to what my target market was telling me.

I decided that I could no longer ignore all these subtle messages and began to intentionally observe how the professional advisory and consulting eco-system has been marketing to their respective target base. Those with a clear business focus have moved away from the coach brand positioning and differentiated their offering as “business growth strategist” or something similar. On the other hand, with the rise of the virtual C-Suite or as I like to call it the “V-Suite” such as virtual CFOs’ and CEOs’ becoming more prevalent in the SME space, there seems to be growing evidence that suggests small business owners are increasingly looking for a more hands on trusted advisor, who brings a set of skills to the table that go beyond just an advisory or coaching service. This means that the coaching aspect of the relationship is just an expected element of the wider offering.

This brings me to highlighting an additional consultant to the virtual family, the virtual general manager (VGM). Although this term is not new and is technically not part of the c-suite post-nominals club, there are consultants out there operating in this capacity in the micro and small business area, who are playing an integral role in shaping their clients’ business growth strategy.

Like all businesses, there is a constant need to adapt, evolve and refine. To this end, it is timely to reveal some subtle changes to the brand positioning of Orizon Consulting as a small business consultancy and virtual general manager. Taking this a step further, here is my opinion on how a VGM may differ from your traditional business coach:

Proven track record as a business allrounder

This is where exposure across various functions in business within different organisations provides the opportunity to constantly problem solve from a multidisciplinary perspective and removes the subtle nuances of a type of groupthink that can occur internally. The most common warning sign I see all too often is when the “stay in your lane” mentality drives most of the decision making going forward.

Apart from directly managing staff, the VGM should have a broad understanding of all key focus areas within the business such as sales and marketing, finance, operations and human resources. While there is certainly a high degree of strategic advisory that takes place with the client, the VGM will also tend to cross over into the realm of additional team member or resource available to the wider business. This usually results in helping to make direct improvements in the business that further enhances product or service delivery.

Project management ability

Rather than a set and forget approach, a VGM continues to be a point of contact for the business and often acts as a project manager when the need for specialist outsourcing occurs. Hiring a VGM also works particularly well when the business is looking to reposition their brand, expand into new markets or develop a new product or service offering to sustain their competitive advantage in an uncompromising business landscape. Bringing in an outside perspective that provides a more balanced and holistic viewpoint on developing strategy, while at the same time having someone who revels in the opportunity to gets their hands dirty in some shape or form, is a sure way to avoid paralysis by analysis and speed up the process to reach desired objectives.

Return on investment

Whether linked to financial objectives such as revenue and profit, operational efficiencies in service delivery or new talent acquisition and retention, engaging a VGM is a cost-effective outsourcing strategy that should always be results oriented. The ability to hire a highly skilled management level resource at a fraction of the cost and “with no strings attached” avoids mounting pressures associated with providing career progression pathways and eliminates stress around potential performance issues down the track.     

Supporting credentials

The last point to make is that a VGM should have specific skills and experience in business management that includes tangible evidence on how they have gone about solving complex problems across all key functional areas within small to medium size businesses. In my view, this should also be backed up with advanced education and training in business that provides an additional layer of depth and credibility to the solutions they offer.

In summary, the virtual GM offers a genuine alternative for accelerating and managing growth for small businesses. Personal and professional development is par for the course and is just another add on to the overall investment. The real benefit in engaging one is the potential for a longer-term working partnership that creates the time and space for exploring new possibilities and lessening the burden of small business ownership.     

The Rise Of The V-Suite
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