The Consulting Caveat Emptor

(Or a consultant should commit to value)

Business consulting is an odd game. The best known business consultants (you know the ones you see on TV) are some of the worst examples of the profession, in my view. The majority of practical business consultants are more like tradesmen than showmen, the consultants you see on TV are more performers than builders. I have very little respect for the kind of intelligence that needs to invent new buzzwords for ordinary concepts, and then goes about applying their meme to every situation, trademarking it, writing a book about it . . . Having worked with a few of these folks i have to say the quick hit of enthusiasm they provide comes at a pretty high price.

By personality I'm the architect/craftsman variety of consultant, I spend most of my time actually building, not just advising, and I am taking responsibility for the stuff I do to actually work in the field. Like everyone else i have been horrified by scandals (the ones we hear about usually involve government, but the same happens in private firms of course) where a consulting group has just cashed a huge cheque for something that ultimately doesn't work or was useless in the first place. Ethically, Professionally, I don't find that kind of behavior acceptable. An honorable business stands by their products and delivers value for money.

Certainly there is a lot of things as a consultant that you have no control over that can ruin the value of the work i do. I have had a few situations working with a good staff, to develop a really good plan just to have senior management kibosh it all and run madly off in a different direction, completely wasting everyone's time. There is one memorable associate i worked with who was apt to say "If you ask for advice then you don't follow the advice - you don't need a consultant, you need therapy. I don't do therapy." Those are the exceptions, thankfully rare, because like any true professional - if the work i do doesn't translate into value for the customer even if it is beyond my control, I'm not happy.

Essentially this is my job: taking responsibility for things to work out well. That means getting the specifications right. That means setting up the appropriate expectations. That means telling the whole unvarnished truth the best i can, all the time. That means looking around the corners and avoiding the pitfalls. That means keeping the lines of communication open and talking before anything can get headed in the wrong direction. My work is good and I have no qualms backing it up with this commitment to value.