On my LinkedIn profile it says, “All my life I’ve hated consultants, so I decided to start my own consultancy.” So, what is a consultant? I think the best way to describe a consultant is "It’s someone that is consulted for their expertise, advice, or help for a fee."
So, the big question, is it worth spending money on a consultant? Yes, but only if you make more money back than you paid the consultant, and that's the problem.
A few years ago, I went to a talk at the Bradford Business School, called - “Do management consultants steal your watch and then tell you the time? Or do they help you and your business?”
They talked and talked about all sorts of rubbish with their back to the audience reading from their PowerPoint, the audience couldn’t read or understand the small text, graphs and photos. Halfway through the talk, I thought to myself, "I’ve come here on the bus and so far, they’ve not only stolen my watch, but they’re charging me for telling the time." I then went home on the bus.
If that’s the case, why do people hire consultants? I think one reason is something called "Ass Covering." Because if something goes wrong, you can "cover your ass" by telling the boss that someone else advised you by using lots of research, surveys and nice graphs.
My experience has been that consultants ask lots of questions, then add lots more words, graphs and surveys to what you told them. They then give it back to you in a bound document and folder, along with an invoice.
Many years ago, a large retail chain hired a big consultancy because their sales were going down. After a lengthy and complicated process, the conclusion was that "they need to reposition themselves as more of an internet business." Before spending all that money, the MD could have left his office, walked into a shop, asked the staff or customers and they would have told him “The future is internet shopping and smartphones.” He would have got this without the expensive paper, folder and PowerPoint.
I gave a talk to a group of “Professors of Entrepreneurship” at a conference. It occurred to me while I was talking, “None of these Professors have ever started or ran a business.” Is it the same for a lot of consultants?
I love Simon Cowell because if you can't sing, he'll tell you "You can't sing," I'm like that, I’m known for being a provocateur, but have I got it wrong about consultants? They can’t all be bad, some maybe, but not all. What do you think?
Ajaz Ahmed, Chief Provocateur, Cut the Cr*p.