While the internet has been a tremendous benefit in many areas of our lives, the doctors I know say it’s a nightmare for them. Based on their online “research,” most patients today come into a doctor’s office certain that they know exactly what their problem is and what the treatment should be. Doctors have to spend a significant amount of time convincing patients that they might not know quite as much as they think they do.
As a consultant to owners of independent advisory businesses, I can relate. When I take on a new client, nine times out of 10, the first thing they want to do is tell me what their problem is and what needs to be done about it. And as you might have guessed, I find that they are wrong about that same ratio of the time.
While this may seem self-serving, I believe that all businesses, including advisory businesses, can benefit from good outside business consultants. In fact, the most successful advisory firms I know establish relationships with a consultant before they need one so they can quickly get the help they need when the time comes.
With that said, not all business owners are equal when it comes to benefiting from working with a consultant. Here are four of the biggest mistakes that I see business owners make with consultants, and how they reduce a consultant’s ability to help them:
They see their business as a collection of separate parts rather than as a whole. From this perspective, owners tend to look for simple solutions. If they need more clients, they get a marketing plan. If they are disorganized, they create an org chart. If an employee isn’t working out, they fire them and get someone else. If employee turnover is too high, they create a more generous compensation plan, etc.
As a consultant, I find that much of the value I add is to help owners see their business as one entity, made up of very closely related parts; so closely that if you change one part, it usually affects all the other parts — and not necessarily in a good way.
What’s more, a problem in one area is quite often caused by a problem in a seemingly unrelated area. For instance, slow client growth could be due to a low referral rate from existing clients, resulting from poor or uneven client service or poor client communications. A new marketing plan producing more clients isn’t going to fix that.
They don’t want to do things differently. If I had a dollar for every client who didn’t want to fix a problem because it was “the way we’ve always done it” … .