Occasionally, my companies need to work with an outside consulting firm, and one of the things I least like about my job is working with outside consulting firms.
Its not that I don’t appreciate or understand the value a consulting firm can provide. Many bring valuable insight to your business, to solving a problem, or developing a strategy or plan forward. They can bring a perspective that the business owner, leaders and employees can’t see, primarily due to the fact that they are outside of the business looking in, so they have objective awareness.
But here’s my issue with consulting firms. More often than not, they give us work to do. It’s like being back in high school and getting homework assignments, and we all remember the teachers we liked the best were those who never gave any homework. Therefore, when we hire a consulting firm, I fully anticipate that we will be given homework assignments, and thus prepare accordingly.
Recently, we hired a new consulting firm, and it quickly became evident this firm was taking the homework assignment a little too far. After numerous emails instructing us to do assignments, prepare documents and develop information, we had to make a call and tell them to back off. While well-intentioned, their efforts were more disruptive to our business than helpful. They made working with them too hard for us.
I work with many clients in a variety of industries. If I could select the one consistent complaint that customers make about vendors or service providers, it would be companies that make it too difficult or frustrating to buy their products or use their services.
There are a variety of instances causing these frustrations: vendors who require too many forms, too much paperwork or too many restrictions; service providers who demand agreement to their terms, accepting their conditions, or signing their documents without flexibility or negotiation; or, as in the case of the aforementioned consulting firm, making overwhelming demands that cause the customer to finally push back.
One executive recently told me, “it’s frustrating when I am dealing with a vendor or supplier, and it starts to feel as if they are the customer, and not me. That’s when I know it’s time to make a change.”
There is no business that can exist without customers. When a business makes it difficult and frustrating to be a customer, that business may soon find their customers will seek out companies who don’t make them work so hard to buy a product or a service.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.