Taking the Con out of Consulting

There are a lot of different consultants out there. I found this information a while ago and thought it would be an interesting thing to post. Sorry but I don't recall the author or I would provide the link or credit. In the list there were seven kinds of consultants: minders, grinders, finders, face men finders, clingers, we wills and bait and switchers. Most clients have no idea which is which or whom they need when. And that can hurt you. I thought this would be good information to share so others can learn. Maybe you recognize a few of these individuals. Hopefully not too many.


First are the grinders, the people you call in if you have a seasonal need or want a problem-specific troop of arms and legs to come in and crank out an obvious solution. They are a nano-inch wide but 100 miles deep. For a particular problem that may occur over and over throughout the corporation, having that depth is valuable. A human resources consultant might be a good example. If you're going to be downsizing or re-shifting every so often, it helps to have someone around who knows how to handle the back end severance and outplacements. They can spread that knowledge wherever it's needed in the organization. But in most circumstances, having someone with that depth with you day in and day out is a waste. These people might not know how to think outside of the box. They know one thing well, but applying that thing to a situation that's different from the one they're used to is something they don't have any feel for.


Minders are the people who have the real expertise and run the consultant teams. They're the ones who deliver all the economic value to the client. If results emerge at all, they will emerge from them. The minders generally have three years' experience at the firm, so they're usually younger adults, and those individuals are under extraordinary pressure to build a lot of hours into the assignment and plant roots at your company. Thus, you can imagine how hard it is for them to muster up the courage to tell you the truth-that you're running your business into the ground. After all, if you don't want to hear it or to do what they suggest to fix it, you'll fire them. Then they won't make partner because they will have lost all those invoicing hours.


The finders are like rainmakers in law firms-they spend most of their time managing prospective relationships. They're the people who may really have something interesting to say about your organization, and every consulting firm probably has one or two. They are the people who really drive the franchise. At the same time, though, most consulting firms aren't set up to pay them what they deserve. Sure, they may earn a lot of bucks a year, but given the business they bring in, they're often worth five or ten times that. So they're the ones who eventually leave. Most of the great talent walks right out the door sooner or later because they know they can make more money somewhere else.


An unfortunate subset of the finders is what are called the face finders, who talk the talk but can't walk the walk. They have friends from the train or the golf course who get them business at their company. Once they land the business, then in comes the young folks who end up running the consulting job. At the end, the face finders look at the report change a few sentences and then front the thing at the final meeting with the client. It's been so long since many of those face finders had to do any real work that they've lost ability to execute. Instead, they hydroplane, jumping across the water, working on many assignments at a time without ever getting their feet wet in any of them and adding little value. The dynamic is truly scary having someone who is technically incompetent certifying the competence of the consulting team you're about to hire. Here is this old-timer who for 15 years hasn't done anything, sitting there telling the client that the firm's people are bright and that they have a proprietary understanding that will allow the client to do better. But if they haven't done any work in over a decade, how can they have any idea whether their team is good at what they do?


Consulting firms have made their money by teaching their young that their job is to cling tenaciously to every client, and that they'll be rewarded and promoted on the basis of their ability to do that. Their goal is to stay inside forever.


When consultants are pitching business, the "we will” in "We will promise to make you well" is always an interesting thing. Just because "we" have fixed a company like yours in the past doesn't mean "I," the person who's pitching your business, was actually a part of it. Six of the people who did that kind of work before may be dead and the other three have probably left the firm.


The bait-and-switch works this way. Each time a contract is put up for bid, the consultant may win the business. So the bid gets the best team, the second company gets the second-best team, and so on.

Now you know a bit more about consultants!


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