In common with a lot of men, I hate shopping for clothes. Perhaps because I’m missing that whole ‘tie, belt, shoes’ co-ordination gene. When the kids were younger I was on the road more and would often spend time looking for stuff for them. It was something to do over a weekend or a way to kill the boredom of another anonymous airport. But shopping for myself, is about as exciting as counting red cars on the M50. To overcome this mild shopping phobia, I typically buy in bulk. 3 pairs of shoes, 2 suits, 4 shirts. Get it done; a chore completed.
Buy Cheap: You will be familiar with the phrase ‘when you buy cheap, you buy twice’. Low cost suits look good for a little while. But after a couple of outings to the cleaners, I end up looking like Quasimodo’s brother. So, I tend to buy less often and get good stuff. Maybe I’m just a slave to labels – living proof of PT Barnum’s quip: ‘there’s one sucker born every minute’. But I believe that, generally speaking, you get what you pay for.
Consulting Expertise: When it comes to buying consulting expertise, clients are faced with a similar pricing dilemma. At one end of the spectrum are consultants who are ‘treading water’. People in-between real jobs who will work for almost nothing to ensure that their next ‘interview story’ is seamless. And good luck to them – I would do exactly the same if our roles were reversed. You then have a league table of fulltime consultants – ranging from the 3rd division to the premiership. And just like buying clothes, you get what you pay for. The real trick is to understand the difference between inputs (what you pay for) and outputs (the organization results delivered).
Cost Addiction: Some managers who buy consulting services are over-focused on the cost. Like that old definition of a cynic – someone who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing– they believe that they are getting a great deal by automatically going for the lowest price. Are they? It depends!
Judging Outcomes: Great consulting should deliver sustainable change to an organization. Clients should be able to remember the quality of the work completed, long after they have forgotten the price. Poor consulting takes as much time and effort to set up and simply does not produce the goods. Yet all consultants show up in the pin-stripes and present their best war stories; it’s just that some of these stories are not real. The trick, for clients, is to be able to ‘spot the difference’.
This argument may seem self-serving, even slightly arrogant. But that’s my two pence worth.
PS Executive Relaxation: As a reward for reading this far, take 2 more minutes ‘time out’ and paste the following link into Google or your browser. Sit back and enjoy! It’s very funny.