The Rise Of The Consultant

It’s human nature to compare oneself to people you perceive to be more successful than you. Social media has made this worse, as outlined in an excellent blog from the ever self-effacing Mel Kenny.

It’s an old marketing approach of course. Create the impression that others are better than you, then offer the product or service that can enable you to achieve such heights yourself.

Since RDR there seem to have been a plethora of consultants and firms that have sprung up to tell advisory practice owners how to run their firms. ‘Just do it like I tell you’, they imply, ‘and and you too can have a business which is as successful as all our other clients’.

There seem to be so many of them now, all with secret knowledge that will save us poor IFAs from ruin and transform our practices. If it carries on this way in six months time there may well be more consultants than there are regulated firms.

I’m tempted to propose that the FCA should regulate consultants who advise on the advisory sector. That’d learn ’em (as we say down here in Bristol).

Now, there is a great deal of common sense and good practice coming from these consultants, lots of which is to be found on this very site. But my issue is with the idea that any one way is the right way. That any particular changes are necessary and essential. How do we know what they are proposing is right for us? 

In 2006 I had a meeting with a chap from a management consultancy firm (names removed to protect the incompetent, but he was Australian). I thought he was coming to see me to network, to consider common ground and whether we might introduce clients to each other. Turns out he was actually there to pitch for me as a client. He asked me a few questions about my business model, how being fee based worked. But only a few.

He then spent twenty minutes telling me I should be commission based, like the Australian model, that there was no money in being fee based, and that the transactional model would earn me more money and was the future for the industry. 

At times such people make you feel like you are in Monty Python’s argument sketch. “Look, in order to sell my consultancy advice to you, I have to take up the contrary position.” “No you don’t.” “Yes I do!”

But how do you know that other businesses which have successfully used these ideas had the same objectives as you? I tried to explain to the Australian management consultant that I wasn’t interested in high commissions now, I wanted a loyal client base, high repeatable income and a business with value. I wanted to sleep at night, not worry about the next sale, and was content to sacrifice earnings today for predictable long term income. He didn’t hear me, probably because he had no experience of such a model.

I stress, I’m not saying the business models and ideas that consultants and guru advisers propose are wrong or don’t work. I’m just suggesting that the temptation to think the grass is always greener on the other side can be overcome by going over to the other side and having a look. But an alternative might be to get a better understanding of what kind of grass you want to eat in the first place.

Chris Budd is a qualified business coach. That fooled you, didn’t it. You thought he was going to mention his novel again.