Commandment seven of the excellent book: The Ten Commandments for Business Failure addresses the mistake of putting all your faith in experts and outside consultants. The book and commandment seven is neither anti experts nor anti consultants. Experts and consultants certainly have their place and, given the right situations, can create great value for all concerned. In commandment seven, Don Keough offers intriguing true stories demonstrating that when too much faith, trust and influence is vested in experts and outside consultants, the results can be and many times are disastrous.
Many experts and virtually all outside consultants go from place to place, from business to business, pitching their expertise, experience, wisdom, predictions, capabilities and even influence. Again, that is not all bad for sure. However, because of their impact and influence, some experts and outside consultants actually start a trend or movement within business and the economy, or they add critical mass or momentum to a trend or activity that may not be good for all concerned, or may not truly “have legs.”
One need look no further than the current real estate mess within the United States for an excellent, real-life example. The ease with which money could be accessed and borrowed, with virtually no demonstration of reasonable ability to repay the loan and interest, was in large part driven by experts and consultants from the beginning of our most recent real estate boom. All enablers should accept and shoulder their part in creating a disastrous situation for tens of millions of Americans, including the financial and other experts and consultants who fueled the flames and made billions in profits before the bottom fell out.
Don Keough relates a simple and amusing story to make the point:
It’s October and an Indian chief believes it’s going to be a cold winter. So he tells his tribe to collect firewood. To double-check his prediction, the chief calls the National Weather Service and asks a meteorologist if the winter is going to be a cold one. The weatherman says, ‘according to our indicators, we think it might.’ So the chief tells his people to find extra wood just in case. A week later he calls the National Weather Service again, and they confirm that a harsh winter is headed their way. The chief orders all his people to scavenge every scrap of wood they can find. Two weeks later, the chief calls the National Weather Service again and asks, ‘Are you sure this winter is going to be cold?’ ‘Absolutely,’ the weatherman replies. ‘The Indians are collecting wood like crazy.’
Years ago, I was hired as a hospital CEO and charged with the responsibility to create and lead a healthcare organization which at the time had no land, no buildings, no money, no doctors, no patients and certainly no revenue. In fact, I was the first and only employee of this new organization for a number of months. Because money was extremely scarce as we created this new organization, we rarely used outside experts or consultants. However over time I learned, through personal experience, the significant value appropriate experts and consultants can deliver.
Unfortunately, through personal experience, I also learned the opposite. In these situations the experts and consultants quickly move on. The CEO, leadership team, all staff and related parties are left to live with the results… good… bad… or indifferent.
As in all areas of life, it’s a matter of choice, judgment and balance. In a critical area such as appropriate use of experts and outside consultants, be sure you carefully and thoughtfully evaluate your short-term and longer-term options and choices. Also, regardless of the enthusiasm for the pitch and potential synergy, be absolutely sure you have carefully thought through and created appropriate exit strategies for your experts and consultants. Exit strategies that will leave you and your organization viable, healthy and positively moving forward. I guarantee you, if you are in business for any length of time, you will need those exit strategies.
If you want to fail, “Put All Your Faith in Experts and Outside Consultants.” You will achieve failure; it will simply be a matter of time… probably not much time!