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But That's Just Me

Monday, December 20, 2010   (0 Comments)
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By Kevin Berchelmann

Like many of you, I'm frequently asked questions by new or growing consultants. The questions range from lead generation to billing to creating a network... and many more.

I generally answer any reasonable questions with as complete an answer as I can muster. But I end every answer with a simple statement: But that's just me...

Over time, I've come to use that phrase regularly. There simply is no magical 12-page guide to consulting. There's no one way to do everything in this business, only ways that have or haven't worked for someone else. Even more confusing, what doesn't work for me may perform swimmingly for you. Further, we may espouse one thing and then personally provide the contradiction to that rule.

For example: I state clearly that we should work solely through the real buyer. The Grand Poobah. In reality, two of my largest clients have come from key influencers, not decision-makers. Go figure. I break my own rule, make money on the transgression, yet continue to promote my rule. Ours is a funny business.

I make this point for two reasons: First, in spite of the countless experts, gurus, and self-proclaimed thought leaders, there's not just one way to do this stuff. Many say that cold-calling, pain and all, is essential. Others say that they would die first. Some say that they build business solely on referrals. Most, however, never share the efforts required to get those referrals. This business is dynamic; there may be a few over-arching principles, but by and large, we make our own path.

The second reason I bring this us is to remind us to be careful with whom we accept counsel. Merely being in business for ten years doesn't mean someone used a principle or "rule" effectively. Further, just because someone says they know the answer doesn't mean they really do. And finally, beware false prophets. Especially those who cling to a credential as evidence of their worth.

Consultants have been around for a long time. Some would argue we're the second-oldest profession; others may even make some snide, not-so-humorous analogies to the oldest profession.

Ok, some of those are humorous...

Regardless, advisors have been "advising" leaders for thousands of years. Not all "advisors," however, are created equal. And here's a key -- merely belonging to an important tribe, club, or company doesn't make the advice any better.

A story...

Almost 2,500 years ago, there was a King called Xerxes, intent on destroying those pesky Greeks and their armies. Surprisingly, the Greeks took exception to this, and were quite formidable opponents. Just as the King was preparing for a big battle, there was a total solar eclipse. Today, we grab the kids, rush outside and say "ooh," and "aaah;" 2,000 years ago, people ran inside screaming "holy crap, the world is ending!"

Anyway, King Xerxes needed advice about this new development. With no expert on staff, he brought in his consultant -- called a "Magi." Think modern-day McKinsey by lineage... Xerxe's Magi analyzed the eclipse (undoubtedly with PowerPoint slides and 4-square models), and advised the King that he should proceed with his battle. This Magi foreshadowed a great victory for King Xerxes.

King Xerxes, of course, had his butt handed to him by the Greeks. It wasn't pretty. I'm certain the Magi, probably on retainer, had good reasons for this marked lapse in effective counsel.

Why does this matter to you? Simple: be cautious from whom you accept counsel. You didn't get where you are today by buying snake oil, so don't buy it now when you get advice that (a) doesn't seem logically thought out, (b) comes from someone who's biggest or only credential is his or her "tribe," and/or (c) if it just doesn't pass your "sniff" test.

Advisor, consultant, consigliore, Magi... these have long been trusted positions of influence in Kingdoms, businesses, and mafias (I leave it to you to decide which is yours); they have a place, and are frequently a huge asset to our success.

Use care, however, when selecting.

But that's just me...

D. Kevin Berchelmann is President of Triangle Performance, LLC. He provides results in areas such as management strategy, and organizational development, including compensation, succession planning, and Leadership Development. Clients include Archer-Daniels Midland, Sprint, and more. His firm was recently awarded #9 on Houston's Fast 100, fastest growing companies in Houston. You can reach Kevin at, @TriangleKB on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.