domingo, 27 de enero de 2013

CONSULTANTS ARE LOSERS...or are they? Questions to consider before hiring consultants

My father used to always say "consultants are failed entrepreneurs," which has biased me against consultants all of my life. And to throw gas on that fire, over the last few years,  I have personally met failed entrepreneurs who at one point or another turned to the consulting business. Suffice to say, I am not a guy that would likely ever hire a consultant. Let me just go out and say it, for me "consultant" meant "L-O-S-E-R."

Other business people and entrepreneurs have told me the same line: consultants waste time and money, charge ridiculous fees -  and what the hell do they know about my business anyway?!?!!

But then last year I found myself in need of a written business plan for a franchise I am building.  I had to face the fact that I did not have the skills, nor the desire, to write a business plan. Besides, I´d much rather delegate jobs to people more talented than myself. 

So I took a leap of faith. Eventually, I came across a franchise business consultant and business plan writer. 

This was my first question to her: 

If you are an expert in franchises, why don't you own your own franchise. 
I am not an entrepreneur. 

Good answer - no BS. I liked that...and I'd rather hear that than some excuse about past failures or how "one day..."  And so, I gave it a shot.

We ended up creating a great business plan, and since then my bias against consultants has fallen   - just a bit. 

Perhaps that was a good thing:  last week  I had the opportunity for a free consultancy with Everis, one of Spain's top consulting companies, via The Madrid International Lab for Entrepreneurs. 

I was skeptical and I skipped out on my first meeting with them because, well,  I had more important things to do. 

My thinking was, for starters, that these guys knew nothing about my business, so what gave the the right to give me any advice? Second, from their web site it looked like they were in the tech/telcom business, and my company has nothing to do that. Finally, I assumed that they were just looking for new clients. 

But it turned out to be a valuable experience. 

First,  it took a long time for them to "get" what my business does - which made me realize that I need to get better at explaining it.

Second, they had experience in franchises and were able to give some general pointers. Now, maybe those franchises had nothing to do with mine, but in general "services" franchises work on the same concepts, so I was able to see what I need to work on. 

In the end, I would say that I walked away with 2 or 3 points to seriously consider - now that may not seem like a lot after a 45 minute consultancy session, but actually, those pointers may prove to be very significant

So now that I am starting to think that consultants aren't that bad, I've come up with a few questions to ask yourself when hiring a consultant:

1.  Why doesn't this person own their own business? (after all, one-to-one consultancy is time consuming and  personality-based businesses are hard to delegate and not scalable...Wouldn't they rather be golfing?). 

2. If the consultant is a failed entrepreneur, is there anything specific to their failures that is going to help you avoid those mistake. Just go right out and ask them! 

3. What do they know that you don't? 

4. Am I too close to my business to be objective? Do I need an impartial opinion to help me cut through the noise?

5. Am I willy to fully commit to the process and take this person seriously?

6. What is the final goal?

7.  Has this person worked in a large range of industries and sectors and thus I can count on this diversity for new insights?

The facts is that some people do not believe in consultants and never will - and probably some people will actually never need one. But so far, so good for me. 

Hit me up with your thoughts. 

miércoles, 23 de enero de 2013

Necessities vs Aspirations

Toilet paper is a necessity. 
Using something other than your hand to wipe your ass is an aspiration. 
If you want to change the world, sell aspirations.

domingo, 20 de enero de 2013

What Neanderthals can teach us about networking and innovation.

Today, I came across this article about a scientist who wants to bring back the Neanderthals a la Jurassic Park and ended up reading up on what actually made them go extinct in the first place.

As it turns out, contemporary theory contradicts the traditionally view that Neanderthals were bulky oafs; rather, as they had larger craniums, it is actually more likely that they were more intelligent than modern man. So, if they were so smart, why did they die out?

They answer?:  They didn't network well. 

Due to the shape and position of the Neanderthal larynx,  they could emit only a very limited range of sounds. Communicating complicated ideas would have been difficult; and as this article points out, although intelligence foments inventiveness, it is the ability to share that information that allows societies to flourish: 
Studying the inventiveness of Homo Sapiens scientists have found that literally all the major innovations that have changed the way we live, from the use of fire, to agriculture, to writing etc., have developed only in a few places. For example agriculture appeared independently only in around seven places on the entire planet. All the rest of human populations that engaged in farming did it because they had learned it from somebody. Therefore, the most important aspect of inventiveness is not the ability to invent, but the ability to transmit and to preserve innovations.
Neanderthals couldn't spread ideas efficiently; on the other hand, one of our biggest assets as a Homo Sapiens is the ability to learn from others -  to absorb innovation and improve upon it. Try to remember that next time you're stuck in a rut. Rather than sit there waiting for that Eureka moment, trying going to a few of those places where you know innovation is happening (meet ups, events, conventions).

Get out of the cave! ;-)

martes, 15 de enero de 2013

Sing To Your Own Choir - it's okay!

The vast majority of successful entrepreneurs will tell you that ideas are not  important - execution is. Thus,  no matter what your idea is, it can succeed -  if you have the right execution.

This means that any negative opinions from your family members, friends, companions, etc, are pretty much pointless. Again, the idea just doesn´t matter that much. And if your idea is very innovative, it´s probably a complete waste of time talking to others about it as people tend to react negatively to anything new or different.

So save yourself the mental distress and only listen to the people who support your idea - you´ll need that motivation because entrepreneurship is no picnic in the park. Sing to your own choir!

domingo, 13 de enero de 2013

Don't be a pig: court your customers

Imagine a time-traveler who went out to a bar last night and got himself laid. Good for him, right. High-five, bro.

It was so good, in fact, that he decides to go back in time and repeat it. But this time, being an impatient time traveler, he tries to pick up the pace:  this time he walks up to the girl in question, and gets to the point right away:

"I am the best guy in this bar and in three hours, you'll come home with me. So let's get started: what's your name?"

And he proceeds to get his face shampooed by her cocktail.

Defeated, he drags himself home alone wondering went wrong. After all, if she was willing to go him with him last time, what changed? He's the same guy, right?

Selling the exchange of bodily fluids with another human is probably a lot tougher than selling your business's products or services - but the concept is the same: people buy emotional experiences, not products.

 You might be the best guy in the bar - the best future lover or boyfriend or husband, but again, people buy experiences, not products.

Instead of getting right down to it, wouldn't it be better to find out more about your client and allow them to learn more about you? Is the client flexible or rigid? Are you innovative and collaborative? Think about you and the client as if you were finding each other on dating web sites. Do you match up?

Business relationships often have a lot in common with personal ones. If you are not courting your customers, you might be guilty of being a business pig.

sábado, 12 de enero de 2013

Dealing with insults

Get insulted? Next time it happens, ask yourself  "Why is this person insulting me?" Usually that answer to that has nothing to do with the actual words being said - they just want to cut you down for whatever reason. So be it.  Perhaps they need to justify a pre-conceived opinion they have formed about you, or maybe they hate themselves that day. Whatever - not your problem. Insecure people insult others -they expose themselves far worse than they insult you. Walk the high road and take pity on the weak: brush it off and remove yourself from these toxic people.  But no matter what happens, when  you feel insulted, the best answer is good old silence and walking away. Finally,  if you are the one who has done the insulting, it's never too late to wise up, apologize, and start again - they may not forgive you, but that is not the point in any case.

On seeking advice from others

When you ask someone for advice, if the person doesn't reply by asking you questions, stop listening.

He or she isn't interested in your aspirations and is simply projecting a different word view on to you - they are bulldozers of opinion. But if someone begins by asking you questions about your goals, choices, products, services,  intentions, and practices, then you've found someone who is truly trying to understand what you're trying to accomplish and will aid you by revealing useful insights. These are the mentors and coaches and psychologists of the world - they help you to open your own eyes, not see the world through theirs.

Everyone is a self-proclaimed expert - but few people are actually going to be helpful with regard to your specific dream. Seek advise from who bombard you with questions, not comments.