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Saturday, September 20, 2014

DOTC Prime - TheDeathOfTheConsultants

...this is a rant...good for the soul...from July 6, 2013

During the first 12 months, of our incorporation, we've explored the many nooks and crannies of a sector of our niche typically haunted by trainers, coaches, advisers, analysts, gurus, sages, and prophets.

Often, when we attempt to tell people what it is we do for a living, we get one or more of the following responses:

  • "Oh, you must be consultants like Photizo..." - understood, but no.
  • "Oh, you work with end-users, helping them weed out MpS programs..." - goodness, no.
  • "Oh, you're trainers like Strategy Development..." - nope.
  • "Oh, you're providers like Preo..." - huh?
  • "Oh, you're an MpS Practice, like OnePrint..." - sorta, only not.
  • "Oh, you're analysts like IDC..." - not even close.
  • "Oh, you're recruiters..." - again, sorta, only not.
  • "Oh, you're writers..." - isn't EVERYONE?
These responses make sense because folks think of us as people who have answers. To be fair, with a combined 40 years in this nutty business, we easily slip into the consultant role.

  • We've helped companies sell more managed print services.
  • We've helped people learn more about managed print services.
  • We've helped end-users evaluate their MpS providers and IT support program that they provide to their end users.
  • We've shown people the importance of establishing solid partnerships and moving beyond "vendor".
  • We've written hundreds of articles about managed print, managed services, the cloud, and technology.
  • We assess MpS programs, evaluate Remote Monitoring and Management(RMM), Professional Services Automation(PSA), Mobility offerings from IBM to AppleMSP systems(Collabrance, Level Platforms, NAble, Continuum, etc.), and Business Intelligence(BI) programs like SAS and MicroStrategy.
  • We're helping selling professionals break out of the cube and find employment, working for themselves or their perfect company.
  • IT Directors ask us for help measuring the gaps in their IT portfolio by determining the level of maturity for both their providers and end-users.  On and on...

Consultant, Analyst, Instructor, or Sages?

We've called ourselves 'consultants', but we've never liked the aftertaste. We don't want to be simply consultants.

We dialogue at an hourly rate with those thinking about getting into "MpS" or the "copier industry".

But we don't want to be simply analysts forecasting from the sidelines utilizing data, interviews, and algorithms.

We've both sold copiers, facilities management, EDM, software, services, blocks of time, toner, people, and projects and we've been paid to teach others how we've done it.

We can teach your sales team over the Internet, just like all the other trainers. Heck, we can even put together an hour-long commercial, call it "educational", on how our technique is better than theirs and present it at the next conference.

But we don't simply want to be instructors whose relevance fades with each passing day.

"Risk? What risk.  Sign up for my 600-month training program and everything will be fine.  Press hard, you're making 12 copies..."

We've learned some pundits simply TELL people how others have done it, without ever doing it themselves.  Worse, most programs are geared for quantity, instead of the quality of relationships - they sell seats, not success.  The moment you leave their class, session, or webinar, it's time to sell more seats.

Now, this model works - millions have joined Tony Robbins over the coals.  Yet,  it is easy to see how the angst in our little niche revolves around empty promises and misaligned expectation levels typically set by people who have little risk in the outcome and gain from the mystery they, themselves generate.

Remember, who were the folks who promoted the phrase, "Where there is a mystery, there is margin"?
- if we create the mystery, we create the margin.

Think about that for a second.
Benchmarks, KPI, and the way others have done it -

Another intriguing and mystifying aspect of the consulting gig is benchmarking.  Benchmarks sound good - a measuring of something deemed as an industry standard - "How can you get where you're going if you don't know where you are?" so the saying goes.

But if everyone is going in the wrong direction, why should you?  Because you're comfortable in crowds, aren't you?  Admit it.

The analysts and consultants create the benchmark, which in turn illustrates a GAP that can only be filled by attending a class, their class - or hiring an expert, their expert.  Think I'm wrong, ask one. Insidious.  There is a big difference between creating benchmarks and discovering your, unique measuring marks.

"Skin in the game. Put it on the Line. Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk. "
Let's not consult, let's form a joint venture.  

The next time you sit in on one of those 'educational sessions' which ends up being nothing more than the copier industry version of a time-share-trap - raise your hand and ask,

"You say you know how to make managed print services model work?  You think you've got the best managed services go to market plan?  The greatest general ledger structure? Prove it with me, not to me."

Suggest instead of signing up for their 12-week study group, you pay for a bit of infrastructure assistance, then your dealership and his consultancy form a joint partnership splitting the profit. (vs. savings)

How's that for a consulting model?

Our goal has always been to help others and receive value in return.  You can imagine how difficult this can be from outside the business.  So we've changed the way we think - again - by embedding into the culture and making adjustments daily, sometimes hourly, to the Master Plan.  A process is impossible to accomplish in a webinar or classroom.

One of the most difficult aspects of consulting is remaining relevant.  Once removed from the daily grind of sales meetings, phone calls, and general business gymnastics consultants are reliant upon interviews, surveys, and direct contact with the doers in order to keep their content fresh and relevant.

And don't fall for the "every golfer has a caddy and that caddy doesn't play in the Masters" statement - true, but this isn't golf, it's sales, selling, and running a business.  Some would argue, it is a bit more complicated than helping grown men put a little ball into a cup - I digress.

I could ask, "Will consultants go the way of the dinosaur?", of course, the answer is "No" - fear of failure is built into our DNA so we'll always seek out wisdom.

It's just that we shouldn't expect a sermon from the mount based on decades-old experience to provide much insight or guidance.

We've been saying it for years, "move from vendors to partnership" - this applies to the value chain, the customer, provider, and consultant - don't you think?

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