Beware of what you already know

All too often it seems that agencies, consultancies, corporations or even individuals want to have a piece of your success; they want to grab a share of what you’re doing by offering those all important services that are a must have; very often packaged as a way of raising your company profile.

Often, they have a new way to make you do the same thing only slightly more efficient than their previous proposal; yet because of their business position you are prepared to listen to them and even act upon their advice. But do you really need the advice and more importantly do you actually need to pay for the advice?

Now, I am not saying for one minute that the industry doesn’t need such services as those offered by consultancies, agencies, corporations or certain individuals but I am asking you to question whether your business can benefit from them.

It is true that there are many established, honest and hard working businesses that impart their knowledge for a fee simply because they love to see the little guy do well. Over at IWDP we are associated with one of the largest consultancy firms and are immensely proud of our association that goes back to our inception in 2002. But do they all offer such sound advice?

On a wet morning in late August I began to think whilst plotting my musings for the latest issue of the IT Gazette and hand on heart I honestly believe that quite often we know the findings of the research before we receive the report; we just need our eyes opening to the fact.

I was driven to recall a story once heard at a party that went along the following lines:

A lonely shepherd was tending his flock in a cold, barren field when a shiny new executive car pulled up to a halt on the kerbside. The driver, a rather young executive in an expensive looking suit, designer glasses and the whitest teeth you have ever seen leans out of the window. Gesturing to the shepherd he shouted “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have here, may I be permitted to take one?”

The shepherd slowly looked up at the young executive, then across at his peaceful flock and issues the following calm answer, “Sure, why not?”

The young executive promptly steps out of his car clutching the latest Wi-Fi device with which he connects to a series of Web sites, firstly obtaining his GPS grid location, then keying in the location to generate an ultra-high resolution digital image of the field within which they stood. After e-mailing the photo to his company for utilisation of their image processing facility located on their remote server the processed data is returned to his hand held device. The executive further inputs this data into a database and finally enters the parameters for a full report. Within seconds a printer built-in to his car dashboard produces a full colour report containing several pages of analysis and results. The executive studies the report for a few seconds before returning to the shepherd.

“You have exactly one-thousand three-hundred and twenty-seven sheep, including three rams and four-hundred and thirty-seven lambs.”

“That’s right,” states the shepherd, only very mildly impressed. “Well, I guess you should claim your prize and take one of my sheep.”

The young executive makes his choice and loads the animal onto the leather seat in the back of his car, at which point the shepherd says, almost as an afterthought, “Hey there, young man. If I can tell you what your business is, will you give me back my sheep?”

The young executive, feeling quietly confident agrees to this.

“You’re a consultant,” says the shepherd rather sternly.

“Wow, that’s right,” says the young man, clearly agasp, “How did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” replies the shepherd, “You pitched up here even though nobody contacted you. You took a fee for giving me an answer that I already knew, to a question I never even asked and you know nothing about my business. Now give me back my dog!”

If there were such a thing as a moral to this story then I guess it would be that no one knows your business quite like you do; people can be appraised of every aspect of the business and your services but it is you who really understands it and them; therefore it is you who are best placed to make decisions on which way to lead your company.

Should you take the advice? Who am I to say.

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