The Best Consultants Use Mirrors

June 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

I am not kidding; the best consultants use mirrors.


I do not mean mirrors as in the old saying about “smoke and mirrors” – I do not actually know what that is, other than I am certain it is about deception (if you look it up, let me know what you find).

What do I mean by consultants using mirrors? I mean the ability to show a company who it is, from a different perspective, and build on what made the organization great to begin with.

Too often, way-too-often, successful brands with decades of sustained growth do something crazy. They bring in outside experts. These experts have little or no knowledge of the corporate culture. They may even have false impressions about the corporate culture. At worst, they lack sincere interest in your organization.

I know it is strange for me to say-seeing how I am an outside consultant-but allow me to explain.

Frequently, the consultant or contractor with the most ideas, the most unusual designs, gets the job. These different ideas are usually different because they are outside the reach of anything from the past. Allow me to interpret that: external advisers are predisposed to come up with developments out of alignment with the enduring corporate history.

The more changes implemented outside the successful corporate culture, the more diluted and transformed the culture becomes. This is how ancient civilizations conquered one another: after the initial invasion they removed (exiled) 50% of the citizens of one nation and brought foreigners from other nations in to take their place. The remaining citizens resist change at first, but eventually they became enamored with “new” ways of doing things.

Outside consultants can behave in the same manner. They can dilute and destroy the foundation of your culture.

Do not get me wrong, I’m not talking about businesses that are on the decline, or those too inflexible to change what they are doing. I’m talking about companies that are successful and want to be even better than they are now.

The best type kind of specialist avoids entirely new and different methods of establishing a brand. Instead, he and she will get to know the company, find out what makes it tick, discover where it origniated and how it arrived where it is. They will hold up a mirror and reveal what the organization is doing right and where the strengths lie; he or she will help the organization to appreciate and understand what made it great and build upon that foundation in new ways.

Anyone can point out deficiencies and provide alternatives, even creative, trendy and blingy ones. It is good money if you can manage to get paid for it. The end product will be detrimental to the organization in the long run. Wise consulting depreciates the flaws by building on success, not turning it upside down.

Times change and the way a company does business needs to change to keep up. Use your consulting budget to hire consultants who can tell companies how to do what they have been doing successfully in a new way, one that sustains and preserves the culture. Do not waste your time and money with the consultants who come in with a bag of shiny tricks they have used and repackages for the last dozen clients.

Be wary of those bearing a whole set of ‘better’ ideas. Look for consultants who will invest time and effort to get to acquainted with your company, your history, your character. Build on what you have done right for years or decades.

And by all means, feel free to give me a call! 🙂


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