As I hope you know by now, my business is business. I make suggestions and implement improvements that contribute to the profitability of businesses that hire me. I do it in a fun way that builds morale and profit. That’s why I call myself a sort of business Mary Poppins, but a guy.


The first question prospective clients ask is, ”how much?“ Cost consciousness is good. But always amazing to me is the resistance to simple, inexpensive improvements and the acceptance of big expensive programs.


As I’ve said before, I don’t win them all. Businesses contacting me for the first time are often contacting consultants as well. These businesses are looking for a lifeline. They know they need help. What frustrates me is the way proposals are weighed. Thinking themselves wise, most decision makers weigh the cost of a given proposal and then compare that to perceived benefit.


We are programmed to think this way. I bought a new computer monitor yesterday. I knew the size and features I wanted. The ComputerWorld store had two monitors with the specifications I wanted. ALL the features were the same on the two contenders. One was $20 more expensive. Though I rationally weighed the price difference I chose the more expensive monitor. Why? It MUST be $20 better, right?


I find this thinking escalates by orders of magnitude in business. If I propose to work for you for a week for $3,000 and a ”consultant“ proposes to work for a flat fee of $50,000 for a month, he has to be better, right? I have yet to see that theory prove right.


I lost a simple project last year (those exact figures!) to a consultant. I proposed to improve production by building teamwork and implementing some easy to maintain maintenance procedures for the production equipment. Fix the people problems first, and then address the machinery problems as a team. After a week of working together we were making real progress. When the guys started cooperating with each other, they began to uncover the problems that prevented production from expanding at the target rate. One week.


Then the consultant came in with his $50,000/mo. proposal. The company contracted with him. His first month was spent making graphs of all the ”problems“. He produced nothing but graphs. But the graphs were so impressive they contracted for three more months and put him in charge of production. His first act was to get me out of his way. That was okay; I had other projects at the same company. Production began to decline immediately and declined for the entire 90 days of his contract. He knocked out some very pretty graphs explaining the decline. They hired him full-time at an outrageous salary complete with signing bonus. I offered solutions and recommended against hiring this guy. My solutions were not expensive enough.


Production declined for a year. When the regional boss was relieved of his position due to declining production, the first move of the new team was to relieve the consultant turned production manager of his position.


There are dozens of things that can be done at EVERY business to improve production. Most of these things are very inexpensive to try. Some are free. Your competitors aren’t doing them. If you just try a few simple, inexpensive innovations you’ll have an edge.


If it feels better, I’ll charge you a lot for the ideas.


Shameless Promotion: Call me. Tell me to get on a plane and report to you. Tell me to spend a week at your business and prepare a list of suggestions. It’ll cost you between $3,000 and $5,000 for the week. Or, if you prefer, I can charge you $50,000 to prepare you some graphs.


Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog

[email protected]