Every morning I receive Google Alerts telling me where my name or Million Dollar Consulting and similar phrases of mine are used. Most of the time I find very complimentary citations, rarely I find someone ripping me off (who is quickly silenced by a legal shot across the bow), and disturbingly frequently I find an Amateur Hour.
(The phrase originates with the old radio, then television, programs which allowed amateurs to demonstrate their talent for modest prizes. Today, on steroids and growth hormone, we have American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, et. al., and the Warholian Effect.)
Here are the signs of the amateurs in the consulting profession, with 21st Century technology available to virtually anyone who is not only interested in ignorance but also in its methodical distribution:
1. They don’t read. They think that something like “Good to Great” is an opus magnum. They can’t spell “Peter Drucker” have never heard of Warren Bennis and believe that the Wall Street Journal is too much trouble to tackle.
2. Labels are the identifiers of the day. There are limited categories for everyone and everything and life is not at all complex. You are a “High D” or an INTJ, and that’s that, all is explained and predictable. Next case. Or you’re dealing with management, leadership, or planning (or whatever), take your choice, and we’ll pull out that response tool. (“What about transnational cultural marketing?” “Oh, that’s just a form of planning, isn’t it?” In other words, we have a hammer, don’t ask us to tighten a bolt.)
3. Your time is your value. One guy at a conference, whose name I saw on one of these blogs, actually told me that he could make more than I can through his hourly billing. Then he got in his Taurus and drove away. These folks discuss the best ways to increase hourly rates and billable hours. (There have actually been educational sessions at Institute of Management Consultants conferences about this.)
4. Responses are programmatic. There is always a two-day program, or six-step process, or “flexible module” approach. There is a minimum of intellectual property and a maximum of reliance on pre-packaged, rigid, boxed approaches. Not only does no one read, no one writes, outside of brief, inarticulate blog entries.
5. The buyer is in human resources or training. They are talking to low level, irrelevant people who themselves have virtually no latitude for action but are, of course, enchanted with the latest faddish intervention: Future Lateral Search, Nanosecond Management, Outback Leadership. (Just today, Good Morning America had still another program on bettering yourself by trodding on hot coals. I thought I had somehow tuned in the 70s.)
6. The bizarre prevails as expertise. One woman claimed there is no reason to incorporate as a solo consultant. “My husband is a lawyer,” she confidently reported, while perhaps making a dozen people reading this nonsense vulnerable to suits in the future. (Who is going to get sued—good, educated consultants, or those who hang around these fringe sites?) Another suggested that the advice to purchase things like postage meters and copiers was ridiculous, because, “Who can afford that kind of expense?”
7. The feeling is that criticism, not success, should be the standard. I’ve had to have Amazon squelch two guys who use the premise of reviewing my books to launch personal attacks. I could care less if you don’t like my books, when 95% of the readers do, but to claim I’m running a “multi-level marketing program” or that I’ve never really consulted in my life is not only slanderous, but reveals an inordinate amount of self-anger. (I remember when I had my first Ferrari, in 1995, and I left it running outside of a coffee shop in the middle of January, before Al Gore had informed me that polar bears had become extinct and Memphis was about to become oceanfront. A guy at the door snidely asked if I were afraid I wouldn’t be able to start the motor again. I told him that when he could afford a Ferrari, he should then feel free to discuss them with me.)
I suppose every profession has it’s amateur fringe, but you won’t find a lousy cellist successfully offering lessons via the Internet or an inept skier forming lines for downhill lessons at Vail. The great thing about consulting is that there is no barrier to entry. The terrible thing about consulting is that there is no barrier to entry.
Be careful about whom you heed. Except me, of course.
© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.