The Agony of Small Business Consulting

For those consulting to small businesses, and I mean primarily those that are owned and/or run by the founder or founder’s family, I want to extend my sincere admiration and also deepest sympathies.

This is one of the very toughest markets in the world, outside of the Russian mob.

The reasons:
1. The decisions are almost purely emotional, not rational.
2. Prior successes lead the owner to believe that he or she is brilliant in all things under the sun.
3. There are hidden buyers, usually a spouse, even more irrational than the purported buyer.
4. There are relatives on the payroll who are untouchable.
5. The decisions are often compared with personal needs such as a vacation home or cosmetic surgery.
6. There is deep suspicion of outsiders, and NIMBY and NIH abound.
7. Almost always, the customer comes last.
8. ROI is an esoteric concept; “Spend as little as possible” is the company fight song.
9. Personal and business finances are intertwined like a cat’s cradle of string.
10. Commitments will be forgotten, agreements abrogated, contracts violated. “So sue me!”
11. Bad advice abounds (from the consultants who do accept paltry fees or hourly pay).

I could go on. There are consultants making a good living in this market, but few and far between. If you have the choice, go upmarket. No one at Boeing or Hewlett-Packard is consulting their spouse or wondering if they should hire you or put more money in a college fund.

It’s tough to think big in small business.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

18 + 10 =