Have you ever had this experience?
Someone with little or no knowledge asks you for information.
You, being somewhat of an expert, relate a lot of information.
The person then tells you that they already knew everything you told them.
So, you didn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know.
This attitude of hearing but not listening is a key reason businesses fail.
Does that bother you?
It bothers me.
Especially, when it is a client who does it. It usually revolves around them hiring me to help them to correct problems in their company. I go through extensive studies to find the cause of the issue. I then tell them what I found along with the proposed solution to correcting the problems. And then I get hit with;
“You didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know”.
One client, in particular, caused me to stop my engagement with them. The owner had a client who required that he have a cleanroom operation to get business with them. The owner had never dealt with a cleanroom and needed my company’s help in establishing one in his operation.
A cleanroom is an environment free from dust and other contaminants. It is used chiefly for the manufacture of electronic components that must have no airborne contamination. In establishing cleanroom operations many details must be considered.
Depending on the items to be manufactured / handled there will be varying degrees of cleanliness to be considered, basic up to no possible contamination at all. You must have anti chambers before you enter the operation. And you must be garbed in outfits that are disposed of after use.
His operation was not that intensive, but still required a high degree of cleanliness.
His biggest issue was that the operation was to be located in an old building, on the second floor. There was a lot of work involved to get the materials to the room. This involved putting in an elevator to move people and materials. The building required some extensive modifications. It was very drafty, which is a no-no for cleanroom operations.
Another issue was that the owner was “frugal”.
Before our involvement with him, all construction work was done by a handyman, who worked cheaply. He had no experience with anything remotely close to cleanroom construction.
We worked to first locate and install an elevator. This allowed us to lay out the rest of the operation and let contractors move their materials to the second level. As this was being completed we finished our work on laying out the cleanroom operations. We also developed a Request for Proposal (RFP) for potential contractors to bid on the work. We selected contractors who had experience in constructing cleanroom operations.
The proposals then came in from the contractors. They were a bit pricey. This was because the building needed to support the air handling for the air filtration. The owner was not happy with the cost. It was more than he had ever spent on construction work, ever.
One day I get a call and he tells me that he is taking a different path with his project.
He wanted to use his low-cost contractor friend. Instead of installing the necessary air filtration equipment, he was planning to install air conditioning units in the windows of the cleanrooms.
Cleanroom, air filtration cannot be supported by air conditioning units. Especially not window air conditioning units. When completed he would have a climate-controlled operation. But, by no means a cleanroom operation. We discussed this and he was adamant that this is how the project would be conducted. I challenged him that he had no idea what he was doing. That was why he had hired us, to provide proper direction. And, if he wanted to proceed in this fashion, I would not be associated any further with the project. I would not take any responsibility for what was becoming a fiasco.
My company and our reputation were at stake.
No one would use this non cleanroom operation and he would then blame us for allowing that to happen.
Needless to say he was not happy.
He told me I was nasty for telling him the truth.
He was dealing in an area that he had no knowledge or expertise and was heading for a train wreck.
He didn’t relent and I fired him as a client.
Why anyone would do what he did is beyond comprehension.
Unfortunately, I have experienced it too many times. All because he wanted to be correct and not admit he was wrong. I would expect better from an experienced business owner or executive. In my opinion this is a key reason businesses fail. It is in essence business neglect, a subject covered in a previous blog.
There are many reasons why companies should hire a business consultant.
• Companies tend to run lean in their staff. Their employees are busy carrying out their day-to-day activities. Consultants can provide an extra pair of hands to assist the company. This is done without upsetting the work balance of the organization.
• Companies may not have the in-house expertise necessary to conduct the project. Using consultants with the requisite knowledge and skills is important to ensure the work is done correctly. Then, the outcome has a much better chance of success.
• There may be biases in the company that prevents situations from being properly evaluated. By treating problem symptoms and not getting to the root cause(s), a company may not achieve its desired result. Consultants can bring other viewpoints or ideas. Using internal resources and staff can severely limit an initiative.
• Consultants, do not have a dog in the fight. They can approach the problem without a preconceived idea about what needs to be corrected. Fresh thinking is important to ensure that diverse viewpoints are considered when seeking the best plan or solution.
When companies decide to use outside resources, they should be ready to listen and learn.
Unless they understand that they have problems that need correction, there is no reason to engage outside personnel. Otherwise it would be a waste of time and money. This is also a key reason businesses fail
When company owners or executives, don’t listen and try to dominate any effort, they are asking for trouble. If they know so much, they should tell the consultant what the problem is and then ask them to fix it.
Many times when I was told that the problem was a certain thing, it turned out to be something else. For instance, some executives complained about a lack of productivity on the factory floor. Yet, when I and my colleagues dug more deeply, we found the issue to be poor communications and / or a systems issue. Without correcting these, the company would continue to experience poor production.
An equally disturbing action is to engage a consultant only to go toe-to-toe with them about who is smarter, knows what is wrong, and how to correct it. The reason for bringing in “experts” is to gain knowledge and help. It is to make things better, not debate who knows more.
When finding problems and correcting them the perpetrator of the problem is unmasked. While the top echelon is unhappy with the company’s situation, there are middle managers that are happy to maintain the status quo. They do not want anyone meddling in their affairs. By doing so, they will be found out and fired for their inaction.
This happened at one of my clients, a company that had been in business for over 100 years. They had a good national reputation, but had seen that slipping over the past few years. Many of the items they produced (About 60%) required some rework before they could be shipped. Another 15% were released and came back under warranty because of issues. That is the worst possible scenario.
The consumer sees the problem and now becomes involved in the quality process.
The company produced many standard items. They also had a large custom business and large repair and warranty issues. After much study, we determined that a special work section should be established.
The custom items would be manufactured in the regular work operations. When customization was needed they would then flow to the custom area for final work.
All repairs and warranties would also be completed in this area. That would relieve overload in the standard area. It would allow product to be completed without delay.
To further relieve the workload, an improved quality system would be put in place. These improvements would save money and time. They would get consumers their products more timely.
The head of operations balked at any of these improvements.
He declared that the issue was not as severe as everyone else was saying it was. He felt that he was doing fine and no changes were needed. So, he did nothing.
You would think that he would be overruled. Nope. The company’s owner and executives thought he was a good guy. If he didn’t want to make a change, they wouldn’t force him to do so.
So correctness won out. This is indeed a key reason businesses fail. Protecting the guilty is not a good recipe for success. Needless to say the problems continued. The company’s leaders were disappointed that we did not correct them. Even though they ignored our advice.
What is a client’s obligation when dealing with a consultant?
In my opinion, clients must do the following to be in a successful relationship with their consultant:
• Speak honestly with the consultant. If they are uncomfortable with anything, they should meet and talk it out.
• The consultant is there to help. It is not a contest of who knows more. The owner and executives know their company. But, the consultant has expertise and time to do things that you need.
The person you hire is not there to give you bad advice or to harm you. They are paid to help increase your success. By doing so, they earn their money. Hopefully they will obtain more work from you or from your referrals to other clients. Like you, they have skin in the game, but there needs to be understanding and cooperation. Otherwise, neither of you be pleased with the outcome. And being correct is not a good reason to sacrifice a successful outcome. That is a key reason businesses fail.