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Creative Business

Selecting an expert

February 16, 2009 — by Daryll Scott3

My friend Paul Simpson is a great thinker, fiercely intelligent, passionate and outspoken.

We were talking about the paradox of clients choosing their expert advisers. I often wonder how well equipped the client is to make the selection – if they were knowledgeable enough to know who was giving the best advice they probably wouldn’t need the external input.

Paul has worked in a variety of interesting PR rolls and he maintains that clients are unlikely to choose the expert that they could benefit most from – because they are more likely to choose the one they are most comfortable with; not too different to what they are doing already.

In challenging market conditions and on the back of dramatic changes, I’m not sure that many organisations can afford ‘comfort’ as a criterion for evaluation. For great results from external consultants and advisors; step outside of your comfort zone.


  • Jeremy Johnson

    February 17, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Certainly a paradox. Generally worthwhile thinking about the “wet Monday morning” principle: Whatever business solution you discuss with the client, unless you are talking in language t-h-e-y can understand and unless you can envisage them getting up on a wet Monday morning and being able to do whatever you propose, the chances are they will not be able to implement, although they may get some other benefit from your involvement. It’s tempting to think they may be unable to progress rapidly enough if they only take small steps; but fortunately for most businesses at times like this most of their competitors are in the same position and those that are managing to move forward by even a small amount every week and every month are ahead of the game.


  • Malcolm Buckley

    February 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    A further angle on this, in my view, is the perception taken within an organisation regarding external expert advisers as opposed to internal opinion.
    My view is that there are several conflicting things going on:
    – in the current financial conditions, most organisations are looking at “how can we maintain our current functions at less cost”, rather than “what new areas should we be expanding our business into”. So they tend to be looking at renegotiating supplier contracts and implementing systems or process changes that make their organisation more efficient in what it already does.
    – Organisations above a certain size are likely to have expertise internally to address the question of their own processes and systems.
    – Strategic level managers in organisations will, consciously or unconsciously, feel more comfortable taking action on external consultancy advice they have paid for, rather than internal advice. Especially consultants they have used in the past (the “comfort” issue). This is basic risk aversion – if the scheme doesn’t work, the fault lies with the consultants, right? Whereas if my staff come up with the idea and it fails, it’s my fault.
    – Show me the manager brave enough to pay for consultants then NOT take the advice they report.
    – Show me the consultant brave enough to report to their customer “you don’t need us- listen to this person, who already works for you”.

    I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this train of thought but the “most likely” outcome for me is that an organisation will employ a consultant they have used before and are comfortable with; and take their advice to have more weight than internal voices. Second most likely is to seek internal advice then choose not to act on the findings. If I was a business consultant in the current market, I would be looking hard for the relevant brains in the customer organisation, then promoting their ideas in my advice, with a clear recommendation to continue to use my services to achieve implementation….


  • Daryll Scott

    February 18, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Yeah. Great point about ‘blame’ – “if the scheme doesn’t work, the fault lies with the consultants”. This attitude obviously doesn’t help much.

    External input should be short-term and add perspective. If an organisation becomes dependent on it’s external advisors on an ongoing basis then it can’t ‘stand on it’s own two feet’. It’s the internal people that make or break any initiative – if they do not share accountability then surely it’s less likely to succeed?


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