It’s been over five years that I’ve been out on my own working as a consultant to all sorts of companies. For all the clients I do and have had over that period, there are at least twice as many companies with whom I’ve had exploratory meetings and conversations and I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share. One of the things one finds out pretty rapidly in the consulting world is that you’re pretty much in the same boat as auto mechanics. That may seem odd so let me explain.
Auto mechanics are a necessary fact of life. Most of us own cars, few of us really understand how they work and, more important how to diagnose and fix what’s wrong with them. Some people try to do the simple stuff like oil changes themselves but recognize that doing your own brake job can kill you if you screw it up. Enter the mechanic. While grudgingly accepted as needed, he’s not really beloved and the things people do to them show that. First, there are the people who will try to get a free diagnosis. They drive in and spend a fair amount of the mechanic’s time telling him about what they think is wrong but refuse to spend a few bucks to let the mechanic devote an hour of his time to do a real diagnosis using his knowledge and equipment.
Once car owners get past the acceptance that they need the mechanic and the diagnosis he made, they spend an equal amount of time haggling over price. Now as a car owner, I recognize that a discussion with the repair person with respect to what’s really needed before the work begins can save you a fair amount of money. However, haggling over what to charge for the agreed-upon work is insulting. If the shop is too expensive, move on.
Then there’s the dark side of the unscrupulous mechanics who put used parts in cars and say they’re new. There are the guys who do unnecessary work just to run up the bill. Heck, there are shops that don’t do the work they say they did at all. They give all the honest shops a bad name. Finally, having a good mechanic can be a life-saver. If you have an ongoing relationship with them, most will drop almost everything in an emergency to get your car back on the road for you.
Now go back and read that again, except change “mechanic” to “consultant” and “car” to “business.” Just call me Cooter!