Better To Need An Early Parachute Than A Late Fire Hose
Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” is like an anthem for turnaround and transformation professionals.
Street lights along the highway
Throwing shadows in the dark
And the memories keep on turning
To the rhythm of a broken heart
You only need a roof when it’s raining
You only need a fire when it’s cold
You only need a drink when the whiskey
Is the only thing that you have left to hold
Sun comes up and goes back down
And falling feels like flying ’til you hit the ground
Say the word and I’ll be there for you
Baby, I will be your parachute
Things to keep in mind when hiring a consultant or anyone else you need to help start, manage, fix, grow or sustain your business
You don’t need a roof only when it’s raining. You don’t need a fire only when it’s cold. And, sometimes there is simply too much fire. Things have gotten too hot, and not in a good way.
You need objective advice.
You need a consultant.
More than that, you need a compassionate, experienced professional.
More than an advisor, a de facto consiglieri.
Sometimes you need The Wolf from Pulp Fiction.
A good advisor or consultant, or turnaround professional is the person, baby, who can be your parachute. You might think you’re flying, but you might be just about to hit the ground.
One reason why you need a consultant is that one or more things in your organization are not fully optimized.
Is it fixable?
Are multiple fires burning?
Likely, yes provided not too much time has passed and you’ve not fried your customers, incinerated your vendors, sparked your bank, burned out your people or charbroiled your balance sheet. Acknowledge the truth and reality and utilize the objectivity of the consultant to prescribe a solution and get past it.
Here are some examples:
· You’re simply not making money; in fact, you may be losing tons of it.
· You’re chasing top line revenue with no regard for profit.
· When did your company forget to make profit?
· You’ve failed to distinguish what is humanity, sanity, and vanity in your organization. That is, managing the people, the operations, and keeping ego and noise at the door.
· Core values are mud.
· Mission and vision are off target, nonexistent, or a complete mismatch between what you say you are and do and the reality of how you operate.
· Your team really isn’t as great as maybe you, and they, think they are.
· You’re a reactive bureaucracy and not a fluid, nimble, learning organization.
· Fear, territorialism, and negativity are in greater supply than innovation, passion and work ethic.
· Your management team didn’t see the change coming; the change which is now dismantling the company your owners, shareholders, or worse, the one you and your family built over generations.
· Competitors are taking work, employees, and customers away from you.
· Your company’s accounting staff, or software, doesn’t work properly.
· Your firm lost your sales mojo and there is too much focus on taking care of existing customers and not enough on getting new ones.
· Your company’s sales and marketing strategy is outdated. Your company’s social media plan is nonexistent.
· Your company’s business plan is more like the Sears Wish Book and less like the playbook for Seal Team 6 or the winning SuperBowl team.
· Your company got in over its head with banks and lenders.
· Your company has not optimized the efficiencies of production, materials handling, logistics, manufacturing, or simply processing the orders.
· Your company has fallen into the trap of blind dart throwing, blindly assigning people and money and resources to fixing problems without objective analysis, and good old-fashioned hard work.
· Your company is overstaffed and you spend too much money on facilities and superfluous nonsense.
When you hire a consultant, you are paying a high hourly rate, correct? Not really, since you are hiring proven expertise and paying on a fractional basis for that which you only use. Compare this to the cost of some of your employees, even some of your executives, on an hourly basis and you’ll see that paying a consultant is a value. Take your CFO or COO’s salary, multiply it by 1.35 and divide that number by 2080.
When all else fails, refer to your engagement letter with the consulting firm to understand the parameters under which they work, and you engaged them.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” — Red Adair
Consultants are not sitting around the house in their pajamas watching Netflix waiting for you to call, so best to coordinate availability in case they are working with another client, project, or traveling at that moment you call for support. They may not always be available at the exact second but are generally very responsive.
There is a false economy associated with hiring lower priced CFO’s or any other role for that matter, thinking that, well, Ted costs less than Tammy, and I’ll save the $30K in salary or give myself a raise. The problem is that Ted may cost you far more than the price differential between him and the right person for the role. We were called into one situation where the company hadn’t closed the books for 7 months because they hired the controller who was the “better value” in the opinion of the company president.
There are many kinds of costs. First cost, hidden cost, opportunity cost, e.g.
Get a Different Set of Eyes
Our trademark phrase is “objective perspective.” That’s what you should get when you hire someone to help start, fix, streamline, restructure, grow, manage, exit, or focus or diversify your business.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” (My friend, recruiter Peter Cotton (www.bestsalestalent.com) reminded me recently that famed firefighter Red Adair said this because he knew that when his clients and prospects needed his firm to cap an oil well fire, they weren’t likely to shop price.)
Likewise, there is a clear false economy when hiring one of the many “business advisors,” many of whom are better at pitching vague solutions and slinging PowerPoints and getting retainers small enough for you not to care but large enough to pay their bills.
If you hire an employee, get the best you can afford. If you hire a CPA, recruiter, process improvement expert, turnaround consultant, business startup advisor, social media guru, marketing genius, insurance broker, safety/training/compliance person, branding ambassador, even the cleaning company that comes in at night to spiff up the place, get the best you can afford.
We have several SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) right on our web site, how about that?
Hire the right experts, whether it’s us or someone else, but by all means, get the help you need. These are investments in the longevity and viability of your enterprise.
With consulting firms, and consultants in general, as you sow you shall reap, and it’s not the time to shop price.
And in business, and in life, always evaluate the cost of not doing it, or not having it, worth the relatively small outlay of “opportunity cost” it takes to hold the pieces together.
Should you hire a behemoth consulting firm, don’t fall into the seduce and abandon trick where you get sold on the senior experience and they drop in an OJT newbie, then bill you for both.
Lastly, no business professional who hasn’t been through a variety of experiences, up cycles, down cycles, maddening growth, and chaos and pain can give you the objective perspective to manage any of them. Maybe you can’t afford NOT to hire the right person.
Don’t wait until the airplane, or the house, is on fire. Maybe you need a slow controlled descent to rapidly acknowledged reality, and not opening up a fire hose on a fire that’s been ignored for far too long fueled by denial, and stalling.
“In a crisis, time is never your friend.” –Jim Malone
To paraphrase Stapleton’s lyrics, maybe you need some head lights, street lights, or both, on a dark highway, and that external “objective perspective” can help you see where you are going.
Business problems and challenges, when illuminated, become opportunities.
Copyright, 2021, Paul Fioravanti, MBA, MPA, CTP and/or Qorval Partners, LLC, all rights reserved. We can help. We’ve been transforming organizations for more than 25 years and have a proven team of subject matter experts.
About the Author: Paul Fioravanti, MBA, MPA, CTP, is the CEO & Managing Partner of QORVAL Partners, LLC, a FL-based advisory firm (founded 1996 by Jim Malone, six-time Fortune 100/500 CEO) Qorval is a US-based turnaround, restructuring, business optimization and interim management firm. Fioravanti is a proven turnaround CEO with experience in more than 30 industries and 60 situational challenges. He earned his MBA and MPA from the University of Rhode Island, and completed advanced post-masters research in finance and marketing at Bryant University. He is a Certified Turnaround Professional and member of the Turnaround Management Association, the Private Directors Association, Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Association of Merger & Acquisition Advisors (AM&MA), the American Bankruptcy Institute, and IMCUSA.