I often discuss aspects of business, even though my education is purely technical. But I have been in this business long enough that I have obtained a clear enough picture to know when to say no, and this story explains why sometimes it is better to lose a customer rather than risk your business. 

I am frequently contacted to offer my consulting services — this is no secret; that’s what I do. But, a consultant is just that: someone who offers an external review of internal procedures or a fresh approach to an internal problem. So, having learned from experience, one of the first questions I ask before I accept any job is who is going to implement my advice. 

Recently, I was contacted by an ex-customer and good friend who wanted me to undertake a new commission job. Lamentably, like before, this company has no internal technical manager. So, I offered this piece of advice free of charge, and I repeat it here: you need an internal person who will take ownership of the problem/project and become responsible to see it to its conclusion before you hire an external adviser. 

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is: Why do we then need an adviser if we have our own internal technical/marketing/business associate-employee? The reason is simple enough, and has to do with the different focus of each person. The employee focuses on the “tree” and is bound by the limits of the company’s own “forest.” The adviser has been to many “forests” and has seen many similar “trees.” The blend of the two experiences/persons often offers the best results or the biggest of disasters, if these distinct roles are not clarified early enough and there is a spirit of competition instead of collaboration.

So, before you even think to hire a consultant, please do a favor to yourself and ask: Who is going to implement the consultant’s work?