Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why Use a Consultant? Cost is NOT the Only Factor To Consider!

     The question often arises, "Why Use a Consultant?"  Here are some great reasons-----

  • Flexibility
  • Independent Advice
  • Easy ability to Ramp Up/Ramp Down
  • Broad Skill Sets
  • Specialized Training and Licenses/Certifications
  • Timeliness
  • Knowledge
  • Costs could be more- Could be less

The Cost question always comes up.  When you think about the fully burdened cost of an employee, i.e., salary, benefits (30% of salary), bonus, training, on-boarding, recruiting, severance-- it is usually cheaper to use a consultant.  Now, if the project is a long term, on-going process which the employee can be reassigned at the completion of the project, maybe a full time employee makes sense.

However, using a consultant brings in creative, innovative ideas that may not be present when hiring an employee.  Consultants bring value when you least expect it.  We always expect it!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Using Internet Resources for Your Business

     We recently visited with a business owner that sought our assistance.  As we were visiting about the challenges he faced in his business, he mentioned that he used the internet for much of his "legal" work.  He cited that the internet had lots of forms and documents posted on it that were "adequate and sufficient" for his business.
      Our consultant pointed out that we are NOT lawyers and DO NOT practice law.  However, we recognize when a particular matter is best served by using the services of a competent legal authority.  Our consultant pointed out that the internet material "may be" OK, however, if the business owner did not have a lawyer review the document before he used it, there could be some issues that were unforeseen.
       The internet is a wonderful tool and resource for many matters.  However, there is no substitute for competent, professional advice.  It makes no difference if it is lawyers, accountants, engineers, doctors, consultants, travel agents-- all are in the advisory services business.  The internet advice is general and broad-- it may apply to any one particular matter, however, more times than not, the question normally has some tangential factors that are not addressed by any internet solution.
        Before one invests any large sum of money on internet tools as substitutes for professional advice-- consider the damage that could be done without using a professional.  In most cases, using a professional may appear to be more expensive, however, in the real scheme of matters, using a human professional is almost always cheaper than using some general internet resource.
         Think about this the next time you decide to use an internet resource.  You will most likely find that using a human services provider is cheaper, more efficient and effective.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Excuse Me, This is Important-- I Need To Take This Call.

     One of our consultants met with another professional services provider the other day.  Both had met at a Rotary meeting and  each wanted to  learn more about the business both were in.  A meeting was set up at a local coffee shop.
      The meeting was going along well until the other professional services provider's cell phone buzzed.  "Excuse me, this is important-- I need to take this call" is what the other individual said.  Umm, our consultant wondered what was more important than visiting with him?  After all, he scheduled his day to devote full attention and detail to the individual with whom he was meeting.  After a few minutes, the other individual ended the conversation and continued the conversation where it had been left.
        Interestingly, throughout the 25 minutes of the meeting, the other individual continued to look at the cell phone-- answering text messages while talking to our consultant.
       Well, what do you think that our consultant felt and thought?  He was not important, not valued and not respected by the other individual. 
        Never, Never take a cell phone to a meeting.  There is nothing so important that it cannot wait.  If it is that important, reschedule the meeting until such time that you can devote undivided attention to the individual that you are meeting with.  Respect others.  Remember the Golden Rule!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is This Copy Paper That A Law Firm Uses?

      We received a letter the other day from a lawyer at a large law firm.  The envelope of the letter was printed nicely, however, once we opened the envelope and read the letter, the paper on which the letter was printed appeared to be cheap copy paper.
       The more we read the letter, the more interesting the concern was on the paper on which the letter was written.
        Now, our experience with legal firms is significant.  However, one thing that has always stood out with law firms, both big and small, some one person shops, is the fact that most of the firms always used professional 25% cotton stationery with engraved printing.  If not engraved, then thermography was used.  However, this time, the letterhead appeared to be on cheap copy paper with the letterhead printed on the paper using an MS Word Template.
         We met the lawyer that sent our firm the letter.  As we were conversing, one of our consultants asked the lawyer about the quality of the paper that the letter was sent on.  Here was the answer-- "Our managing partner likes to watch the budget very carefully.  He believes that the cheap copy paper 'does the job' just fine."
         Well, we are management consultants.  We specialize in efficiency and cost effectiveness.  The managing partner is right-- the cheap copy paper "does the job" just fine.  HOWEVER, what is left unsaid is that the impression that this paper presents is less than professional for such a firm!  Were we concerned about the quality of legal services that firm renders?  No, we believe that the firm does good work.  In fact, the reputation of the firm is very, very high in the region of the country in which they are located.
          First impressions are lasting impressions.  We were surprised that the impression management was considered insignificant as contrasted with paper cost.
          Think carefully when you have anything that represents your firm, your brand, your image.  If it is low quality, appears to be a "budget variety" product, some folks will notice that immediately.  Other individuals will notice it gradually.  In the professional services business, image is very important.  Yes, good quality paper costs more than copy paper.  Engraved letterhead is the most expensive, however, the brand image that engraved stationery presents is always first class.
            If you are in the service business, you do not need to have new, shiny trucks.  However, it is important that your trucks are well maintained, are clean and present a professional, crisp image to your customers.  Washing the truck every week, ensuring that body damage is repaired immediately and the truck presents a positive image fosters not only great brand recognition, but also customer goodwill.  Remember, you only have one time to create a first impression!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Is Your Store Obsolete? Are the Products Fresh and Vibrant?

        One of our consultants was in the Upper Rocky Mountains this past week.  He went into a town where a variety store had a sign that said, "50% off-- Going Out of Business" posted in the window.  Interested in what was going on, our consultant walked into the store.
         Here is what he found.  An elderly couple, probably in their late 70's, trying to sell the remaining merchandise from their store.  The couple said that they had been in business for 46 years, in the little town, but were tired and wanted to sell the store.
         What was in the store that was worth selling?  Well, not much--- even though the store appeared to be "full."
          OK, what do you mean?  Well, the merchandise was obsolete-- old watch bands-- when was the last time you put a band on a watch?  Nobody under 40 wears a watch today, they use the smart phone.  Paints, models, puzzles, paper crafts, colored pencils, fabric (probably to make quilts with-- even though there was a quilt store down the street 4 doors).
          Sadly, the times had overtaken this small retail store.  Sure, 40 years ago, the store was a going concern and fulfilled a need.  The owner's wife, manning the cash register said that the "big box stores" and on-line had ruined this store.  Well, that may be, however, what also ruined the store was a building full of obsolete merchandise that nobody no longer needs, wants or uses.  Sure, technology and the modern times also played a role in this store's demise, however, at the end of the day, nothing in the store was of value.
          Who will buy this merchandise asked our consultant?  Well, we'll just give it away was the answer of the owner.  Really?  Well, the real answer was that not many people would want, need or use much of the merchandise. Oh, maybe a Sunday School class-- however, if not the art and craft supplies, not much else was of value in today's modern times.
            Pay strict attention to the world around you.  If you are in business and find that sales are decreasing every year-- DO SOMETHING-- ANYTHING so that you do not find yourself like these business owners did.
            Many small business owners think that their retirement will be funded by the sale of the store.  In this case, the little town was dying-- the building was not worth much and the inventory had probably been depreciated to the point of no value.
            Don't find yourself in a no win situation.  It is better to make a tough decision early and suffer some consequences, then find yourself in a corner and unable to do anything and have to accept whatever the world gives you.
            Stay abreast of changes in your industry.  Read the trade press and see what others in your sales vertical are doing.  If you are not doing the same thing, then perhaps, you need to think about why not.
            Now may be the time for a consulting engagement.  The fee that you spend may be returned many fold if changes are made when you have that opportunity.  Remember, it is better to make a change now when you have a chance, then wait and be forced to make no decision later.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

No Worries-- We Want You To Be Happy!

     The title to today's blog was provided to us by a service provider.  We had engaged the service provider to perform some services for us.  Most of the project went well, however, there was an error with one of the work products that was produced.  Significant--YES.  Will the world end--NO.
      We identified the error to the service provider.  He said that he would check into it and be back with our staff.  A couple of days transpired, the phone call came and the answer was, "We are still checking!"  Our consultant asked the basic question, "Well, what happens now?"  The answer, "We all laugh and the live happily ever after!"  OK, humor is the key tool to resolving any snag.  Our consultant "got it" and said, fine, not a problem.  The Service Provider said that he would check into the error and be back with us in a couple of days.  He had some staff members out on vacation and needed to check with them on how the error occurred.
       Well, what could we say?  Actually, nothing-- there was nothing to say.  The service provider, whom we have done business with previously has always produced a superior product.  The products were always cost competitive, but the quality of the product was superb!  Besides, he is a great guy to deal with!
       Now, in the end, the matter will turn out just fine.  In fact, this is the way that any customer problem should be resolved-- "No worries, we want you to be happy!"  There is no argument that an error was made in manufacturing of the product that we ordered-- that is incontrovertible.  What is exciting was that there was no hassle or argument on trying to resolve the matter.
        If you are in business and have customer relations challenges, and at times, we all do, this is the way that those challenges should be handled.  "No worries, We Want You to be Happy!"  Are we there yet?  Well, no, not yet.  However, we expect that at the end of the day, the matter will be handled in a fashion that is satisfactory to all concerned.  Something to think about!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Do You Have a Corporate Exit Strategy?

     A business owner recently elected to close her business and retire.  She had ran the business for 10 years, had moved 3 times to 3 different facilities and now, 10 years later, had elected to retire.  Another competing business had announced that they were locating in the town where this particular business was located.  The competing business sold similar products, had equal high levels of service, but the owners were at least 25 years younger than the other business owner. Was that a reason for the business owner to close her business?
     Well, we'll never know the real answer.  However, what we do know is what she told the newspaper reporter-- "I am ready to retire."  Well, she is in her mid 70's, has worked long, hard  hours for the past ten years and now really wants to retire.
       Was the store closeout sale successful?  Well, we sure hope so because the store carried items that were of high quality and value.  Interestingly, if you bought one of the store's products, you never needed to replace it-- it was that level of quality.
        The real question that we have to ask is this, "Was this the exit strategy you planned?"  We suspect that the answer is no, really it is not.  Now, we don't know if there ever was a real defined exit strategy for this business owner, however, suspect that the answer was "No, this is not how we expected to end our business career."
         Do you have an exit strategy?  Is it viable?  Will it work?  As a business owner, you should think about the exit strategy the first day that you open the business.  Why?  Well, some day you will have to either sell or close the business.  Many business owners expect that the sale of the business will fund their retirement.  In a few cases, that works out to be true.  However, in the vast majority of cases, that is never the case.  The products are not worth what the owner thinks they are, the market is not as strong at sale time as it was previously, the "Blue Sky" factor is highly overrated.  All of these factors together preclude the normal business owner for realizing the value they expected when they sold the business.
         If you are a business owner, now is the time to think about an exit strategy.  If you need help, our consultants can assist.  We may suggest that one of our strategic partners who practices finance be involved to insure you have the best tools available to exit is a financially successful manner.  The time to think about exit strategy is today, not the week before you are too tired to continue with the business.
          In the case of this business owner, we hope and pray that all matters are successful.  Proper planning now allows the necessary decision making to be done to allow a successful exit from a business.