Boring But Important

Both consultants and clients should check their biases.

There are a lot of important topics that aren't exciting to think about. As Morgan Housel puts it:

Ideally the smartest brains and the biggest incentives in finance should be trying to get people to save more money, because that makes the biggest difference in outcomes. The smartest minds and the biggest incentives in medicine should be focused getting people to eat better, exercise more, and quit smoking, because that makes the biggest difference in outcomes. But it rarely works that way.

I also see this bias toward excitement over sheer importance in consulting. And it affects both us (consultants and advisors) and our clients.

Consultants, especially the professionals who have recently started their independent practice, want an interesting career. Although you can certainly find passion and energy in working on important problems, many consultants seem to believe interesting = exciting. This might mean working on a new topic or creating an innovative offering that has close to no value to their clients.

But consulting clients are also to blame. Many want advice on irrelevant or imaginary problems, things that clearly don't justify hiring expensive experts. A friend in the manufacturing space told me the story of a prospect who wanted him to investigate how the company can use the metaverse, despite problems in their operations were costing the company $2 mi every month (the CEO was recently fired by the board).

The result is that the obvious but important problems and limiting factors are often discounted and ignored to favor more exciting projects. Worse for both consultants and clients, who could create (and capture) more value from projects.

Some examples of things that are important but not so fun:

  • Project management.
  • Good accounting and tax advisory.
  • Business insurance and legal protection.
  • Information security and data compliance.
  • Systemizing business development and relationship management.

Yes, innovation (by definition) will never be the most efficient way to allocate resources. But I think every consultant would benefit by asking themselves: "Is there anything incredibly important and valuable for my client that I'm ignoring simply because it's boring?"

The answer might surprise you.

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