I had a customer—let’s call him Joe—that paid me $50,000 over a two-year period. It was very enjoyable working with him until I noticed that he did not use a single word of my advice. Joe always agreed things needed to change. But when it came down to taking an action and sticking to the path, he hesitated. I always wondered why.
Joe was an intelligent entrepreneur who ran a somewhat successful company. He was earning enough to support his family and their lifestyle. Strangely enough, he also knew where his company was stuck, and how it needed to improve to get to the next level. Joe was even aware of his strengths and weaknesses as a leader and manager of the business. He sought paid advice frequently from many sources, but never used a word of it. I found this pattern typical with a lot of small business owners.
So, Why Do Small Business Owners Ignore Paid Advice?
1. They Want Change, But Won’t Act on It
Intellectually, these owners know that their company needs to change. In spite of this awareness, they’re stuck in routine; doing it the same way it’s always been done. Unfortunately, doing things their way has produced enough success that it allows them to keep going and not make any changes. Furthermore, there are no financial factors that are forcing them to take a different path.
2. They Are Not in Enough Pain
People only change when they are in a lot of physical, emotional or financial pain. These owners don’t heed their consultants’ advice because things in their company are going well enough that they can afford to keep doing it the way they have always done.
3. They Fear Any Change, Especially the Unknown
Regardless of the future, these owners are comfortable in continuing along the same path. They fear that if they change, it will become too difficult for them going forward. Many times, although their company is far from perfect, the status quo is just an easier path to take.
4. They Need Control
Change brings uncertainty and a lack of control. Owners fear both of these. They enjoy having complete control over their business and surrounding environment, even if the business isn’t going in the optimal direction.
5. Trust in Themselves
They have always done it their way, which has resulted in enough success. When it comes down to it, why should they change? What if their way is really the “correct” way? Their reasoning goes something like, “Maybe I’m really right, and everyone else is wrong.”
For those willing to listen, however, consultations can have a great impact on how you run your business. Being open to implementing this advice is the first part. The second is to be smart about how you implement it.
How Can I Use Expensive Consultations for the Best Results?
1. Start With a Commitment to Change
There is no reason for a business owner to spend money on advice if he or she isn’t going to act on it. This does not mean always adapting to what the consultant says, but finding a way to integrate it into their decision-making process. Make a promise to implement at least one piece of advice, and stick with it until there is an outcome.
2. Make Small Changes First
Unless your business is in free fall, radical departures from current practices are usually difficult to get comfortable with. Implement small pieces of advice from the consultant, and measure the results before going on to bigger changes. When judging the effectiveness of a consultant’s advice, it’s important to try several bits of advice—not just one—to see what types of results appear.
3. Develop Personal Trust
Do not rush to change. Work with the consultant over a long period of time to develop a relationship of trust. Make sure that they understand the owner’s way of thinking and how they can successfully change. Gradually implement suggestions that are jointly agreed upon after outlining the risks and all the possible results.
4. Seek Multiple Sources of Advice
There is no single business guru that knows everything, or one single correct way to do things. Seek advice from several different sources to get a 360-degree view of your situation. This includes not only a view of your business, but a view of how your business exists in the current marketplace.
5. Be Open to a Change of Perspective
Eventually, a good consultant should be able to shift the owner’s point of view slightly, which can help the business owner generate change on his or her own. In this way, when a consultant is successful with a client, the consultant will ideally work him or herself out of a job.
Paying for advice and not using it after careful consideration is, of course, a valid option. But consistently paying for expensive advice and never using a word of it is just a big waste of time and money. Don’t get caught in this trap.