Consultants: Are we too dependent on them?

Just as no-one can make a deal anymore without having networked copiously first, we are now unable to run our businesses without consulting our staff, our management, several advisers and umpteen coaches that we keep on retainers every month.

When I do attend networking events, I’m always fascinated by the ratio of consultants to actual businesspeople – it’s often around 10:1.

When I first started in business, I was incredibly isolated (partly due to circumstance, part through ignorance and partly because business support was almost non-existent).

On the plus side, it was still feasible to get on the telephone to an expert if need be and my time was free to get on and do what needed doing in business.  

This was, of course, very much old-school business and I am sure there was a reasonable argument to swing towards a more open, consultative style.

But to my mind, it has swung too far. We are made to believe not that consultation is just beneficial to our business, but that we literally cannot function without it.

The government has jumped heavily on this bandwagon. The PM and the secretary of state both have a Business Advisory Group; the secretary of state also has the Small Business Economic Forum and the business secretary is now completing his line-up for his own Entrepreneurs Forum.  Is this the same government that is committed to huge quango cuts?

If its Ask the Expert policies were not sufficient, the government now “crowdsources” its ideas – a buzzword I had not come across before. For those also in ignorance, this is where tasks are outsourced to a large group or community – for example, George Osborne’s current request for ideas to cut government spending. If we all go on line, we can give him our best and brightest ideas.

I do believe that some consultation has to be a good thing. Is it just me, though, who was under the delusion that we elected a government to do the governing of this country? That its job was to create a safe environment for business to be able to flourish?

If so, could it kindly concentrate on – better still, achieve – that, so we businessowners can concentrate on with the job of growing our businesses. A little more expert focus on their correct job descriptions and a little less consulting could get us a long way.

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