I don’t really follow Warren Buffett (either as an investor or a business philosopher) but you can’t help but be charmed by his folksy wisdom. A Buffett quote I heard recently that really resonated with me is, “You want to learn from experience, but you want to learn from other people’s experience when you can”. These words explain why many companies choose to use consultants.
The problem is that most consultants are actually peddling someone else’s experience (i.e. a franchised consulting “formula” or the experiences of a previous client) rather than their own. That means that the advice they provide is second-hand and likely to be somewhat academic. Worse still, it means that the consultant probably can’t do much more than tell a story. They’re not really able to roll up their sleeves and work to ensure successful implementation of their recommendations.
If you think about it, when a company is looking to hire a new employee, it hopes to find someone with previous experience; someone that has actually done similar work to what is in the job description. The reason is simple. Previous real-world experience implies a greater likelihood of success in their endeavours if hired. It would make sense to apply similar criteria when engaging a consultant.
After all, in the words of the Oracle of Omaha, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”