I had my second visit with business consultant Karrie Kohlhaas yesterday, and continued hammering out the most effective way to spend my time. Karrie is one of the first bona fide business-minded people I have had the opportunity to sit down with over a meaningful length of time, and as such, it has been a very intruiging process to watch her work.
As far as I can tell, a good business consultant is part entrepreneur, part investor, part psychologist, part buddy, and part client. It can be hard to toe so many areas. Take yesterday’s meeting. Karrie sees the research I have done on trying to determine the different target groups for the site. She sees that one of the groups is collectors, and that I have written that I believe that collectors are motivated by having a community of like-minded collectors. At this, she squints her eyes slightly, and in a split second I witness her thought process dart through a sequence something like “Real sellers don’t care about community” to “Though I suppose what that really means is its hard to say what these groups want,” at which point she’ll say something like “Hmm, that’s interesting. Community.” Because one of your roles is client, and the customer is going to get the benefit of the doubt when there is potential doubt.
This is surely the most difficult set of balls to juggle as a consultant, because on one hand you need to use your expertise to tell your client that you disagree, but on the other hand you need to instill confidence that leads your client to believe in themselves and become more productive. And though this is not altogether dissimilar from an employee telling their boss that the tags proliferating the new company web site sort of clash with the progress mankind has made in the last 10 years, it is different, because A) your boss isn’t paying you to tell him he’s wrong B) you’ve known your boss longer than 10 minutes C) you aren’t charging your boss $125 an hour and thus D) time is less of the essence. It’s extremely complex, and yet paradoxically, the complexities add up to the result that conversation has to move faster.
Analysis of the peculiarities aside, finding a good consultant can definitely be an extremely productive experience, especially if, like me, you’re new. Karrie’s part entrepreneur has helped me come up with catchy ways to think about and describe my business. The part investor has helped me be extremely needs-met-centric in my consideration of the site’s success. The part psychologist has made more observations on my nature in three hours time than many of my friends have tried in three years time. Part buddy chatted with me about how the body will steal back sleep cycles during the day if you don’t let it sleep proper. And part client wraps up all of the above in as rosy a container as can be expediently created.
I’m sure your mileage may vary by consultant. I picked Karrie by her prickly (in a good way), unorthodox profile on Biznik, which, in a nutshell, reminded me of me. Now that I’ve visited a couple times, I’ve been most impressed by her focus and follow up. This is a topic that I may revisit in a future blog once I have more data for comparison points. It can certainly go a long way toward helping one escape their own mind.